New York Detective Arrested on Perjury Charges After Fabricating Evidence in Carjacking Case

A New York police detective was arrested on Tuesday on federal perjury charges after prosecutors concluded that he had fabricated evidence in a carjacking case.

The charges against Michael Foder, 41, who had been assigned to the detective squad in the 70th precinct in central Brooklyn, are the latest sign that perjury remains an ongoing problem within the New York Police Department. Last month another detective, Kevin Desormeau, was convicted in Queens of falsely testifying about having observed a drug deal after a jury found that the detective had made up the story to cover up a dubious arrest.

In the case on Tuesday, Detective Foder is accused of doctoring a photo lineup to persuade a judge that a victim had been able to identify two suspects in a carjacking. The charges are considered particularly troubling because they involve accusations that a detective tampered with witness identifications.

Erroneous identifications by witnesses have been a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

In the past decade, the New York Police Department has taken steps to try to prevent such misconduct. Among other requirements, detectives are supposed to follow a detailed set of instructions when conducting lineups. They cannot chat with witnesses while showing them photos or lineups, but instead should hew to a script intended to prevent the detectives from improperly influencing the result.

Still, the charges against Detective Foder suggest that the safeguards may not always be enough. The suspected fabrications were not caught by Detective Foder’s supervisor, or the defense lawyers who scrutinized the evidence. Instead, they were spotted by a prosecutor, J. Matthew Haggans, who was taking another look at the case file as he prepared to write a brief describing the strength of the evidence.

The case involved a 2015 carjacking in Brooklyn, in which a gunman and two accomplices forced a livery cabdriver out of an S.U.V. and stole the vehicle.

The driver, Orhan Polat, was initially able to identify a person he thought was the gunman when he was brought to a station house to look at photographs of teenagers and men who fit the description of Mr. Polat’s assailants. But Mr. Polat did not recognize anyone who looked like the other two men involved in the carjacking. In the weeks that followed, the police focused on two additional suspects based on an anonymous tip and fingerprint analysis.

In a 2016 court hearing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Detective Foder testified about what happened next. He prepared two photo lineups — one for each suspect. Each one consisted of the suspect’s mug shot printed on a sheet of paper, alongside mug shots of five “fillers” — people of vaguely similar appearance with no connection to the crime. The hope was that Mr. Polat might recognize the suspect’s photo and pick him out.

That is exactly what happened, Detective Foder testified, explaining that Mr. Polat had gone to the station house on two different days to view the two photo lineups.

Detective Foder had documented these meetings, including the date each photo lineup was administered. On each photo lineup, a signature appears beneath the suspect’s mug shot marking it as the photo the victim selected.

A prosecutor discovered that the many of the photos Detective Foder said he had shown the victim were taken a month after they met.
The suspects were charged in the carjacking. The photo lineups were the main evidence against them.

But those lineups turned out to be fabrications, investigators said. This discovery was made when Mr. Haggans, the prosecutor, realized that many of the mug shots used in the lineups were not available to Detective Foder at the time he claimed to have put the lineups together. The reason? They had yet to be taken.

The paperwork included the date of each mug shot, and most of the “filler” photos were taken after the dates the victim had supposedly viewed the photo array.

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