ROBERT KUSHNER told a federal jury yesterday that back in 2007, he was a Lower Merion High School and George Washington University graduate who was selling marijuana when cops robbed him of $110,000, including money he kept in his apartment safe.
Kushner, 32, now a basketball coach, said he was driving on Ridge Avenue in the city about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 2007, when an unmarked police Ford Expedition signaled for him to pull over with a blue siren on its dashboard.
After he stopped his car, Kushner said, Officer Brian Reynolds came out of the SUV with "his gun pointed at me," pulled me out "and put me in handcuffs."
Officers Thomas Liciardello and Jeffrey Walker were also there, he said, adding that Liciardello and Reynolds began to look in his car and in an "overnight bag" he had inside, which contained a half-pound of marijuana and $30,000 in cash.
Liciardello and Reynolds were saying to him, "Where's more money? Where's more drugs?" Kushner testified. "These were rugged-looking guys," who were unshaven, Kushner said of the plainclothes cops.
Liciardello and Reynolds are among six ex-narcotics cops on trial on racketeering conspiracy and related charges, accused of robbing suspected drug dealers from 2006 to 2012.
Walker, an ex-narcotics cop, was arrested in a 2013 FBI sting after he stole $15,000 from a drug dealer's home. He pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds.
Kushner, the first trial witness to testify, said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney that Liciardello, Reynolds and Walker then drove him in the SUV to a "secluded, wooded area." The cops continued to ask where they could find more money and drugs, he said.
The cops then took him to the 5th Police District in Roxborough and put him in a holding cell, he said. Later that night, a cop in the district handed him a phone. It was Liciardello, Kushner said.
Kushner said he knew the cops were in his 18th-floor apartment in the Executive House on City Avenue. "I had a picture of John Gotti in my apartment," Kushner said, and on the phone, Liciardello told him, "You're not John Gotti, buddy," Kushner testified.
Kushner said Liciardello, Reynolds and Walker got him out of the holding cell about 11:30 a.m. the next day. They wanted him to give them information about suspected drug dealers they were interested in and drove him around so he could point out where people lived, Kushner said.
Kushner said he agreed to cooperate because he had sat in a cell all night without his mother or girlfriend knowing where he was, and the cops told him if he cooperated, "they were going to let me go." At the end of the day, the cops dropped him off at his mom's house. It wasn't until the next morning that he returned to his apartment.
"It looked like a tornado had hit," Kushner said. Furniture was flipped over. Cereal boxes and a vacuum bag full of dust were all dumped out. "Everything was smashed," he said.
Kushner said a safe he had "badly bolted" into the floor of a bedroom closet, containing $80,000, was gone. The cops also took $750 from a drawer, one of two Blockbuster DVDs he had rented, clothes and sunglasses.
The feds contend that Liciardello, to conceal the theft, later wrote in a police report that only $13,000 had been seized from Kushner's car and did not mention the money in the safe.
Defense attorneys questioned whether Kushner even had a safe and whether he really had more than $13,000 in his car.