Police Corruption

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If Progress in the Drug War is Measured in Dead Bodies, It's Going Well

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has drawn praise from U.S. drug warriors for his commitment to fighting back against the drug cartels. Unfortunately, current strategies for reducing drug trade violence tend to have the opposite of their intended effect. Via New York Times, this is what you get when you really crack down on the drug traffickers:
"a hand-scrawled list of 22 officers, 5 of whom had already been gunned down in the street."

"A turf war among drug cartels has claimed more than 210 lives in the first three months of this year."

"The number of homicides this year is more than twice the total number of homicides for the same period last year."

"Several mass graves hiding 36 bodies in all have been discovered in the backyards of two houses owned by drug dealers."

"At the height of the violence, around Easter, bodies were turning up every morning, at a rate of almost 12 a week."

"'Neither the municipal government, nor the state government, is capable of taking on organized crime,' Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said in an interview."

"The local police are outgunned, underpaid, prone to corruption and lack the authority to investigate drug dealers…"

"The first batch of 150 new recruits came out of the academy in January, but they entered a force where most officers either feared drug dealers too much to move against them or lived on their payroll."
After decades of full-scale international drug war, the central fronts in this great crusade appear before us today literally smoldering, littered with shell-casings and stained in blood. That is drug prohibition's legacy and it will not change or improve. Violence will fluctuate between frequent and perpetual. Illicit drug markets will fluctuate between high availability and totally saturation. That is just the way it is and the way it will always be so long as the people currently in charge of addressing the drug problem are permitted to continue trying their ideas.

Thus, any realistic debate over our drug laws shouldn't be spiked with fictitious references to future victories or meaningful progress. An honest defense of the drug war, if such a thing could exist, would have to defend our current conditions and claim that it would be best if things stayed this way forever.
United States

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered Pennsylvania cop causes a DA to drop some drug cases, a pill-pushing Massachusetts cop resigns, and an unnamed New Mexico narc is under investigation for undeclared misdeeds. Let's get to it:

In Erie, Pennsylvania, an Erie police officer's theft of cocaine from the evidence locker has led to the dismissal of cocaine trafficking charges against four men. Erie County DA Brad Foulk dropped the charges April 3 after a police inspector testified that Lt. Robert Leibel had admitted stealing 28.5 grams of cocaine that was evidence in the case in November. Foulk said the charges should be dropped because the theft broke the chain of custody of the evidence in the case. Liebel, 46, has not been charged in the November theft, but is awaiting an April 29 preliminary hearing on charges he stole another 12 grams of cocaine on February 10. The disappearance of the cocaine in November led to the investigation that resulted in Liebel's arrest in the February case.

In Swampscott, Massachusetts, a Swampscott police officer facing federal drug charges has resigned. Officer Thomas Wrenn, 37, resigned Saturday, thwarting any disciplinary action by the town and leaving him entitled to resignation benefits, including pay for unused vacation and personal time. Wrenn had been placed on leave last month after he was arrested on federal charges he possessed oxycodone with the intent to distribute. Wrenn was busted after buying 50 Percocet pills from a snitch. He subsequently admitted to providing pills to five other people, including a former Nahant cop and four young women. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In Albuquerque, a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department narcotics officer is on paid leave while the department investigates claims of misconduct. Neither the officer's name nor the specifics of the misconduct have yet been revealed. The investigation began April 4.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cop Stories

A Pittsburgh cop rips off the evidence locker, and four Metro Detroit cops get indicted for slinging steroids, helping a biker gang, and lying to the feds. Let's get to it:

In Pittsburgh, a retired Penn Hills police lieutenant was charged last Friday with stealing thousands of dollars worth of heroin and cocaine from department evidence lockers. Former Lt. William Markel, 54, is charged with three counts of theft and three counts of possession of a controlled substance. Markel went down after narcotics detectives told the police chief 110 bags of heroin were missing from a locked evidence locker. Further investigation revealed that an additional $2,000 worth of crack and powder cocaine was gone, as was another heroin stash valued at between $200 and $2,000. According to an affidavit in the case, Markel first said he took the drugs to give to informants, but then admitted stealing heroin and cocaine for his own use on multiple occasions. He also came up dirty on a departmental drug test and was fired. Markel says he has completed in-patient drug rehab and is now undergoing out-patient therapy. He is due back in court June 2.

In Detroit, four Metro Detroit police officers were indicted last month on drug charges and for lying to federal agents and a grand jury in an FBI operation targeting the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, the Detroit area's largest outlaw biker gang. The feds were going after the Highwaymen for alleged drug dealing, murder for hire, interstate theft, acts of violence, mortgage and insurance fraud and police corruption. Although the March 13 indictments served up only one Highwayman (for marijuana and prescription pill peddling), they did get since-fired Garden City Police Officer David Tomlan for perjury and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and steroids. He had joined the biker gang and lied to agents about his contacts with club members. Brownstown Police Officer Michael Ramsey and former Detroit reserve officer Dennis Abraham are charged with lying to agents and a grand jury, and are accused of informing club members of an informant in their midst. Hamtrack Officer Randell Hutchinson, who was assigned to the DEA's Metro Detroit task force, allegedly told the Highwaymen the FBI was wiretapping a club member. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Our corrupt cops are all southern-fried this week. An Atlanta narc cops a plea in fallout from the Kathryn Johnston case, a Mississippi cop heads for prison, a pair of Florida jail guards will be looking out from the other side of the bars, and a Florida sheriff has some problems in his department. Let's get to it:

In Atlanta, an Atlanta police narcotics sergeant pleaded guilty Monday to a federal civil rights charge for searching a residence without a warrant and trying to make it look like a break-in. Sgt. Wilbert Stallings, 44, a 23-year veteran of the force, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for an October 2005 raid where his unit had a search warrant for marijuana for one apartment, but failed to find any inside. The team then broke into an adjoining apartment, but failed to find anyone or anything, and Stallings told the team to leave the apartment and shut the door so it appeared there had been a break-in. Stallings' demise is part of the fallout from the shooting of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in 2006 by Atlanta narcs. One of the narcs involved in that killing, Greg Junnier, was part of Stallings' team and had obtained the apartment search warrant. Prosecutors said the break-in was part of a pattern of misconduct by Stallings and his team.

In Natchez, Mississippi, a former Vicksburg police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison for taking bribes to protect what he thought were drug shipments. Kevin Williams, 37, was convicted of extortion last October in federal court. Prosecutors said Williams took bribes totaling $3,000 from undercover officers between November 2002 and May 2003, when he was serving as a sergeant in the city's narcotics division. He was indicted in March 2007 and arrested in Hawaii, where he was serving as an Army military police officer.

In Bartow, Florida, two Polk County Sheriff's Office detention deputies were arrested March 20 for smuggling marijuana into the Polk County Jail. Detention deputies Michael Redmond, 23, and Jarrett Brice, 34, are accused of accepting marijuana from the girlfriend of an inmate and delivering it to him. The girlfriend was also arrested. Cell phone text messages between the girlfriend and the inmate showed that six deliveries were made. Brice is also accused of altering inmate visitation records to cover up visits between the prisoner and the girlfriend and of warning Street that an investigation was underway. Both detention deputies have resigned, Street is in jail awaiting trial, and Brice is out on bail.

In New Port Richey, Florida, the arrests of two Pasco County sheriff's deputies on drug charges is leading the sheriff to evaluate hiring and drug-testing policies. Both deputies have been fired. Former Cpl. Donald Riggins is accused of conspiring to possess and distribute hydrocodone after using his patrol car to help steal $25,000 in drug money earlier this month. Former detention Cpl. Rodney Philon is accused of dealing anabolic steroids after getting caught selling 10 Dianabol tablets to an undercover informant. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office does not currently drug test its employees except when there is "reasonable suspicion," but may now consider random tests, the sheriff said.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Greedy jail guards, pill-peddling cops, sticky-fingered cops, and a sticky-fingered prosecutor. On the corrupt cop front, it's the same old same old. Here's this week's version. Let's get to it:

In Charleston, Illinois, a former Coles County assistant prosecutor is considering voluntary disbarment after being accused of stealing drugs from a Coles County Sheriff's Department evidence locker. Former prosecutor James Baba, 39, took 10 grams of marijuana from the department and never returned it after telling deputies "he needed the evidence for court purposes," according to an official with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC). The ARDC accused Baba of theft in a complaint filed last August but not publicly known until now, and also noted the he successfully sought the dismissal of the case against the man to whom the 10 grams of pot belonged. While Baba had reportedly agreed to voluntary disbarment, he had not submitted paper work to the ARDC by last week, and the commission said it will move to disbar him if he doesn't do it himself. The missing marijuana was discovered after Baba had been fired in 2006 for excessive absences. State prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges.

In Cleveland, a Cleveland police sergeant got out on bail Tuesday after being arrested on charges he stole money from a department evidence locker. Sgt. Carlton Darrell, 41, is accused of stealing $5,779 while he served as supervisor of the narcotics unit. He was originally arrested in November after a four-month Internal Affairs investigation and was rearrested last week after being indicted. He is charged with theft, theft in office and tampering with records. Each count is a third degree felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Lebanon Correctional Institution officer was arrested last Friday for trying to smuggle heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana into the Turtlecreek township prison. John Curless, 35, is charged with third-degree felony attempting to convey drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility, fifth-degree felony possession of drugs and fifth-degree possession of criminal tools. Curless went down after the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections obtained information that he was working with a prisoner to bring drugs into the prison. He was arrested as he met with his contact to pick up the drugs headed for the prison. He faces up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted.

In Swampscott, Massachusetts, a Swampscott police officer was arrested March 13 on federal charges of selling Percocet pills. Officer Thomas Wrenn, 37, is charged with possession with intent to distribute oxycodone. According to an affidavit, Wrenn purchased Percocet pills, which contain oxycodone, over a period of months and routinely consumed them and cocaine. He is also accused of selling some pills to a former Nahant police officer and a young woman in whom he had a romantic interest. Wrenn was arrested by DEA agents and Swampscott police as he purchased 50 pills from his regular supplier.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A crooked Boston cop is headed for prison, a sticky-fingered Indianapolis cop now faces charges, and the trial of two Maryland prisoners accused of killing a guard is opening a window into corruption in the now shuttered House of Corrections. Let's get to it:

In Boston, a former Boston police officer was sentenced Monday to 18 years in federal prison for protecting cocaine shipments for FBI agents posing as drug dealers. Former Officer Nelson Carrasquillo was one of three Boston officers nailed in the sting; one other was sentenced to 13 years, while the other has yet to be sentenced. They were arrested in 2006 after traveling to Miami to collect $36,000 in payment from the supposed dealers. Carrasquillo provided counter-surveillance services, monitored Boston police radio, and guided a drug dealer in his travels, prosecutors said.

In Indianapolis, an Indianapolis police officer was arrested Monday for stealing a $725 money order during the search of a drug suspect's home and cashing it for himself last year. Officer Jason Edwards, 36, is charged with forgery and theft. Edwards was one of a group of narcotics officers who raided the home last December. The suspect later reported that the money order, with which he intended to pay his rent, was missing. His bank told him the money order had been cashed, with Jason Edwards in the "pay to the order of" line, and a Jason Edwards signature on the back. The suspect then contacted police, and Edwards subsequently admitted to taking the money order, although he claimed he found it on the ground outside the home. The eight-year veteran is now suspended without pay.

In Baltimore, 21 prison guards at the Maryland House of Corrections were implicated in contraband smuggling and other corrupt activities, according to state police reports given to defense attorneys for two inmates accused of killing a guard at the now shuttered prison. That guard, David McGuinn, was one of two killed at the prison during 2006, which led Gov. Martin O'Malley to shut it down shortly after he took office. Defense attorneys for the inmates are using the state police reports to allege that corrupt guards involved in smuggling "ordered the hit" on McGuinn, that they moved critical evidence -- the shank used to stab him -- and that they beat up an inmate and planted the shank on him to cover-up a beating they inflicted on him the day of McGuinn's death. Look for more to be revealed as this case moves forward.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Cleveland cop heads to the slammer for protecting cocaine shipments, and a former Georgia narc pleads guilty to stealing $80,000. Let's get to it:

In Akron, Ohio, a Cleveland police officer was sentenced February 26 to 10 years in federal prison for using his official position to protect drug runners for a cocaine distribution ring. Officer Zyonko Sarlog, 37, was arrested in August and pleaded guilty in November to money laundering and cocaine conspiracy charges. Prosecutors had asked for a longer sentence, citing among other things, the allegation that he used his mother to transport drug money.

In Rome, Georgia, the former head of the Bartow County Narcotics Task Force pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $80,000 from the sheriff's office. That money was seized from criminal suspects. As a captain in the Bartow County Sheriff's Office from 2004 through January 2007, Brenton Garmon, 36, oversaw money seized by the drug and canine units. But instead of depositing all funds in the appropriate accounts, he embezzled $80,493 for his own use. He pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling and faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in May.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas court bailiff accused of peddling cocaine and selling guns to the Gulf Cartel, two TSA officials indicted for helping to smuggle drugs onto airplanes, and a California evidence tech with sticky fingers and a bad habit. Just another week on the corrupt cop front. Let's get to it:

In Brownsville, Texas, a Cameron County court bailiff was arrested last Friday on charges he was dealing cocaine and selling high-powered weapons to Mexico's Gulf Cartel. Oscar Pena, 26, was one of two men arrested after a five-month joint investigation by local authorities, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) known as Operation Dirty Pig. His charges range from weapons charges to operating a continuing criminal enterprise to possession of cocaine. In raids associated with the arrests, police seized 14 assault rifles, five semi-automatic handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, large amounts of ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, $3,000 in cash, and more than a kilo of cocaine.

In Atlanta, two Transportation Security Administration officers and a Delta Airlines employee were indicted Tuesday on charges related to an alleged drug-smuggling operation at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. TSA employees Jon Patton, 44, and Andre Mays, 24, and Delta employee Leslie Adgar, 42, are charged with conspiring to distribute narcotics and attempted distribution of cocaine and heroin. They went down after they agreed to let a man smuggle two kilos of cocaine past security and onto a Delta flight to New York in exchange for $8,000 in December. Unfortunately for the Atlanta trio, their smuggler was also a snitch for the DEA who set them up for two more runs, this time with fake cocaine and heroin. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million. The trio are currently out on bond.

In Vacaville, California, a former Solano County sheriff's evidence technician pleaded no-contest last Friday to seven felony counts related to the theft of pharmaceutical drugs stored in an evidence room. Sean Colfax Wilson, 35, was facing a 179-count criminal complaint when he copped a plea to two counts of possessing Vicodin and Oxycontin for sale, three counts of burglary, one count of embezzlement of evidence and one count of falsifying evidence. Wilson, who had worked as an evidence tech for the county for two years, was arrested in December 2007 after investigators discovered a large variety of prescription drugs had gone missing. After his arrest, Wilson's attorney told the court Wilson had a substance abuse problem and had taken the drugs for personal use, but he still copped to possession for sale. He faces an April sentencing date and he sits in jail until then.

Latin America: Colombian Soldiers Convicted of Killing Colombian Narcotics Police

In one of the most depraved cases of corruption in the Colombian armed forces in recent years, a Colombian court Monday convicted an army colonel and 14 soldiers of massacring 10 members of an elite, US-trained anti-drug police unit and an informant at the behest of drug traffickers. A judge in Cali found Col. Bayron Carvajal and his soldiers guilty of aggravated homicide for the May 2006 ambush outside a rural nursing home near Cali. The men will be sentenced in two weeks.

The soldiers bushwhacked the police unit as it was about to seize 220 pounds of cocaine that the informant had told them was stashed inside a psychiatric facility in the town of Jamundí. The soldiers fired hundreds of rounds at the police and attacked them with hand grenades. Six of the police officers were found to have been shot at close range. No drugs were recovered.

During the trial, more than a hundred witnesses testified. Some of them linked Carvajal to both leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Carvajal claimed his troops were attacking leftist rebels working with drug traffickers, but that didn't fly. Neither did the military's original explanation that the deaths were accidental. The military later conceded that its inquiries suggested links between the soldiers and drug gangs operating in the region.

Under Plan Colombia, the US has sent an average of $650 million a year in recent years to fight the drug trade and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC. Most of that money has gone to expand, equip, and train the Colombian military and police. Part of the rationale for that aid was that it would reduce corruption and human rights abuses in the Colombian armed forces.

The Carvajal case is not the only one to tarnish the image of the Colombian military lately. In the last two years, high-ranking military officers have been accused of selling secrets to drug traffickers to help them escape capture and planting fake bombs to advance their careers. Killings of noncombatants by the military are also reportedly on the increase after decreasing during the early years of Plan Colombia.

Meanwhile, for all the billions spent, that Colombian cocaine just keeps on coming.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Slim pickings on the corrupt cop front this week, but we still have a Los Angeles probation officer rounded up in a major bust and a small town Pennsylvania cop about to pay for his big ambitions. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, an LA County probation officer was arrested over the weekend in a major federal drug bust that netted a dozen people in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys. Probation Officer Crystal Dillard was arrested along with her boyfriend, Jerron Johns, whom authorities identified as a member of the Crips. She is accused of participating in multiple crack cocaine sales. Dillard and Johns appeared in a 17-count indictment accusing 23 defendants of participating in a ring that sold marijuana, cocaine, and crack cocaine. Dillard is accused of making drug drops at various locations where Johns would pick them up and deliver them to a person who turned out to be a confidential informant. Dillard and Johns are now in federal custody.

In Pittsburgh, a former South Fayette Township patrolman awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine. Bernard Golling and his friend Michael Monz were arrested in July upon receiving nine pounds of cocaine in a Fedex shipment. Monz was sentenced last Friday to 57 months in federal prison. Golling will be sentenced May 23. He faces more time than Monz because he was in uniform when he picked up the package and thus carried a gun during the commission of a drug offense.

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