Busy, busy, busy. Take a week off, and look what happens: Cops peddling pills, guards stealing pills, cops shaking down housing project residents, jail guards smuggling drugs, a DEA agent giving information to suspected mobsters, and more. Let's get to it:
In Cleveland, Ohio, a Cleveland police officer was arrested August 25 for his role in a cocaine distribution ring. Officer Zvonko Sarlog, a six-year veteran now faces a federal indictment for conspiracy to distribute cocaine along with six other people, none of them police officers. The arrests came after a nine-month investigation by the Cleveland police internal affairs unit, which eventually called in the FBI. Sarlog is accused of having a relative in Mexico smuggle cocaine into the country for sale in the Cleveland area.
In Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, 10 police officers have been arrested on charges they planted drugs as evidence against poor islanders. The Puerto Rican Civil Rights Commission is planning hearings into allegations these arrests are only the tip of the iceberg. Eight officers were arrested August 23, and raiding FBI agents found a safe containing drugs held in reserve to plant on people. Two more officers turned themselves in days later. They are accused of using marijuana, cocaine and heroin to frame residents of housing projects between 2004 and 2007. They also made up elaborate details on arrest and search warrants, according to police. If convicted, they face 10 years to life in prison.
In Detroit a Flat Rock police officer was among five people indicted August 29 on federal prescription drug distribution charges. Officer David Dewitt is accused of conspiring with a local physician, Dr. Paul Emerson, and three other people in a ring that allegedly circulated a million pills a year. Dewitt and the other three acted as Emerson's patients, filled the prescriptions he wrote, then allegedly sold them on the black market, according to the indictment. Dewitt, 37, is charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of drugs with the intent to distribute several controlled substances and with being an unlawful user of some of the drugs while possessing his department-issued firearm. His status with the department was not known. [Ed: The question has to be asked in cases like this whether the doctors knew what the patients were doing -- often they don't, and such prosecutions are a major cause of the national problem of under-treatment of pain.]
In Gulfport, Mississippi, a jail guard was arrested and fired after being accused of smuggling drugs into the county jail. Harrison County Adult Detention Center guard Laquita Allen now faces up to five years in prison if convicted of introducing contraband into a jail. No word yet on details of the allegations against her. She is free on $25,000 bond.
In Portsmouth, Virginia, the former head of the Portsmouth police drug squad was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison for participating in a drug distribution conspiracy that prosecutors said brought more than $5 million worth of crack cocaine to the area. Former Lt. Brian Keith Muhammad Abdul-Ali was found guilty of warning his nephew, convicted crack distributor Gregory Elliott, of upcoming raids, thus allowing him to sell 110 pounds or more of crack cocaine in the area between 2001 and last December, when Abdul-Ali and his nephew were arrested. Abdul-Ali faced up to 10 years on drug conspiracy charges, but the judge suspended 5 ½ years.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, a jail guard was arrested August 22 for repeatedly stealing prescription pain medications from prisoners. Western Worcester District Court jail guard Francine Melanson, 46, faces one count of larceny under $250 dollars, even though jail officials have her on videotape stealing pills on several occasions. She came under suspicion when a woman arrested by Leicester police in October 2006 claimed some of her hydrocodone pills were missing. The prescription drug is used for pain management. State police installed a camera in the court's cell area and subsequently caught Melanson in the act. Her lawyer said she is in treatment for a "substance abuse problem." The 11-year veteran guard is on unpaid leave from her $64,000 a year job.
In Boston, a DEA agent admitted in federal court August 23 that he used a government law enforcement computer to help targets in a mob investigation learn whether they were being investigated. The admission from DEA agent Louis Angioletti came as he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of intentionally accessing a government computer in a manner that exceeded his lawful authority. Angioletti faces up to six months in federal prison. He also agreed to resign from the DEA. Angioletti got caught up in an FBI investigation of a conspiracy by mob-backed trash haulers to drive out the competition. While working at the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, Angioletti was approached by an old friend who worked for the mob-connected trash haulers, and he agreed to run the friend's boss's name through the federal Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Information System database. He later reported that the boss's name didn't show up. He will be sentenced November 9.
In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Scranton police officer charged with selling Oxycontin while in uniform pleaded guilty August 28. Officer Mark Conway told the presiding judge he had been addicted to Oxycontin. His attorney made the strange remark that Conway "wasn't a drug dealer… but he distributed." Corruption or addiction? In either case, he was peddling pills while in uniform. He faces up to five years in prison.