Boynton officer caught with porn on city laptop

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - A celebrated police sergeant visited pornographic websites thousands of times on a city laptop and had porn stored on the hard drive, the State Attorney's Office said Friday.

Allegations swirled that Sgt. Frank Ranzie, 48, had child porn on the computer, but prosecutors found only adults in the pictures, according to their investigation. That's a possible violation of Police Department policies, but not a crime.

Ranzie is still on full duty, said a police spokeswoman, who would not comment further because the Department is still conducting an internal investigation. Ranzie could not be reached Friday.

Ranzie himself made the images known to a technical support analyst for the Department on Aug. 30, according to a memo from prosecutors. Ranzie said his son had been looking at porn on his laptop and wanted the analyst, Vinny Mastro, to clear his hard drive.

But Mastro was suspicious, the memo said. He turned the laptop over to the Department's Internal Affairs Unit. When officers became concerned that some of the images were of children, they passed it to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, tipping off the criminal inquiry.

"There were 413 pictures and thumbnails of what appears to be adults performing sexual acts or without clothing," the State Attorney's Office found.

Additionally, Ranzie visited 23 different websites, including at least three sites he visited the same day he gave the laptop to Mastro. One of the sites, xnxx.com, he visited 4,598 times, according to the memo.

Ranzie admitted to a supervisor, Maj. Frank Briganti, that he, not his son, had been looking at the porn, but assured him all the subjects were adults, investigators found.

"Whether the individual watches porn at home on his computer is none of our business, but this is a piece of city-owned property," said City Commissioner Steven Holzman, who has been a loud critic of Department leaders.

He and other elected officials have been calling for an external review of the Department since four officers were arrested in 2011 on charges ranging from lying on police reports to trafficking methamphetamine. One of the officers cut a tracking bracelet and fled to Brazil.

And recently, in a separate incident, evidence of internal strife emerged when a lieutenant sent a mass email to Department staffers after a sergeant questioned his work attendance. The lieutenant, David Wier, was relegated to desk duty.

Ranzie, too, has been the subject of scrutiny during his 24-year career at the Boynton Beach Police Department.

In 2001, prosecutors dropped charges that he twice molested a family member because they suspected the victim was lying. And in 2003, the Department gave Ranzie a four-day suspension for an on-duty visit to Aphrodite's strip club in Boynton Beach. A dancer alleged he groped her, but no criminal charges were filed.

Then in 2009, Ranzie rose to prominence when he posed as a hit man and helped put Dalia Dippolito, 26, in jail on charges she tried to have her husband murdered.

More recently, as articles began appearing about problems in the Police Department, anonymous commenters began posting rumors on the Sun Sentinel website about porn on Ranzie's computer. On Sept. 26, Ranzie walked into Briganti's office and admitted the comments were true, the investigation found.

Interim City Manager Lori LaVerriere insists the hiring process is stringent at the Police Department, but will welcome an external review. On Nov. 7, the City Commission is expected to hear presentations from a series of consultants.

Mayor Woodrow Hay said that "overall, I still feel that we have a good police department," but that there remain "bad apples."

"We're just gonna weed them out," he said.

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