A Buffalo police officer resigned from the department and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday, admitting that while dressed in a police uniform and driving a police cruiser, he pulled over his brother-in-law in a phony traffic stop tied to a drug deal.
Ronnie Funderburk, 42, an officer since July 1998, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to possess cocaine when he appeared before Judge Richard J. Arcara.
Funderburk admitted that on June 3, 2004, he and Frederick Nolley Jr. arranged to have Funderburk pull over Nolley's car on Grant Street.
The idea, Funderburk said, was to convince a drug customer of Nolley's that he had just confiscated $14,000 worth of cocaine that Nolley had already been paid for.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents said they were prepared to prove that Nolley and Funderburk had previously set up the phony drug stop, and that they both spoke afterward. In addition, DEA agent Dale M. Kasprzyk said in an affidavit that Funderburk had earlier told Nolley in a taped telephone call how to avoid police attention when he was driving.
"And dress down," Funderburk said in the monitored phone call to Nolley. "Don't wear no ball caps, don't wear no jewelry. Don't wear nothin'. Wear your seat belt with the windows down." Funderburk told Nolley to stay on the main roads and obey the traffic laws.
"And do the speed limit, you know what I mean," Funderburk told him. "You got be, when I tell a lot of people, you gotta be, uh, incognito. In other words, you can't look the stereotype . . . Music blaring, hoods on, dark clothes.
"Windows down, no hat, do the speed limit, seat belt on, and sit up straight," Funderburk told Nolley.
All that leaning back in the seat, leaning into the door jamb is reasonable suspicion."
Nolley, described as the top aide to alleged drug kingpin Richard Mullin, took a guilty plea last month. Nolley faces a prison term of 20 years to life and an $8 million fine.
Funderburk faces a prison term of up to six months when he returns to court March 5 for sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Clare Kane said.
Funderburk, represented by attorney Herbert L. Greenman, has been on paid administrative leave since Sept. 1, 2004. He is a military veteran who served in Bosnia.