Bizarre Drug Arrest Leads to Demands That Brooklyn DA Return $55K

By James Fanelli on June 21, 2013 6:41am 

 Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office says in a civil lawsuit that $55,000 cops recovered during an 2011 arrest at a Sunset Park hotel should not be returned Andre Deluca.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office says in a civil lawsuit that $55,000 cops recovered during an 2011 arrest at a Sunset Park hotel should not be returned Andre Deluca.
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SUNSET PARK — When Police Officer Annmarie Guerra responded to a 911 call of a woman screaming in the Sunny 39 Hotel on Oct. 8, 2011, she entered a scene that could have been on "The Wire."

In the third-floor hallway, Guerra found a hotel guest with a backpack wearing rubber gloves and holding an extendable baton. He was soon joined by another man, Felipe Rodriguez, who was surprisingly frank about the reason for their stay. 

Rodriguez explained to the cop that he was a drug dealer. He said a few weeks earlier a gunman — like a real-life version of the HBO drama's vigilante character Omar — stole $55,000 from him in Brooklyn.

A few days after the stick-up, Rodriguez had received an anonymous tip that the robber had holed up in room 301 at the Sunset Park hotel, spending his loot on crack and escort girls, according to court records.

Rodriguez said he and his friend, Louis Marino, had checked into the room next door with two backpacks. Rodriguez's held a fake gun, binoculars, heroin and some Xanax pills; Marino's carried duct tape, rope and a pillow case.

"These guys staying next door robbed me of $55,000," Rodriguez told Guerra. "I'm a drug dealer. They have drugs and guns in that room. We were going to rob them back until you guys came."

The guest in room 301 gave a much different, though still bizarre, version of the money's origin — he said he found it fair and square.

When officers knocked on the door, they discovered Andre Deluca lying face down on the floor. According to police, $54,950 was in a box next to his feet and a .9 mm pistol loaded with 10 rounds in the magazine lay nearby. Empty ziplock bags were also recovered in the bathroom, police said.

Deluca admitted to cops that the .9 millimeter was his gun, according to police. He also later notified cops that he had a crack pipe, 13 sleeping pills and a golf ball-sized crack-cocaine rock hidden in his anus, court records show.

But the $55,000, Deluca insisted, didn't come from a robbery. He claimed he had found the cash in an unoccupied car, according to court records.

Eventually, Rodriguez and Deluca were both arrested in the bizarre Hollywood-style plot and slapped with narcotics charges.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty in August 2012 to a felony for criminal possession of a controlled substance, receiving three and a half years of post-release supervision, court records show. He also wrote a confession about his botched scheme.

"I took it upon myself to take matters into my own hands and get what belongs to me," he wrote, detailing how he planned to wait outside his alleged robber's door.

The drug dealer also agreed to surrender any claim on the $55,000, which had been seized and vouchered by cops. 

Deluca received a much better ending to his case.

Despite his admissions to police, his case was dismissed. A spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' Office said they could not discuss the reason for the dismissal.

But beating the charges wasn't enough reward for Deluca. He wanted the money returned.

In May his lawyer, Douglas Rankin, wrote a letter to the district attorney's office, explaining that the $55,000 belonged to his client and demanding the cash back.

Rankin did not return calls for comment.

The bold solicitation didn't prompt the district attorney's office to start counting out the cash for Deluca.

The office denied the request and filed a lawsuit on June 6 seeking a judgment against Deluca, stating he stole the money and doesn't have a right to it.

The court filing cites Rodriguez's confession and claims that Deluca has no income that would justify him owning $55,000. They added that even if Deluca did find the money in an unoccupied car, that still doesn't make it his.

"Assuming he is believed, the putative owner of the money is not Andre Deluca, but is the owner of the vehicle out of which the money was 'found,'" the filing said.

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