The Coconut Creek police botched dozens of criminal cases involving disturbing reports about children who were raped or abused and seniors who were neglected or exploited.
The 82 “special victims” cases from 2010-2012 were the focus of a trio of internal police investigations and part of another, more wide-ranging investigation by the Broward State Attorney’s Office of Coconut Creek Police Chief Michael Mann. The probe ended in October without charges.
Despite that attention, however, what happened in Coconut Creek has remained largely hidden from public view and no one has been held criminally responsible for the resulting lack of charges, failed prosecutions and dashed hopes for justice of victims and their families.
The detective assigned to each of those 82 cases was Tammy Kilgore Alois (pronounced a – loy- is) According to city and state documents obtained by FloridaBulldog.org, Alois’ failings included not interviewing victims and witnesses, mishandling evidence and neglecting to write reports or present cases to Broward prosecutors.
“The cases that Detective Alois was primarily assigned to were ‘high liability cases that typically involved juvenile victims,” says one internal police report. “Failure to follow up or complete these types of cases in a timely manner can greatly affect the level of solvability, successful prosecution and, most importantly, put other members of the community at risk.”
Alois was fired in August 2013, but not for neglecting her cases.
A LAST CHANCE
Rather, she was dismissed for violating a “Last Chance Agreement” the city gave her five months earlier in lieu of termination after she admitted to mishandling “numerous” investigations, and to prescription drug abuse. The violation was for failing to write a report about a burglary after she’d been transferred to road patrol.
Alois’ discipline for bungling 82 “high liability” cases: a four-week suspension without pay – the most allowed under restrictions agreed to by the city in its contract with the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.
Then-City Manager David Rivera signed the last chance agreement after Chief Mann decided not to recommend Alois’ dismissal. In an interview Monday, Mann said he made no recommendation because the city manager told him beforehand that he wouldn’t terminate Alois.
“The city manager had the ultimate decision. When he tells you he is not going to terminate, it makes no difference what my recommendation was,” Mann said. “He didn’t say why.”
The Broward State Attorney’s Office did not investigate Alois for possible criminal misconduct in the matter.
Police records contain no indication that department officials who failed to notice or take action about what was happening during the three years that Alois seriously neglected her cases were disciplined, or even investigated.
Mann, however, said Alois’ boss in the detective bureau, Lt. Scott Tabel, was “basically let go” by the city in part because of what had occurred.
Tabel is today a police officer with the Palm Beach School district. He said in an interview Tuesday that he retired from the Coconut Police after 21 years of service and that the Alois’ affair had nothing to do with it.
He said that Chief Mann was apprised early on that Alois “was falling behind in her caseload.”
“I’d gone to him as to how far she had fallen behind – 15 to 20 cases behind when I left in March 2012,” he said “There was even discussion about taking her out of the detective bureau, but he didn’t want to do it.”
Police internal records say that Alois’ “supervisors sent emails to the entire division, and at times, directly to her regarding this matter. This issue was also mentioned in her semi-annual evaluation dated March 6, 2012.”
ALOIS LOSES APPEAL, JOB
Alois was hired in 1995 and promoted to detective in 2010. She appealed her termination, but lost in a decision handed down by arbitrator James L. Reynolds on Dec. 26.
Alois’ PBA attorney Michael Braverman did not respond to a request for comment.
Police records document case after sordid case of neglected crimes, including capital felonies against children under 12 that are punishable by death or life in prison.
Here’s a sampling:
*Jan. 26, 2012 – A 39-year-old man is alleged to have committed sexual battery on a girl, 15, in Coconut Creek and in other jurisdictions. Alois took a video statement from the victim, but did not complete a report indicating that, and also failed to book the DVD into the Property and Evidence Unit. After Detective Alois was reassigned to road patrol in May 2012, another detective got a message “from the victim’s mother stating that she did not want to follow through with setting up a SATC (Sexual Assault Treatment Center) appointment for her daughter because Det. Alois had allegedly told her that no new information would come from it…The victim’s mother also indicated that her daughter was doing much better and did not want to pursue the case any further.”
*March 15, 2011 – City patrol officers respond to an allegation that an adult male, a former neighbor, had sexually battered a 10-year-old boy on three separate occasions. Alois interviewed the victim on video, but the DVD was not entered into evidence. She filed no report to indicate she’d obtained the statement, nor did she send the case for further review. After Alois’ reassignment, another Coconut Creek detective contacted the boy’s father who became “extremely upset and has refused to answer any more calls.”
*Nov. 2, 2010 – Patrol officers take a report that a 16-year-old male sexually assaulted a four-year-old boy and also showed pornographic movies and exposed himself to other juveniles ranging in age from two to 12. Alois was assigned the case for 554 days, until her transfer out of the detective bureau in May 2012. During that time she never interviewed the child victim. Another detective later reported the boy had completed therapy, and that “The family did not want the child to have to rehash the incident, since he was no longer talking about it.”
Reports list dozens of other victims who were further victimized by shoddy police work. They include an 11-year-old girl lured into sending over the Internet nude videos of herself masturbating by a Kentucky man who posed as a teenage girl; a 19-year-old female with Fetal Alcohol Down Syndrome allegedly raped by a man in a school bathroom; an 89-year-old woman exploited by her caregiver and a 90-year-old woman reportedly abused by her daughter.
MISSING POLICE REPORTS
Police records supervisor Linda Tropepe first noticed a problem with Alois’s cases in late 2011 or early 2012, notifying Alois’s supervisor, Lt. Tabel, that reports were missing in about 25 of her cases, according to one internal report prepared by Lt. Robert Wehmeyer.
At the time, Alois was a high-profile detective. On April 25, 2012, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Biondi gave Alois and another Coconut Creek detective an award for aiding an elderly crime victim.
No city action is indicated in the internal police reports until Tropepe contacted then-Deputy Chief Robert Biondolillo in early May 2012. Biondolillo discussed what happened with a Broward prosecutor on Jan. 24, 2014 in response to a subpoena.
“The records supervisor indicated that there were somewhere between 80 and 100, I don’t remember exactly, cases that there were no investigative supplements, (or) police reports by Detective Alois, and some of the cases had been closed, actually closed without any report written by the detective,” Biondolillo told a Broward prosecutor in a sworn statement last Jan. 24.
Biondolillo, who the city clerk’s office says retired in December 2012, testified he immediately ordered internal affairs to do a preliminary review that quickly confirmed a serious problem.
“Some of the cases had evidence that wasn’t sent to the lab, some of the cases had CDs, DVDs, I think, as well that weren’t put into evidence, some of the cases had statements that weren’t into evidence,” said Biondolillo. “It was bad.”
Biondolillo testified that he ordered a full IA investigation, but said it was “countermanded” by Chief Mann. Instead, Mann asked the city’s Human Resources department to handle it administratively, he said.
Biondolillo testified that wasn’t the first time Mann had countermanded him regarding the need to investigate Alois. He said that on two previous occasions Drug Enforcement Administration agents had visited him and Mann to inform them of evidence they’d found that Alois was a patient at pain clinics under surveillance as suspected pill mills.
Both times, Mann countermanded his orders that Internal Affairs to investigate Alois. Instead, Mann gave the matter to Human Resources, said Biondolillo.
“It just didn’t make any, any sense to me,” Biondolillo told then-Assistant Broward State Attorney Nickolaus Hunter Davis. “I mean there was never any long, drawn-out conversations, screaming matches; that didn’t happen. It was ‘You’re the boss, that’s what you want to do, okay.’”
CASES KICKED BACK
Human Resources, however, didn’t agree with the chief’s plan for review when it came to handling the 82 botched cases.
“Approximately two months later the HR director said, ‘No, there needs to be an Internal Affairs investigation on this, this has to be investigated,” Biondolillo said under oath. He added he quit the department not long after that “because of the fact that Mike Mann and I were 180 degrees…different on these administrative decisions.”
On Monday, Mann denied countermanding Biondolillo’s orders to investigate Alois’ suspected drug abuse or her failures to investigate cases. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” he said.
Still, police records about Alois’ mishandling of cases show Internal Affairs did not begin investigating until July 2012, two months after Biondolillo says Mann countermanded his order and sent the matter to the city’s personnel department.
When Internal Affairs finally did investigate the probe was split into three groups because there were so many cases.
Lt. Dominic Coppola, then head of Internal Affairs, was assigned to investigate evidence found in Alois’ marked police car when it was serviced. The evidence included fingerprint cards and cassette tapes and DVDs of forensic interviews of child rape victims, witnesses and suspects, Coppola stated during Alois’ arbitration hearing in August.
“The troubling part of it was actually there was a video there (regarding a case) that the state was trying to proceed with,” said Coppola. “A 16-year-old suspect had raped a six-year-old child, I believe, and we actually had (the forensic interview of the child) in Tammy’s car, and I guess it had been there for quite some time, the case was approximately two years old.”
The city’s lawyer then asked Coppola, “Did this, in your view…did Ms. Alois’ handling of these cases jeopardize the city’s ability to have these cases prosecuted?”
“That is not even an opinion, that is a fact…We would have to go through every single case file, but I can tell you the case file recommendation (by prosecutors) time and time again was, quote, unquote, no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” said Coppola.
“To quickly state it, the parents and children no longer wanted to peel off the bandage and relive the nightmare,” Coppola said.
Chief Mann said Monday that all the 82 cases were “reinvestigated” by other detectives and presented to prosecutors. “They accepted some that hadn’t been brought to their attention and others they declined prosecution,” he said. No tally about the outcome of cases was available.
STATE ATTORNEY’S LOOK
Broward prosecutors looked at Alois’ mishandling of cases as part of its review of a dozen allegations against Chief Mann that were contained in anonymous letters sent to several agencies, including the Attorney General and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where Mann served as chief of investigations in Miami before becoming the chief of police in Coconut Creek in 2009.
The allegations ranged from Mann’s handling of an incident in which Coconut Creek Sgt. Robert Markland purchased a Glock handgun for $1 from an 85-year-old suspect at a crime scene, to complaints that Mann had improperly used city police officers to perform work at his home and at a family event.
Mann gave no statement under oath. But in a 16-page close-out memo in October Broward’s chief public corruption prosecutor Timothy Donnelly cleared Mann of any wrongdoing, including an accusation he’d covered up for Alois by failing to order an internal affairs investigation of her misconduct.
The close-out memo devotes just three paragraphs to the Alois matter.
“Detective Alois suffered from a substance-abuse problem and neglected her cases to an extremely troubling degree…these failures had a negative impact on Detective Alois’ investigations and subsequent prosecutions. When Chief Mann became aware of this, he directed other detectives to take over (her) caseload and removed her from the detectives’ bureau,” Donnelly wrote.
The memo contains no indication that prosecutors ever conducted a criminal investigation of Alois.
Chief Mann said criminal charges were not appropriate against Alois or anyone else in the matter. “I don’t know what the charge would have been,” he said.