November 3, 2006 -- Call it meatballs alla marijuana.
An NYPD detective who tested positive for cannabis last year faced having his 22-year career go up in smoke - until his wife admitted she spiked his meatballs with marijuana in order to get him fired because she feared he'd die in the line of duty, sources said yesterday.
In fact, the cop's firefighter brother was killed on 9/11.
Anthony Chiofalo, a member of the NYPD's elite Joint Terrorism Task Force, failed a random drug test after traces of marijuana were found in his system.
Chiofalo, who was automatically suspended without pay, proclaimed his innocence and requested a departmental hearing.
Chiofalo told his Detectives Endowment Association-assigned lawyer that his wife, Cathy, occasionally smoked marijuana to alleviate back pain, but that he never puffed on a joint, the sources said.
During the departmental trial, the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau interviewed Cathy, who confessed to them that in the summer of 2005, she cooked up two separate pots of meatballs and laced them with weed so her husband would test positive and get booted from the force.
"I'm afraid he's going to get killed," a police source quoted Cathy as telling IAB investigators.
Cathy's justification for mixing marijuana with the ground beef was that she feared for her husband's life following the Sept. 11 attacks - particularly now that her husband worked for an elite unit that investigates terrorism.
She also told the department that she had expected the NYPD would force her husband to retire with his pension, not fire him, if he failed a drug test, the sources said.
On 9/11, Chiofalo's brother, Nicholas, was killed at the World Trade Center. Also killed that day were two of Anthony Chiofalo's former partners - Joseph Vigiano and Michael Curtin - while he worked at the 75th Precinct in East New York, Brooklyn.
Friends said Chiofalo was "shocked" when his lawyer and IAB investigators broke the news to him that his wife had been the one responsible for his failing the drug test a year ago.
At the trial, an expert testified on Chiofalo's behalf that marijuana ingested with food would turn up on a drug test even a few months later.
Chiofalo and his wife passed a polygraph test.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled that the department should reinstate Chiofalo.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly will make the final decision.
"No comment. No comment," said a woman who answered the door last night at Chiofalo's home.
Chiofalo's friends hope Kelly gives him his job back.
"Tony is a cop's cop," said John Vigiano, a retired FDNY captain whose two sons died on 9/11. "The Police Department needs do to the right thing and reinstate him."
Detectives Endowment Assn. President Mike Palladino declined to comment.
Cathy has not been charged by Suffolk County cops, in whose jurisdiction she cooked up the meatballs.