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Border stop of trooper led to probe of 'parties' ; Role in prostitution is among questions

Federal officers stopped and questioned State Trooper Titus Z. Taggart at one of the local border crossings over the winter, asking him why he was transporting a Canadian woman into the United States, law enforcement officials told The Buffalo News on Monday.

Taggart was driving a vehicle with a license plate number that was on a government watch list, and, as a result, he was pulled over for questioning, one of the officials said.

Both Taggart and the woman explained that they were on their way to a party. Police had no evidence that they were planning any illegal activity, and no contraband was found in the vehicle, so no charges were filed against them, officials said.

Information about the incident is being evaluated by the State Police and prosecutors who are investigating whether Taggart committed any crimes while allegedly running wild "stripper parties" during his off-duty hours.

Taggart, 41, is an 18-year trooper who, according to public records, lives with his parents in an Amherst home valued by the town at $643,300. He was one of three troopers who were suspended last week in connection with the stripper party investigation.

After Taggart's suspension, the State Police said he was "alleged to have organized parties that may have involved the promotion of prostitution, while off-duty."

No criminal charges have been filed against Taggart or two other troopers -- Jeremy C. Smith and Michael L. Petritz -- who were suspended. Taggart patrolled the State Thruway out of the Troop T barracks in Cheektowaga, while Smith and Petritz worked in the Rochester area.

"I can only tell you that there is an internal investigation and a parallel criminal investigation, and they're both ongoing," said Sgt. Kern A. Swoboda, chief spokesman for the State Police.

Swoboda said he was unaware of Taggart being pulled over for questioning at the border and had no comment on whether Taggart drove a vehicle that was flagged for special attention by federal officials.

Taggart's attorney, Michael G. O'Rourke, declined to discuss any aspect of the criminal and internal investigations.

"I do represent Titus Taggart, but at this time, I'm not going to make any comment," said O'Rourke, a retired trooper.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said he could not comment on the trooper investigation, or even confirm that such an investigation is under way.

But other law enforcement sources said Sedita's office has been working with the State Police for weeks on the criminal probe.

While confirming that Taggart was driving with a Canadian woman when stopped at one of the local international bridges, law enforcement officials declined to provide details on which bridge was involved or the date of the incident.

Taggart is a son of retired Lt. Col. Arthur L. Taggart, who became one of the highest-ranked leaders of the State Police and earned numerous honors and commendations for his work.