He used an FBI-issued cell phone to make the call that he knew would warn a drug kingpin that a law enforcement raid was about to go down.
And when he was confronted by investigators three years later, he lied about it.
Those were two of several new allegations contained in a six-count federal indictment unsealed yesterday charging Philadelphia Police Detective Rickie Durham with obstruction of justice. Durham, 43, has denied the charges.
A 12-year veteran, Durham has been suspended with intent to dismiss, according to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who called the indictment "very unfortunate."
U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy, in a news release announcing the indictment, said Durham "violated his oath to protect and serve the public" and "put the lives of federal and local law enforcement agents in grave danger."
Authorities allege that Durham, assigned to an FBI task force, made the phone call about 3 a.m. Aug. 10, 2005, as he and more than 200 other law enforcement agents were preparing to launch a series of predawn raids aimed at cocaine kingpin Alton "Ace Capone" Coles and several of his top associates.
The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) into Coles' multimillion- dollar cocaine-trafficking network.
The indictment alleges that Durham called a third party who, he knew, would warn Coles. While not identified by name, that third party was former Philadelphia basketball standout Jerome "Pooh" Richardson, a boyhood friend of Durham's.
Richardson's half-sister, Aysa, was living with Coles in South Jersey at the time and, according to the indictment, Durham said that she was also going to be implicated in the drug case.
"We're going to take her down, too," Durham allegedly told Jerome Richardson.
Calls and raids
The indictment alleges that shortly after he received the phone call, Richardson called his half-sister on her cell phone and spoke with her and with Coles.
Authorities, who had wiretapped Coles' cell phones, then heard him make a series of calls to associates, warning them.
Law enforcement agents raided more than two dozen locations that morning, seizing drugs, more than $800,000, and a cache of weapons.
Coles was convicted last year of drug-trafficking charges and subsequently sentenced to life plus 55 years in prison.
Nearly a dozen other associates were either convicted or pleaded guilty. Aysa Richardson was convicted of two counts of money-laundering.
The investigation into the leak began within days of the raids.
The indictment alleges that Durham called Richardson knowing that he would warn Coles. Richardson has not been charged and, according to sources, is cooperating with investigators.
He was identified in the indictment only by the initials "J.R. Jr." He was described as a longtime friend of Durham's who "had become wealthy and had attained a level of celebrity through a career as a professional athlete."
The indictment alleged that Durham made the call as a favor to Richardson, who "frequently gave gifts to [Durham], including a car, clothes, tickets to sporting events and money, totaling tens of thousands of dollars."
Richardson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
More details about the case are expected to surface today, when Durham is to be formally arraigned in U.S. District Court.
An arraignment scheduled for yesterday was postponed for 24 hours after a federal prosecutor asked for time to prepare a motion seeking to have Durham denied bail.
Durham, who surrendered to the FBI yesterday morning, remains free pending today's hearing. He declined to comment as he left the federal courthouse after a brief hearing before U.S. District Court Judge David R. Strawbridge.
His lawyer, Fortunato Perri Jr., said his client was a "dedicated member of law enforcement" who "looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name."
Perri also said he would fight any attempt to deny Durham bail, claiming he had "cooperated fully" with law enforcement.
Durham was removed from the FBI task force and placed on desk duty about a year ago when the investigation intensified.
The indictment also alleges that Durham lied to investigators when he was questioned about the phone call to Richardson in 2008 and again this year.
The indictment charges that Durham showed up at a federal building where the grand jury was meeting in January "and stated that he wished to meet with agents to clear up what [he] stated was a 'big misunderstanding.' "
In a subsequent interview with investigators, Durham said he had contacted Jerome Richardson on the morning of the raids "to ascertain the telephone number of Aysa Richardson."
He said that he now believed that was "an error in judgment" but that he was trying to assist in the investigation. He said he never tipped anyone about the raids.
The indictment points out that Durham was not part of the ATF investigation but merely had been assigned that morning to assist in the raids.