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12/18/15- Former police officer arrested for theft from evidence room, tampering with evidence

DATE:  Dec. 18, 2015 
CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris, 610.891.4163

Media, Pa – Today Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan announced that a former 17-year veteran of the Upper Darby Township Police Department is facing multiple theft charges for stealing property including money and narcotics and tampering with evidence from the Upper Darby Township Police Department evidence room.

Brad A. Ross, 41, of the 600 block of Massachusetts Avenue, Aldan, is charged with 203 counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, 203 counts of receiving stolen property, 203 counts of tampering with evidence, 203 counts of obstructing the administration of law, 203 counts of hindering prosecution and 203 counts of official oppression.

On Feb. 9, 2015, Det. Robert Lythgoe of the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division Special Investigation Unit and other members of the division began an investigation into the allegation that evidence seized by members of the Upper Darby Township Police Department had been tampered with, including seized money and narcotics.

On January 29, 2015, township police Criminal Investigator Kevin Dinan, who serves as secondary Evidence Custodian for the Police Department, noticed that an acetylene tank, which was being stored as evidence, was out of place on the shelf in the evidence room. After closer inspection, Criminal Investigator Dinan observed a large paper bag lying on top of the acetylene tank which contained a rape kit and numerous evidence envelopes. Criminal Investigator Dinan then examined an evidence bag that appeared compromised as it was not sealed with the required evidence tape. Inside the envelope was a prescription bottle that had two white pills inside. However, an inspection of the label on the envelope indicated that 40 pills should have been sealed inside. Criminal Investigator Dinan sent a text message about the evidence envelope to township police Criminal Investigator Brad Ross, who serves as the primary Evidence Custodian. Criminal Investigator Ross responded, “Yes Mine. I was gonna do it last night but took off. Well some of it is mine. I’ll bang it out tonight.”

After recognizing that the handwriting on the evidence envelope as the handwriting of Criminal Investigator Matthew Rowles, Criminal Investigator Dinan contacted him. Criminal Investigator Rowles confirmed that he in fact had been the one who sealed the evidence envelope with evidence tape.

Later that day, on January 29, when Criminal Investigator Ross reported for duty, Criminal Investigator Dinan questioned Criminal Investigator Ross about the unsealed evidence envelope. Investigator Ross responded that he had the rest of the pills at his desk, and that the photographed evidence displayed the wrong incident number and it needed to be re-photographed.

On January 31, 2015, the Upper Darby Township Police Department became aware that Criminal Investigator Ross had committed himself to an in-patient drug rehabilitation program.

On Monday, February 2, township police Lt. John Burke of the Upper Darby Township Police Department Office of Professional Standards and Training along with Criminal Investigator Dinan both went to the evidence room to locate the envelope in question. After locating the evidence bag, which was now sealed, they opened it and conducted a search of its contents, finding several narcotics were missing including Oxycodone Hydrochloride.

As a result, Captain David Madonna also of the Upper Darby Police Department Office of Professional Standards, along with Investigations Commander Lt. William Kane, and Lt. Burke began an inventory of the evidence stored in the evidence room revealing additional missing narcotics and missing money from several evidence envelopes.

On February 10, Det. Lythgoe and Lt. Joseph O’Berg both went to the residence of Brad Ross, at which time his wife, Ella Ross, was interviewed by the detectives. She stated that her husband was injured in two separate incidents while on duty for the Upper Darby Police Department. As a result of both injuries, Ross sought medical attention and was prescribed Percocet, 10 mg, three times per day. She also confirmed Ross has committed himself to an in-patient drug rehabilitation program.

The next day, detectives served a search warrant at the home of Brad Ross. As a result, county detectives located a pill bottle, labeled “Eddie Johnson” Hydrocodine 120 tab 6/03/12. Inside the pill bottle was a clear plastic bag with the handwriting PSP L08-7357-1 which was recognized by Det. Lythgoe as the format used by the State Police to assigned laboratory numbers when evidence is submitted to the Lima Regional Crime lab for analysis. It was confirmed that the pill bottle was a portion of evidence confiscated by the Upper Darby Township Police on October 1, 2012 as a result of the arrest of Eddie Johnson.

On Friday, February 20, Det. Kenneth Bellis provided Det. Lythgoe with a copy of the patient prescription history for Brad Ross, showing Ross had been prescribed Oxycodone tablets on 18 different occasions, receiving a total of 1,402 tablets, from September 12, 2013 to January 20, 2015.

On February 9, members of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division began an audit of the Upper Darby Township Police Department evidence room. Every evidence envelope in the room was physically examined by detectives for any tampering. Each envelope was opened to ensure what was labeled on the evidence envelope was accurate. On February 23, at the conclusion of the audit, it was revealed that a total of 203 evidence items had been tampered with, by being torn open or having the contents removed. From the 203 tampered evidence envelopes, a total of 3,767 pills and suboxone strips had been removed along with $14,224.54 in cash, eight cellphones, assorted gift cards and jewelry.  Of the 203 envelopes, 122 of these particular cases were suspected narcotics, with a total of 2,345 items identified as Controlled Substances.

On March 17, Brad Ross submitted his voluntary resignation as a sworn member of the Upper Darby Township Police Department to Superintendent Michael Chitwood.

On May 7, 2015, Det. Lythgoe and Sgt. John Kelly learned through various interviews of individuals associated with Brad Ross, that at his request, they would obtain illegal narcotics for him to replace the pills he had taken from the Upper Darby Police evidence room. It was also revealed through the interviews that the wife of Brad Ross, Ella Ross, would travel to Philadelphia to purchase illegal narcotics, requesting a specific pill/tablet i.e. color, weight, etc.

“The Upper Darby Township Police Department brought allegations against one of their own to our immediate attention. I want to make clear that in no way does the arrest of Officer Ross reflect on the outstanding character and integrity of the men and women of the Upper Darby Township Police Department and Delaware County law enforcement,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan.  “Instead of seeking help, Officer Ross attempted to conceal his addiction by repeatedly betraying the trust of his department.  His selfish and shameful behavior has not only caused his department a great deal of anguish and difficulty, but has led to the potential compromise of evidence. Because of the strength of Upper Darby’s cases, the testimony of other police officers, and existing evidence, we are confident that we will be able to continue with our prosecution of these cases.”

District Attorney Jack Whelan commended Det. Robert Lythgoe and the members of the Criminal Investigation Division for their work on the investigation.

Brad Ross surrendered to authorities at CID headquarters Friday morning. He was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge David Lang who set bail at ten percent of $50,000 which he posted. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 23, 2015.