It’s the tale of the two Pagans.
NYPD cops grabbed a man held on Rikers Island named Andrew Pagan and brought him to federal court Wednesday, thinking they had their suspect in a gun and meth ring operating in the city.
But it turns out they had the wrong Andrew Pagan, and it all took a day and some red faces to sort it out.
The mistake was set in motion when a veteran detective with the NYPD’s Gun Offender Monitoring Unit named Debra Lawson concluded that the Andrew Pagan they were looking for was being held on Rikers Island, sources said.
Lawson and other law enforcement officers went to the Anna M. Kross Center, where this Pagan, 26, has been held a Bronx gun case since March. They took him to Brooklyn federal court to be seen before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon, court and Department of Correction records show.
Scanlon presided over his arraignment Wednesday and he was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Everything seemed fine, until the cops realized they had the wrong Andrew Pagan.
In fact, the actual suspect, Andrew A. Pagan, wasn’t even in Rikers. Authorities finally figured out where he works, arrested him there on Thursday morning and hauled him into court.
Later that day, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Enright had to explain the mess to Judge Scanlon.
He told Scanlon that another NYPD detective with Lawson “pieced together, post-arraignment, that Andrew Pagan was not in fact Andrew A. Pagan.”
”The NYSID [New York state identification] numbers didn’t match. And then they immediately began to take corrective steps,” Enright said. “He was, in fact, identified as not, in fact, being in Rikers Island or otherwise incarcerated.”
“The government apologizes greatly for this error,” Enright added.
The prosecutor later said that the reason the government didn’t notice it was the wrong guy was because another assistant US attorney , was subbing for him at Wednesday’s arraignment.
”There was no way really for me to independently have identified that this was not the right person,” said lawyer Karume James, the Federal Defender who represented the wrong Pagan on Wednesday. He added that it’s “obviously the purview of law enforcement and the government to ensure that they actually have the right person. The only documents that I was printed yesterday were just an indictment with the person’s name and charges.”
James said Thursday he was able to obtain an NYPD report with the correct Pagan’s picture on it and though their birthdays were similar, it was clear the authorities had the wrong man.
The correct Pagan’s lawyer, Federal Defender Benjamin Yaster, called the lapse “just a lack of any due diligence.”
”I just want to mention one small fact that makes this error particularly inexcusable,” he said, noting the correct Andrew A. Pagan, who is charged in federal indictment was charged with the same offense in Brooklyn state court nearly a year ago, and that he’s out on bail in that case.
”In that case, if you reviewed the most basic criminal history records, you would see he was released on bail. There is no way that the Andrew A. Pagan wanted in this indictment could have been in Rikers,” Yasser said.
Scanlon ordered the charges vacated. The wrong Pagan was held overnight in the Metropolitan Detention Center and then sent back to Rikers.
The right Pagan was released on a $50,000 bond. He hasn’t missed a state court date since his arrest in December 2021. He owns two businesses, a smoke shop, and a music production company.
“Due to an administrative error, the wrong individual was taken from Rikers Island, where he was already in state custody,” the Correction Department said in a statement.
“When the error was discovered, the individual was returned to Rikers Island and the appropriate person was apprehended and charged federally with distribution of a controlled substance and firearm possession.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.