Paterson cops sentenced for roles in 'robbery squad'

Two former Paterson police officers, Frank Toledo and Daniel Pent, were sentenced Friday in Federal Court in Newark. Toledo and Pent were members of the "robbery squad," a group of officers targeted by an FBI corruption investigation.

Daniel Pent sentenced to 18 months

NEWARK — While responding to a noise complaint in 2015, then-Paterson police officer Daniel Pent kicked and beat a man badly that the victim needed to be hospitalized.

The man filed an Internal Affairs complaint about the attack, said Assistant United States Attorney Jihee Suh. But Paterson’s in-house police investigators determined that Pent had done nothing wrong, Suh said.

“They lied and they covered up so that the Internal Affairs investigation went nowhere,” Suh said.

Paterson Police Officer Daniel Pent.
Paterson Police Officer Daniel Pent.

The federal prosecutor highlighted that case during Friday’s afternoon’s sentencing of Pent. “We can’t ignore the impact on that individual victim," Suh said.

Afterwards, United States District Court Judge Katharine Hayden decided to send Pent to federal prison for 18 months, a lesser penalty than given three of his co-conspirators in the “robbery squad” crew of rogue cops who all received two-year terms.

Paterson Police Officer Daniel Pent leaves the federal courthouse in Newark on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Pent was charged with conspiring to deprive individuals of civil rights.
Paterson Police Officer Daniel Pent leaves the federal courthouse in Newark on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Pent was charged with conspiring to deprive individuals of civil rights.

Hayden said she made a distinction in imposing Pent’s punishment because he requested and got himself transferred from the “B1” squad of crooked cops committing the crimes.

Pent’s lawyer, Michael Calabro, said his client had “an epiphany” after returned from a six-month paid leave, one necessitated by an autumn 2017 incident in which Pent shot a man who had fired at him.

“He did this on his own,” Calabro said of Pent’s transfer request. “He self-rehabilitated.”

Pent spoke briefly during his sentencing while his two young children – a toddler and an infant – squirmed in the front row of the courtroom with their mother. He apologized to the people of Paterson.

“I took an oath to protect and serve them,” he said. “They deserve better. I failed them.”

Pent said he had “no excuses” for his wrongdoing and said all he could do was promise to continue “being a better person.”

In his 2019 guilty plea, Pent admitted imposing “running tax” beatings on suspects who tried to flee from him. He also said he had taken $10,000 from a passenger during a traffic stop in 2017.

— Joe Malinconico

Frank Toledo sentenced to 24 months

Former Paterson Police Officer, Frank Toledo, leaves the Federal Courthouse in Newark on July 16, 2019 after being charged in court.
Former Paterson Police Officer, Frank Toledo, leaves the Federal Courthouse in Newark on July 16, 2019 after being charged in court.

NEWARK — Sobbing throughout his lengthy courtroom statement, convicted Paterson cop Frank Toledo talked about the difficulties of his childhood and traumatic incidents of his adult years, including fatally shooting a suspect.

Toledo said he eventually turned to his fellow rogue officers for “a safety net” as he “went against the oath that I once so proudly took.” The disgraced cop also said he regretted committing crimes that further undermined the trust between cops and the community at a time when there has been “great tension” involving law enforcement.

Toledo’s lawyer, Dennis Cleary, asked United States District Court Judge Katharine Hayden to consider not sending his client to prison. The judge acknowledged the “heartfelt letters” from Toledo’s wife, mother and other family members.

But Hayden said she needed to keep in mind the victims who were beaten and robbed by Toledo and the other members of the “robbery squad” of rogue cops.

“The people of Paterson need to know that Mr. Toledo … is paying his debt to them for what he did to them,” Hayden said.

In his statement, Toledo said Paterson police officials forced him to return to work sooner than he was ready for after he was involved in a fatal shooting in March 2017.

In that incident, Toledo shot a knife-wielding man who lunged at his partner, Matthew Torres, one of the other “robbery squad” conspirators. The man, 37-year-old Ramon Andrade, died about two weeks later.

“I tried to make an effort not to be influenced by the negativity in the department,” Toledo said in court on Friday. “I feel as though the department failed me.”

Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Kearny acknowledged the difficulties that Toledo went through, but said they didn’t give him an excuse to commit his crimes.

“Those hardships can’t justify the actions that Mr. Toledo was taking in 2017 and 2018,” Kearny said.

The prosecutor also took exception with Toledo’s blaming the Paterson police department for his wrongdoing.

“There were still officers doing things the right way,” Kearny said. “There were sergeants who were not stealing money. There were other avenues other than adapting to the ways of the ‘robbery squad.’”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the prison term for Toledo’s crime should have ranged between 30 months and 37 months, said the judge. But that range was reduced in return for his cooperation with the FBI, including his testimony in the trial that convicted Sgt. Michael Cheff last May, the judge said.

— Joe Malinconico

Bustios and Ramos get 2 years; Torres gets probation

Toledo and Pent in 2019 had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate individuals’ civil rights, using unreasonable and excessive force in violation of individuals’ civil rights, and filing a false police report.

Three other participants in the conspiracy of rogues were sentenced on Thursday. Jonathan Bustios and Eudy Ramos got two-year prison terms, while Matthew Torres was given probation.

Ramos had admitted conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights, to using unreasonable and excessive force against individuals in Paterson, and to filing a false police report. Bustios pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights and to extortion, while Torres admitted to conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights and to filing a false police report.

The FBI case:Seven guilty Paterson cops: Who are they?

The United States Attorney’s Office has asked for reduced prison time for the crooked cops as part of a deal that was made to get them to testify against their supervisor, Sgt. Michael Cheff, whose sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Cheff was convicted in May of conspiracy to deprive people of theirAfter a trial in which his five subordinates implica

Prosecutors and United States District Court Judge Katharine Hayden talked about the need to balance punishing the lawbreakers for their egregious violations of the public against the consideration they earned by cooperating with the FBI probe.

In deciding that Torres should not go to prison, Hayden noted that he witnessed assaults by his crooked cronies but did not inflict any of the blows. She also said he showed “genuine moral distress” about the crimes and had contacted authorities about the wrongdoing.

The FBI probe began investigating Paterson police in 2016 and made its first arrests in the cadse in 2018. The federal investigation also resulted in federal prison for two Paterson cops who were not directly involved with the “robbery squad.”

FBI agents seeking information about the illegal shakedowns learned about another patrol officer, Ruben McAusland, who was selling drugs from his Paterson police vehicle while on-duty.

The FBI gathered video and audio recordings of McAusland’s frequent drug sales over the course of months and arrested him in April 2018. McAusland’s apprehension triggered another case.

Investigators found on McAusland’s cell phone a video recording of him and his police partner, Roger Then, assaulting a suicide patient at a hospital emergency room in March 2018. McAusland and Then eventually pleaded guilty to their crimes.

McAusland was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison after admitted the drug dealing and hospital attack. He currently is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan and is scheduled for release in March 2024. Then served a six-month prison term for his role in the ER incident and was released in early 2020.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email:

This article originally appeared on Paterson NJ police officer Frank Toledo sentenced to 24 months