A former Boston police officer assigned to a Youth Violence Strike Force was charged in federal court Thursday with making false statements to an FBI agent investigating a violent street gang in Roxbury.
Mel Steele, 36, faces one count of lying to the FBI during the course of a federal investigation.
Steele recently resigned from the department.
Boston Police Department spokesman David Estrada said the charges stem from an internal investigation that was conducted by the Boston Police anticorruption unit along with the FBI.
He said Steele resigned effective Oct. 17, but he would not comment further.
Steele’s attorney, Rudolph Miller, could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
According to court records, Steele was charged in relation to an investigation into a violent drug-dealing gang based at the Academy Homes housing development in Roxbury.
Authorities said that Steele, who was assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force, the Police Department’s gang unit, was a longtime friend of an associate of the Roxbury gang.
Steele is accused of providing internal police information to the associate while Boston police and the FBI were investigating the gang from 2009 to 2011.
On one occasion, authorities said, Steele used his Boston police computer to run a license plate check on a vehicle. The vehicle turned out to be an unmarked Boston police car driven by a detective conducting surveillance on the gang.
Steele also allegedly contacted a State Police trooper to seek information about a gang member’s pending charges in another criminal case.
Steele is accused of making false statements when FBI agents confronted him in May 2011. He faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release, though if he is convicted, he is likely to be sentenced to less than the maximum.
Steele, raised in Mattapan, started at the police academy in 2002, according to Estrada, but it was unknown Thursday how long he had been a member of the gang unit, where he was considered a rising star. His work to quell street violence was featured in the Boston Herald in 2008.
Former supervisors said that they had been impressed by Steele’s ability to connect with young people on the street, according to one Boston police official who knows Steele and considers him a friend. The official said Thursday that Steele could talk to young men about music, school, and where their life was headed.
“He had a great reputation,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
“He grew up on the streets. He could relate to these kids. I can’t believe he got caught up in that. He was a really good police officer.”