Police Corruption

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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's prison guards gone wild this week, with 16 going down in one Florida sting alone, and one in New York City busted with a half-pound of smack. A crooked Texas border town cop cops a plea, too. Let's get to it:

In Belle Glade, Florida, 16 Florida state prison guards were among 22 people arrested February 11 in a two-year FBI undercover sting targeting drug smuggling into two Florida prisons. Eleven of the guards worked at the Glades Correctional Institution in Belle Glade. They are charged with attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. The arrests went down after FBI undercover agents told guards they were members of a drug trafficking group and the guards agreed to use their positions to help transport multi-kilo cocaine loads from warehouses in Miami to West Palm Beach. The guards were allegedly paid a total of $145,000 in bribes and transported cocaine on at least nine occasions. Five other guards at Glades and one from South Bay Correctional Facility are charged with bribery for smuggling non-drug contraband into the prisons.

In New York City, a New York City prison guard was arrested Monday after he was stopped for running a red light and police found eight ounces of heroin in his car. Although eight ounces of heroin is by no means a personal use amount, Marco Villacris, 46, is charged only with possession of a controlled substance and two traffic infractions. Villacris has been a guard at Rikers Island since joining the city's Department of Corrections in August 2008. He will be fired, the department said.

In Laredo, Texas, a Laredo police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to escorting cars he believed were loaded with cocaine through the city. Pedro Martinez III pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Martinez admitted meeting with an undercover FBI officer posing as a drug dealer and agreeing to escort two loads of cocaine through town, including one while he was in uniform and driving a marked police vehicle. He faces a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison and up to life. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Latin America: Mexico's Drug War Stirs Opposition in the Streets and from the Bishops

As the death toll tops 17,000 since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the so-called drug cartels in December 2006, and with no end to the killing in sight, demonstrators took to the streets of bloody Ciudad Juárez Sunday to denounce the killing and the government's approach. The next day, Calderon's drug policies came under attack from an entirely different direction: the Catholic Church in Mexico.

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Council of Bishops event releasing report
In Juárez, where more than 2,600 people were killed in prohibition-related violence last year and 15 teenagers were gunned down last week in an incident that shocked the nation, more than a thousand people took to the streets Sunday in a "March of Anger" against the drug violence, with some leaders saying the presence of 6,000 federal troops is only making things worse.

"The army's presence is anti-constitutional and violates citizens' rights. That's why we're asking them to withdraw," National Front Against Repression leader Javier Contreras told the crowd.

Human rights and civil society groups in Juárez and, more broadly, across Mexico, have charged that Mexican law enforcement and armed forces have harassed, tortured, kidnapped, "disappeared," and killed innocent people in overzealous prosecution of the drug war. That won't work, said Contreras.

"You can't fight violence with more violence and breaking the laws," he said.

The protest came just days after President Calderon visited Ciudad Juárez in a bid to placate angry and frightened citizens. He apologized to the families of the massacred teenagers for initially blaming their deaths on gang warfare, said he was sending in 400 more federal police, and vowed to seek community cooperation in setting a new strategy against crime and violence. Still, he was booed by crowds during that visit. He returned again this week, touting a new security plan.

If Calderon is having a hard time placating angry Juárez residents, he's not having much better luck with the Catholic Church. The day after the Juárez protest, the Mexican Church's Council of Bishops issued a report critical of Calderon's drug policies.

In the report, the bishops said that using thousands of army troops to police Mexican cities raises severe human rights concerns. The bishops also pointed at a corrupt judicial system. They said many suspects are paraded before the media in "perp walks" even before being charged with any crime and called on the government to speed up police reforms so the troops can return to their barracks.

The bishops conceded that Calderon's deployment of the military initially had broad public support, but warned it was eroding. "As time passed, the participation of the armed forces in the fight against organized crime has created uncertainty in the population," the report said. "The armed forces have the obligation to respect human rights."

The bishops also harshly criticized the criminal justice system, saying few criminals are brought to justice because of corruption and inefficiency, while at the same time, innocent people are too often jailed because of police tactics. They noted that many of those people arrested and paraded before the media end up being released or charged with much lesser crimes than those announced at the time of their arrest.

The "perp walks" should stop, the bishops said. Authorities must "respect the judicial principle that someone is innocent until proven otherwise, because now we see that detainees are exhibited before the media before they are brought before judicial authorities."

More than halfway through his six-year term, President Calderon faces the threat of seeing his presidency defined by the bloody drug wars his policies have not only failed to stop, but have exacerbated. He seems to have no response except more of the same.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A dope-dealing probation officer, a detective who buddied-up to a dope dealer, and a sticky-fingered small town cop make the roll-call of dishonor this week. Let's get to it:

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evidence room cash
In Cranston, Rhode Island, a juvenile probation officer was arrested Tuesday after police said he sold heroin to an undercover officer. Michael Ayer, 49, faces two counts of delivering heroin to a police officer. He went down after the State Police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force got a tip from an informant last month. He allegedly made repeated heroin sales to the undercover officer, and did so using his state vehicle and his state-issued cell phone. There is no indication Ayer peddled any dope to his probationers.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Santa Fe police detective has been recommended for termination after he was caught on an FBI tape promising to provide a gun to a drug dealer "who clearly conveyed his intent to commit murder," according to police documents. Detective Jose Valencia, who headed the police union at the time of the taping, is also accused of providing an undercover narc's description to the drug dealer and making disparaging remarks about fellow officers. Valencia faced a hearing Thursday to revoke his certification as a law enforcement officer in New Mexico. That decision will be made next month.

In Moab, Utah, a former Moab police officer was arrested February 4 for stealing $900 in drug bust proceeds from his own police station. Edward Guerrero, 43, faces burglary and theft charges in the break-in, which occurred last August.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Rogue narcs in Camden, cops dealing weed out of police cars, a crooked DARE officer, cops helping dealers, and, of course, another prison guard goes down, more jail and prison guards go down. Let's get to it:

In Camden, New Jersey, the FBI is investigating corruption in a special operations team handling drugs and gun crime. The four officers involved, who have been suspended without pay, are Jason Stetser, Antonio Figueroa, Kevin Parry, and Robert Bayard. They are suspected of beating defendants, planting drugs, and bringing phony charges to enhance their arrest records and force reluctant players in the drug underworld to cooperate. Drug charges made by the rogue cops have already been dropped in seven cases, and defense attorneys say dozens, if not hundreds, more could be dismissed. The group generated a pattern of complaints of mistreatment and illegal behavior. In one case, a victim complained that Stetser harassed him to become a snitch, then planted drugs on him and arrested him when he refused. In other cases as well, suspects said the officers stole money and drugs during searches or planted drugs on suspects who refused to cough up information on dealers and their stashes.

In Earlville, Illinois, an Earlville police officer was arrested last Friday for delivering an unspecified amount of marijuana to a person who was an informant for the local Tri-DENT drug task force. Officer Sergio Javier Fuentes, 41, is charged with felony drug possession and official misconduct. According to Tri-DENT, Fuentes drove an Earlville police car to deliver the weed to a house in town. He was arrested when he drove back to the Earlville Police Department. More weed was found in his vehicle, and so was Clonazepam. Fuentes is looking at two to five years for the official misconduct and one to three years for felony marijuana possession. He is out on bail and has been suspended with pay.

In West Pittston, Pennsylvania, a former West Pittston police officer was charged Monday with improperly receiving $20,000 in grant money as compensation for DARE (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) classes he never taught. Joseph Campbell, 47, is charged with five felony counts of theft by deception -- one for each year submitted fraudulent payment vouchers. Campbell taught elementary school DARE classes in Wyoming Area schools, but did not teach them at middle or high school level, as his payment vouchers claimed. Campbell has admitted to wrongdoing and has been fired. He was released on a $25,000 bond, with a preliminary hearing set for February 10.

In West Gardinier, Maine, a Cumberland County jail guard was arrested Wednesday for scheming to smuggle drugs into the jail. Guard Toby Post, 38, a six-year veteran, was seen taking control of a stash of drugs and was arrested trying to bring them into the jail. He is charged with trafficking in prison contraband. He is on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation and out on bond awaiting a March 10 trial date.

In New York City, a former NYPD sergeant was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison for lying to DEA investigators during a drug investigation. Former officer Roosevelt Green got busted for using NYPD computers to obtain vehicle registration information for a pair of DEA surveillance vehicles and passing that information on to a drug trafficking suspect. He went down because the DEA was wiretapping the suspect and overheard the conversations. Then he lied to the DEA, and now he's going away.

In Staunton, Virginia, a former Augusta Correctional Complex guard was sentenced January 28 to 18 months in prison for smuggling marijuana to inmates at the prison in Craigsville. Former guard April Hogsett, 26, had pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and bribery. She was fired a week after her August arrest.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops punching drug suspects, deputies smuggling dope to a jailed gang leader, a probation officer trading clean drug tests for sexual favors, a cop who got in trouble when he overdosed on the dope he stole, a cop whose Oxycontin habit got the best of him, and, of course, more crooked prison and jail guards. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, LA County Sheriff's investigators are looking into whether two deputies smuggled drugs into a gang leader's jail cell in 2003. The investigation opened after a member of another gang testified in a trial last week that the deputies concealed drugs in a bedroll at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic and sneaked them into the gang leader's cell. One of the accused deputies, Carlos Restrepo, was investigated six years ago for a similar allegation.

In New York City, two NYPD officers were suspended last Friday after being caught on camera punching a handcuffed drug suspect who was lying on the ground. Undercover narcs were conducting an arrest when one of their victims fled. Two uniformed officers joined in the chase and were caught on video assaulting the man. No word yet on whether they will face any criminal charges.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a state probation officer was arrested January 19 on charges he certified a female probationer's dirty drug test as clean in return for sexual favors and money. James Stanton, 53, was arrested in the Nesbett Courthouse, where he worked. Stanton faces bribery and official misconduct charges. At last report, Stanton was jailed on $10,000 bail.

In Youngstown, Ohio, a Bracewell police officer was arrested January 21 for conducting an illegal information search on police computers for two acquaintances who have been arrested on heroin distribution charges. Ryan Freeman, 30, found out that his friends were under investigation by a local drug task force and let them know it. He will face charges of unauthorized use of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway and obstruction of justice.

In Calipatria, California, a Calipatria State Prison guard was arrested last Friday by FBI agents for allegedly smuggling heroin and methamphetamine into the prison. Charles Rowe, 42, was taken to the Imperial County Jail where he was charged with bringing a controlled substance into a jail, transporting or distributing a controlled substance, and conspiracy.

In Lyndhurst, Ohio, a former Lyndhurst police officer was sentenced to probation January 20 for stealing heroin he had seized in a May traffic stop. Robert Colombo, 40, a 15-year veteran, arrested two people on heroin possession charges, but replaced the heroin with rock salt on his way to the evidence room. The next day, he overdosed. He pleaded guilty to drug possession and theft in office last month. He resigned from the department in September.

In Yuma, Arizona, a former Yuma police officer was sentenced last Friday to three years and four months in prison for stealing cash from the department's evidence room to buy prescription drugs on which he was strung out. Former Officer Geoffrey Michael Presco was convicted of stealing nearly $11,000 to support his Oxycontin habit. He said he became addicted after being prescribed them for a knee injury.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingering, meth-snorting cop goes away for awhile, and a trio of jail guards get in trouble. Let's get to it:

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seized cash
In Glendora, California, a former Glendora police officer was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail, three years of probation, and a 24-month drug rehabilitation program after pleading no contest to grand theft and methamphetamine possession charges. Timothy Radogna, 34, was arrested in May in an "integrity sting" after superiors received reports he was failing to book drugs and cash into evidence. Police left meth and $1,000 in cash in a bait car, and Radogna took the bait. He could have gotten up to nine years.

In Beaumont, Texas, a former Texas Department of Corrections guard pleaded guilty Monday to trying to smuggle drugs and a cell phone into the Stiles Unit in his lunchbox. Eric Talmore, 25, copped pleas to bribery and having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. He got busted with tobacco in his socks, rolling papers in his underwear, and marijuana and a cell phone hidden inside a container of fried rice. He faces up to 30 years in prison when sentenced on February 16, but his attorney is asking for probation.

In Manchester, Kentucky, a Clay County Detention Center guard was arrested Sunday on charges she smuggled drugs to inmates in the jail. Guard Dawn Hayes, 31, fell prey to an undercover investigation by the County Sheriff's Office, taking drugs to be smuggled into the jail from a confidential informant. Hayes is currently residing at her place of employment.

In Chesterton, Indiana, an Indiana State Prison guard was arrested January 2 for trying to smuggle tobacco and marijuana into the prison. Barb Roseborough, a nine-year veteran, got caught when prison staff found a package wrapped in electrical tape hidden in the lining of her bag as she reported for work. A second package was later found hidden on her person. She has been charged with trafficking with an offender and felony marijuana possession. She faces from two to eight years on the first count and up to three years on the second. At last report, she was being held at the LaPorte County Jail.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Sheriffs gone wild, narcs gone greedy, a jail guard gone horny, and a couple of jail guards gone dumb. Let's get to it:

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seized cash
In Murphysville, Illinois, a county sheriff already jailed on marijuana sales charged was arrested again, this time on solicitation of murder charges. Gallatin County Sheriff Raymond Martin, his wife, and his 20-year-old son were all arrested and are being held on one million dollar bonds. Officials have not said if the murder for hire plot is related to the marijuana charges. The trio will have preliminary hearings on the murder conspiracy charges on January 26.

In Mineola, New York, a Long Island corrections officer was arrested December 30 for extorting sexual favors from female inmates. Mark Barber is accused of using his position as grievance officer for the Nassau County Correctional Center to engage in various sexual activities for females. Authorities said Barber targeted inmates with histories of drug abuse, prostitution, or mental health issues. He faces various counts of rape, sexual abuse, and forcible touching and could get up to 16 years in prison if convicted.

In Eufala, Alabama, the Eufala Police narcotics division commander was arrested December 29 for allegedly stealing money that had been seized and was awaiting an asset forfeiture hearing. Lt. Stephen Hanners went down after $20,000 went missing and investigators soon zeroed in on him. He is charged with first degree theft of property. Hanners resigned upon his arrest.

In Lexington, South Carolina, a Lexington County jail guard was arrested December 31 for bringing marijuana and cigarettes to a prisoner. Guard Phillip Fields was accused of conspiring with a woman who was also arrested. The woman left the contraband in Fields' car while he was at work, then he would retrieve the goodies during his shift and smuggle them into the jail. He got busted bringing the contraband in. Fields is charged with two counts furnishing contraband to a prisoner and furnishing drugs to a prisoner, two counts of misconduct in office, and one count of marijuana possession.

In New York City, a Rikers Island jail guard was arrested last Friday as she tried to smuggle drugs, alcohol, and tobacco into the prison. Guard Teneya Griffith, 25, went down after fellow corrections officers went to authorities about their suspicions she was compromised. She got caught with two ounces of weed, three water bottles filled with vodka, and tobacco and cigarettes. According to prosecutors, Griffith was to earn $800 to $900 for her efforts. She is charged with first degree felony promoting prison contraband, misdemeanor promoting prison contraband, marijuana possession, and official misconduct. She faces up to seven years for the felony.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a Texas trifecta for Christmas, plus an Alabama jail guard. Let's get to it:

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If we can't keep drugs out of the prisons, how can we keep them out of the country?
In San Antonio, the FBI is investigating the Bexar County Sheriff's Department's narcotics unit over allegations that some deputies unlawfully took evidence or stole money and property from people they detained or arrested. The probe has been going on for two years and has expanded from allegations of civil rights violations into investigating deputies who appear to be living beyond their means. Among accusations aimed at some members of the dope squad are that they used excessive force and threats and that they shook people down at apartment complexes where they worked private security jobs. The investigation began when a childhood friend of one of the deputies was arrested in Arkansas with 15 pounds of cocaine, and the deputy intervened, filing a report claiming the man was his informant. He wasn't.

In Kerrville, Texas, the former 198th District DA was indicted December 17 for misusing asset forfeiture funds. Former DA Ron Sutton is charged with two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property. The Sutton indictment comes after District Judge Karl Prohl resigned in September after a defense attorney complained to the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct that Prohl was being biased in the DA's favor because he was benefitting from the DA's largesse with seized funds. Prohl had received $14,500 in checks from Sutton for training, equipment, and to attend a conference, as well as part of another $21,000 check for conferences in Hawaii, and a $6,000 check to cover per diem expenses during those same conferences. As presiding judge, Prohl approved all expenditures from the asset forfeiture fund. Prohl agreed to resign his judgeship "in lieu of disciplinary action" by the commission.

In Lubbock, Texas, a former chief deputy sheriff pleaded guilty December 20 for his role in a methamphetamine trafficking ring. Former Hockley County chief deputy Gordon Bohannon, 53, copped to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and now faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He was one of 28 people named in a July indictment alleging a motorcycle gang was running cash to Modesto, California, and returning to West Texas with the speed. Also indicted was another Hockley County deputy, Jose Jesus Quintanilla, who pleaded guilty last month to misprision of a felony. Both deputies provided information to the bikers that hindered efforts to shut down the ring.

In Guntersville, Alabama, a Marshall County jail guard was arrested Wednesday on drug charges. Guard Jeremy Wade Sanders, 32, was being held at his place of employment on charges of marijuana possession, attempt to promote prison contraband, and attempt to commit controlled substance crime.

Afghanistan: US Anti-Drug Strategy Lacking, State Department Report Finds

The US counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan, a key element in Western efforts to defeat the Taliban, is short on long-term strategy, clear objectives, and a plan to hand over responsibility to Afghan authorities, the State Department said in a report released last Wednesday. The report was written by the State Department's Office of the Inspector General.

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opium poppies
The department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (known colloquially as "drugs and thugs") is responsible for shaping and administering counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan, but it is not doing its job very well, the report said. "The department has not clarified an end state for counternarcotics efforts, engaged in long-term planning or established performance measures," it noted.

With the Taliban making hundreds of millions of dollars a year off the Afghan opium and heroin trade, a smart, effective counternarcotics strategy is critical to US plans to defeat the Taliban by sending in an additional 30,000 troops. There are already 68,000 US and NATO troops in the country, where they have suffered their worst losses so far this year. The number of US military dead in Afghanistan this year sits at 310, exactly double the number killed last year. Overall US and NATO fatalities topped 500 this year, up from 300 last year.

While an effective anti-drug policy may be critical to US plans, it may also be impossible to achieve. As analysts consulted by the Chronicle five years ago -- when opium production was just beginning to reemerge as a problem area -- noted, opium is deeply implicated in the Afghan economy, with more than a million families dependent on it for a living.

"In this case, even if you support drug prohibition in general, the war on drugs is not something we can pursue if we want a rational, effective policy in Afghanistan," said Ted Galen Carpenter, an international affairs analyst for the Cato Institute. "It will undermine everything else we're trying to achieve. The international supply side drug war is complete folly no matter where it is applied, but even if you don't accept that analysis, one ought to be aware that our top priority needs to be going after radical Islamic terrorists, not Afghan farmers," he said.

But heeding the views of the bureau's hard-line drug warriors, the report said that poppy eradication was "essential" to the success of the strategy. But Richard Holbrook, Obama's emissary to the region, abruptly ended the US role in eradication earlier this year, arguing that it served only to alienate poor poppy farmers and drive them into the arms of the Taliban. Instead, Western forces have concentrated on capturing or killing traffickers linked to the Taliban.

Even so, the report found, the bureau had "no clear strategy for transitioning and exiting from counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan." It added that while Afghan contractors working on poppy eradication were meeting agreed-upon goals, vague performance measures in their contracts made it difficult to tell how effective they were.

The report did cut the bureau some slack, noting that it faced tough challenges in Afghanistan, including "a weak justice system, corruption and the lack of political will" in the Afghan government. It also acknowledged the powerful economic incentives for poor Afghan farmers to grow opium poppies.

It recommended setting "a defined end state" for US anti-drug programs, in-country monitoring of contractors, and establishing benchmarks for measuring the Afghan takeover of anti-drug programs.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A quiet week -- perhaps it's the holidays -- yields a Carolina two-fer of corrupt cops. Let's get to it:

In Darlington, North Carolina, a Darlington police officer was arrested Monday on drug trafficking charges. Officer Dominique Robinson is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Robinson had been serving as a school resource officer for the police department. At last word, Robinson was in jail awaiting a bond hearing.

In Chesterfield, South Carolina, a Chesterfield County Sheriff's deputy was arrested December 3 on federal drug charges. Deputy Albert Surratt III went down after a joint local-state-federal investigation. He and one other man are charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. He is also charged with possession of a firearm during a drug crime.

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