By Radley Balko
Earlier this year, I posted on a
rogue Philadelphia narcotics unit headed up by Officer Jeffrey Cujdik that was
shaking down immigrant bodegas across the city. (See updates here and here.) Cujdik's thugs would come
into the stores armed with search warrants for selling otherwise innocuous items
like small plastic bags that can also be used to package illegaldrugs.
would then cut the cords to the stores' surveillance cameras and start helping
themselves to cash registers and merchandise. Members of the unit have also been
accused of sexually assaulting women during drug raids.
Philadelphia Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara
Laker—who have done some amazing reporting on this story—then showed how lax oversight
from prosecutors and police commanders and casual dismissal of citizen
complaints allowed Cujdik to continue to operate well after his shakedown
tactics should have had him booted off the force. He'd likely still be shaking
down bodegas were it not for Ruderman and Laker (the two reporters were of
course attacked by Cujdik's police
Now Ruderman and Laker report an incredible new twist involving
Cujdik's brother Gregory. Unlike two of his brothers and his father, Gregory
Cujdik isn't a Philadelphia PD police officer. In fact, he's a convicted drug
dealer. The story begins last April.
IT WAS just after midnight. Brian Westberry and a woman friend sat frozen in
his bedroom, hoping the persistent pounding on the front door of his Northeast
Philly home would stop. It didn't.
Westberry, 24, slipped his licensed .38-caliber revolver into his pants
pocket and crept downstairs to open the door.
There stood Gregory Cujdik, 32, who demanded to see "Jen," his girlfriend.
Westberry told him "Jen" didn't want to see him, and repeatedly ordered Cujdik
to leave. When Cujdik refused, Westberry threatened to call police.
"'Do it. My family are cops,' " Cujdik said, according to Westberry...
Before Westberry could finish dialing 9-1-1 on his cell phone, Cujdik stepped
through the doorway and punched him in the throat, Westberry said.
That's when Westberry pulled out his gun and Cujdik fled, Westberry told the
Westberry never fired the gun. In fact, Westberry suffered the only injury
when Cujdik staggered him with a punch. But rather than arrest Cujdik, a
convicted drug dealer, authorities slapped Westberry with a slew of criminal
charges, including felony aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of
crime, terroristic threats, simple assault and recklessly endangering another
From there, Westberry's life got worse. Westberry believes Cudjik is behind a
Nov. 14 arson of his house. Detectives didn't question Cujdik until after a
Daily News reporter asked a police captain about the case earlier this
It gets worse. The detective who arrested Westberry is the wife of Jeffrey
Cujdik's former partner. The two also co-own a dunk tank (!?) rental business.
Westberry is a gun collector. The police seized all 40 of his guns, all of which
were legal and licensed.
All charges against Westberry were finally dismissed in October. But Gregory
Cujdik has yet to be charged, for either the assault or the arson. The
investigating officer said he never got around to questioning Cujdik about the
arson due to a backlog of other cases. Of course, that didn't seem to stop the
department from going after Westberry. The investigating officer also indicated
he thinks Westberry, who has no prior criminal record, may have intentionally
set fire to his own home in order to frame Cujdik.
Incidentally, since the Daily News first broke the story about
Jeffrey Cujdik's thuggish narcotics unit in March, none of the officers in the
unit has been charged with a crime. A few have been taken off the street
and lost their police powers, and there's now a federal investigation underway.
But all of the officers from the unit are still collecting paychecks.