Last week was one of those remarkably rare occasions when we came across no corrupt cops stories. Not to worry! They're back this week with a vengeance. Another border sheriff goes down, a North Carolina police department goes out of business, an Arizona cop got greedy, and another pair of entrepreneurial jail guards get caught.
In San Antonio, a former Starr County sheriff pleaded guilty last Friday to one drug trafficking charge for assisting the Mexican Gulf Cartel as it smuggled drugs through his border county. Former Sheriff Reymundo "Rey" Guerra was arrested last October after he was one of 29 people indicted by a federal grand jury. He admitted passing information to an informant whom he knew had gone back to work for the cartel in return for payments of $2,000 to $3,000. He also admitted passing information about who tipped off authorities in a raid that resulted in the seizure of 314 kilos of pot and one kilo of cocaine. Guerra pleaded to one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics as part of a plea deal that saw two other charges dropped. He faces from 10 years to life in prison when sentenced in July. Until then, he remains free on bond.
In Spring Lake, North Carolina, the Spring Lake Police Department has been shut down after two of its officers were arrested Monday on corruption and abuse of authority charges. Officer Alfonzo Whittington Jr. was indicted by a special Cumberland County grand jury on 11 counts, including embezzlement by a police officer, obtaining property by false pretences, larceny, and obstruction of justice. Those charges stem from the theft of $2,900 from the department's evidence room, which Whittington was in charge of. Sgt. Darryl Coulter Sr. faces 20 charges, including breaking and entering, kidnapping, and obstruction of justice. Some of those charges stem from an April 2008 "drug raid" where he broke into a home occupied by three men, assaulted them, threatening them with a handgun and shotgun, and held them against their will by handcuffing them. Other charges stem from a raid at a local motel room where Coulter seized $2,900 from a room where he said he smelled marijuana. That's the same $2,900 Whittington is accused of stealing from the evidence room. Whittington is looking at 24 years in prison, while Coulter could face up to 32 years. The department lost the ability to investigate homicides after it botched child abuse allegations and a child was killed. That soon expanded to all felonies as the town mayor asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the department's narcotics squad. Now the department has been relieved of investigating even misdemeanor cases, and the county sheriff's office has taken over policing duties for the town.
In Tucson, a former South Tucson police lieutenant was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling more than $450,000 in asset forfeiture funds and evidence room money. Former Lt. Richard Garcia had total responsibility for managing the asset forfeiture program and was the sole custodian of the department's evidence room. He admitted stealing the money to finance his gambling habit, buy booze, and go to strip clubs. He pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft from an organization receiving federal funds and filing false income taxes. He must also pay $450,000 in restitution after he gets out at a rate of $200 a month. At that rate, the department will recoup its losses sometime in the 24th Century.
In Los Angeles, a former LA county deputy was charged Wednesday with trying to smuggle drugs into a county jail facility in Castaic, where he worked as a jailer. Peter Felix, 25, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the jail, as well as six other drug-related charges. Felix had worked for the department for two years before quitting last October after investigators caught him receiving cash and drugs from a co-conspirator.
In Dover, Delaware, a Delaware Correctional Center guard was arrested Saturday with an ounce of marijuana he intended to smuggle into the jail. Guard Sidney Nunn, 25, went down after internal affairs investigators at the prison went to Dover police with information they had developed. Nunn now faces charges of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, maintaining a vehicle, conspiracy, possession of drug paraphernalia and promoting prison contraband. He was released after posting $8,000 bail. He is on leave with pay.
In Greece, New York, a Greece police officer was arraigned Tuesday on charges he coerced a woman he caught smoking marijuana into having sex with him. Officer Gary Pignato was charged with felony bribery of a public servant, and two misdemeanors: second-degree coercion and official misconduct. Pignato already faces a June 1 trial date in a similar case where he allegedly came to a residence on a domestic dispute call, then informed the women he would arrest her for a probation violation if she did not have sex with him. In Tuesday's case, Pignato allegedly followed his victim home one night in 2005 in his patrol car, gave her his card and asked for her phone number. The next day, the victim was smoking a joint at her dining room table when Pignato walked in unannounced and threatened to arrest her. "We can make this go away," he allegedly said. Having sex with him "would take care of it." The victim said she drove to his house the next night to have sex with him, but he kept bothering her for more sex in the following days until she threatened to tell his girlfriend. The victim said she was inspired to come forward after reading about charges being filed in the first case against Pignato.