Ted Waddell | Democrat
TOWN OF BETHEL Councilman Daniel Sturm, a Democrat, left, is taking on Republican Incumbent Harold Russell, right, in this year's Supervisor Race.
Feds Indict Deputy Sheriff Phil Etkin
By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO October 2, 2007 It was another sad day for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
A call to the office in late August from a Middletown man began an investigation that ended last week with the federal indictment of Deputy Phil Etkin, a 22-year veteran of the force, on charges of extortion.
Etkin allegedly told the man that a high-ranking member of the Genovese crime family had taken out a contract on his life.
The victim told the Sheriff’s office Etkin asked him to pay him $3,500 in exchange for his help in removing the hit.
After audio surveillance by the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs department proved the claims warranted, Sheriff Michael Schiff asked the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to help in the case.
With their experience in organized crime, the FBI was better able to investigate the connection to the Genovese family, Schiff said.
The federal indictment said no evidence has been uncovered that would substantiate the claim of a murder contract or even that the supposed mob family member exists.
For Schiff, Etkin’s indictment was another in a line of employees who’ve ended up on the other side of the law.
“It would be inexcusable to let this perpetuate or sweep it under the rug,” Schiff said. “Any other complaint that comes in like this will be investigated thoroughly and fairly.”
Last year, the Sheriff’s office arrested Steve Duffy, a member of its corrections division on a charge of perpetrating a criminal sexual act while on duty as a guard in the jail.
Sentenced in January, 17-year veteran Duffy was fired from the Sheriff’s office.
In April, it was Jordan Kozachuk, a two-year veteran, who was accused of falsifying military leave papers.
A routine audit uncovered evidence that the Army reservist had printed up the papers on his own computer.
Indicted in August, Kozachuk is on suspension from the Sheriff’s Office while the case winds its way through county court. His next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11.
Then came the case of Deputy Amanda Cox.
The Livingston Manor woman was fired this summer after pleading guilty in June to insurance fraud.
Each time Schiff has vowed to take seriously any and all allegations against members of his force.
“Our administration, our internal affairs, [Undersheriff] Eric [Chaboty], and I, we take a firm stance on this,” he noted yesterday.
“[Sullivan County residents] deserve an agency that’s run with credibility,” he continued. “We give them a gun and a badge and send them out there, they have a tremendous amount of authority, and that cannot go unsupervised.”
Schiff said the allegations against Etkin were hard to stomach on a personal level, he’s known the deputy and his family for more than 20 years.
A father, Little League coach and current vice president of the deputies PBA, Etkin is a well-known member of both the local and law enforcement communities.
Just this year, he was named to the Mid-Hudson Drug Task Force, an assignment Chaboty said is considered a prestigious detail.
Etkin has been suspended from the Sheriff’s Office, and the process has begun to formally present charges administratively within the department to suspend him without pay for 30 days.
Forced to surrender his gun and badge, Etkin was also placed under electronic monitoring when released on bail.
He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on the extortion charge, and a conviction would mean termination from his post in the Sheriff’s office.
Schiff reiterated his hard stance on crime in the department, but asked residents to remember the deputies in trouble are just a few members of a large staff.
“Our administration stands behind those who are doing it right,” he said. “The people who work for us do a tremendous job… they really put their hearts into their work.
“Going into the future, the public has Eric’s and my pledge that any complaint, if credible, will be acted upon.”