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2 more cops tied to Burke case retire from Suffolk force

Chief of the Suffolk County Police Department James

Chief of the Suffolk County Police Department James Burke addresses Suffolk County legislators in Hauppauge on Feb. 2, 2012. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Two Suffolk County criminal intelligence officers involved in the 2012 arrest of a Smithtown man convicted of taking a duffel bag out of former Police Chief James Burke's department-issued vehicle are leaving the force.

Det. Anthony Leto filed papers Nov. 5 with the state to retire after nearly 20 years working for the Suffolk police department. His last day is listed as Friday. Det. Kenneth Bombace's retirement was effective Sept. 26, according to the state comptroller's office.

Burke, Suffolk's highest-ranking uniformed officer, resigned Oct. 27 as federal prosecutors in New York's Eastern District intensified a grand jury probe into the circumstances surrounding the December 2012 arrest of Christopher Loeb of Smithtown, sources familiar with the investigation have said.

Possible charges against Burke that the grand jury is considering are violations of Loeb's civil rights by law enforcement officers and obstruction of justice, the sources said. Burke has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Loeb was arrested at his Smithtown home on Dec. 14, 2012, hours after he broke into Burke's department-issued vehicle and stole a duffel bag. In addition to handcuffs, cigars and other items, Burke's gun belt and high-capacity ammunition magazines were in the bag. Loeb has testified the bag also contained "nasty porn" and sex toys.

Loeb said he was beaten when he was arrested by other officers and Burke, who showed up at the scene of Loeb's arrest and later at the Fourth Precinct in Smithtown, where Loeb was taken.

Loeb pleaded guilty in 2014 to third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. He was released in July after being credited for time served.

Federal officials launched an investigation of Burke in 2013 to determine if he had violated Loeb's civil rights. In January 2014, a special state prosecutor appointed to handle the case because Burke previously spent a decade working for Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota filed a motion in state Supreme Court saying the case against Burke was closed. Federal authorities never confirmed that the investigation was closed.

Leto's retirement date, according to the state comptroller's office, is more than a month shy of the 20-year retirement mark with the Suffolk police. In addition, Leto worked for the New York City Police Department from April 1991 to December 1995, said Justin Meyers, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The state has Leto credited for 24.5 years but that's an unaudited figure that can take weeks to confirm, according to the comptroller's office. A spokeswoman said overtime is one of the things calculated into the final credited number of years and could explain why the 24.5 years exceeds the number of years he served in the department.

Leto testified during Loeb's pretrial hearings Oct. 28, 2013, and briefly on Nov. 6, 2013, about his actions at the Fourth Precinct, the day Loeb was arrested and taken there.

Loeb testified that shortly after his arrest Leto choked him while he was chained to the floor at the Fourth Precinct facility and whispered he was going to rape his mother.

Bombace, who was not called to testify but was mentioned during court proceedings as one of the criminal intelligence officers involved in the case the day of Loeb's arrest, retired after more than 14 years working with Suffolk County Police Department.

During the Oct. 28 hearing, Leto testified that either Bombace or another criminal intelligence officer called him Dec. 14 to assist precinct police to canvass for witnesses, cameras and evidence after they received reports of "several break-ins into motor vehicles" near Burke's home.

He also testified that he, Bombace and another criminal intelligence officer debriefed Loeb in an interview room at the Fourth Precinct station house.

Loeb later testified that Leto and another plainclothes officer in blue jeans took turns "hitting me and I was choked." Loeb could not identify the second officer.

Before he joined the Suffolk police, Bombace served seven years with the Suffolk County sheriff's department. He filed an application with the state Sept. 14 to transfer his time with the police department into his time as a sheriff's deputy and the request was approved by the state, according to a spokeswoman at the state comptroller's office. Such time transfers have been done before, the spokeswoman said.

Before his departure, Suffolk County signed an agreement with Detective's Association president Bill Plant promising lifetime health benefits and paid out sick leave to Bombace. Bombace heads a county police veterans organization, ran a marathon with County Executive Steve Bellone and served on his security detail.

Leto's and Bombace's retirements are the third known departures of officers involved in the Loeb arrest. Det. Thomas Cottingham, the lead detective handling the Loeb case, left the force in July 2013.

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