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Woman sues New York City over false drug arrest

June 13, 2013 2:38:39 PM PDT
A hard-working single-mother from Queens is suing the city for $50 million dollars, claiming she was falsely arrested on drug charges.

Those criminal charges have been dismissed, but her kids were taken away, and she still doesn't have them back.

It's a pretty astounding story. The mom was arrested on drug possession charges, but she wasn't even in the house at the time the drugs were allegedly found. Bail was set at one million dollars and she spent two weeks on Rikers Island. The worst part, she says, is being separated from her kids, who were ordered into foster care.

"How are you going to charge me with possession when I wasn't even in Queens. I was in Long Island," Elizabeth Pineda said.

Pineda's nightmare started when she took her 11-year-old daughter and other girls to an afternoon birthday party on April 2nd. The single mom, who lives in Middle Village, Queens, left her two younger kids with a family friend, a handyman, who worked in an apartment building in Forest Hills. Samuel Rodriguez lived in the basement.

"The kids get along with him, so I asked him as a favor, can you just watch them for two or three hours. And those 2-3 hours my life just did a 360," she said.

She says she had no idea he was dealing drugs.

Rodrriquez left the kids in the apartment and went outside to allegedly make a drug deal. That's when he was nabbed and detectives called Pineda.

She says when she got to the apartment, detectives showed her drugs they claimed to have found there. But it wasn't until she got to court, that she learned she'd been charged.

"My whole world just came down because I had 14-15-charges. I wasn't even there, then I get remanded. I go to jail for two weeks.

And they took away her children.

"At the beginning, I was not able to talk to or see them, nothing," Pineda said.

Because in the criminal complaint, a narcotics cop named Vincent Esposito swore that Pineda told him she had lived in that basement apartment where the drugs were found: "Defendant provided the above mentioned location as her residence."

"Every physical evidence shows that he lied," attorney Marvyn Kornberg said.

Pineda's lawyer presented bills, even her license that show she and her children live in a complex in Middle Village.

The District Attorney's office finally agreed to dismiss all of the criminal charges on Wednesday.

"People see the accusations and think where there's smoke, there's fire. It's going to be difficult to get her reputation back, if ever," attorney Barry Goldstein said.

Pineda lawyers filed a $50 million dollar lawsuit on Thursday.

"A horrible mother. That's how I felt," she said.

Her children are still in foster care, but they are at least are now staying with a grandmother.

Pineda will be in family court on Monday hoping a judge will order that her kids be given back to her. She also has to appeal to get off the New York State Child Abuse and Neglect Registry.

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