The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Warrant: CT state trooper helped drug dealer who sold cocaine
Members of the Connecticut State Police narcotics task force spent six months developing a case against Shawn Roka, who was suspected of dealing cocaine out of his Waterbury bar, court documents show.
On Dec. 19, state police raided the 32-year-old Roka’s home in Watertown and seized $54,000 in cash, nearly 2 pounds of cocaine, pills and guns that he had taken as collateral for drug buys, according to search warrants.
Less than three weeks later, state police began investigating one of their troopers after receiving a tip that Trooper Mitchell Paz allowed the woman he was dating to access his work laptop so she could provide Roka with key details of the drug investigation, including information about confidential informants who helped bring him down, court documents stated.
Paz, 29, was suspended on Jan. 9 and charged last week with two counts of third-degree computer crimes and two counts of conspiracy to commit third-degree computer crimes. State police said they have launched an internal affairs investigation and made a referral to the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council for Paz to be decertified.
Paz could be among the first troopers to be decertified since there was no mechanism to certify or decertify state police before the 2020 Police Accountability Law. No state troopers have been decertified since the law took effect, although it’s unclear how many applications POST is considering for decertification.
In 2021, Paz made a total of $132,094 as a state trooper, including $49,000 in overtime, according to Connecticut’s OpenPayroll website. His personnel file showed no disciplinary actions or commendations since he was hired in June 2015.
Paz’s arrest warrant indicates state police knew he was dating Amanda Marino, who had a child with Roka because she showed up at the Watertown home in the trooper’s personal vehicle as they were conducting surveillance as part of the drug investigation.
But it wasn’t until early January when state police realized Paz may have allowed Marino to access information from the laptop in his state-issued SUV to turn over to Roka, according to arrest warrants.
State police said Paz looked up Roka’s reports on the agency’s computer while he was off-duty, even though he was not involved in the investigation, and provided the information to Marino. Roka admitted to state police he had taken photos of Marino’s notes, the warrants stated. Roka also said Marino told him she wasn’t supposed to have the information, which showed names, dates, places and amounts of drugs, the warrant for his arrest said.
“Taken collectively, there was some information provided by Marino that Roka suggested gave him an idea of who the informant was that led to his December 2022 arrest,” the warrant for Roka said. He denied conspiring with Marino to get the information or directing her to find it, the warrant said.
Roka had been on state police’s radar since August when they learned he was likely selling large quantities of cocaine from his Waterbury bar, McFairlawns Tavern on Frost Street, and potentially “washing” the proceeds through the establishment’s coffers, according to search warrants. State police also determined he kept some of the drugs in safes at the bar and his Watertown home, the warrants stated.
With the help of confidential informants, state police made several drug buys from Roka at the bar and at various meeting places, search warrants said.
When police searched his residence, they found handguns, a total of $54,000, four bags of cocaine weighing 1.9 pounds, other bags of cocaine, a shotgun, loaded magazines, steroids, ammunition, Oxycodone pills and other items used in the production of illegal drugs for sale, according to a separate search warrant for Roka’s cellphone that was obtained after Paz came under suspicion.
Cocaine, a variety of pills and a gun that was being held as collateral were found at the bar, the search warrant said.
Roka was charged with more than a dozen offenses after the Dec. 19 raid, including operating a drug factory and nine counts of possession with intent to sell various illegal drugs. He was released after posting $500,000 bond.
Based on the search warrant served on Roka for his cellphone, he was charged Jan. 11 with three more counts of possession with intent to sell and possession of a controlled substance.
He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Roka will be arraigned Thursday in state Superior Court in New Britain on a conspiracy to commit third-degree computer crimes in connection with the Paz case.
Marino, 32, of Terryville, will be arraigned Tuesday in New Britain on charges of two counts of third-degree computer crimes and conspiracy to commit computer crime.
Paz will be arraigned March 29 in New Britain.