Police Corruption

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's judges gone wild! Plus sticky-fingered narcs, lying narcs, crooked deputies, and more! Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested May 23 for stealing drugs and money from a suspected drug dealer. Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested after an FBI sting operation in which agents recorded him bragging about how easy it was to rip off drug dealers. Walker and a federal informant concocted a scheme to plant cocaine in a suspect's car, then rob him. Walker did just that, arresting the suspect, then entering his home and stealing $15,000. He was arrested with the cash in hand. At last report, Walker was still in federal custody.

In Pittsburgh, a former Washington County judge was arrested May 24 on charges he stole cocaine from evidence in cases over which he presided. Paul Pozonsky abruptly resigned from the bench in 2012 and moved to Alaska after police checked evidence envelopes and found the cocaine had gone missing. Court officers said that Pozonsky had begun asking them to bring confiscated drugs into the courtroom, where they would be entered as evidence and kept by either the judge himself of members of his staff.

In Des Moines, an Iowa state narcotics agent was arrested May 26 on charges he forged the signature of a Polk County judge in a bid to shortcut an after-the-fact approval of a drug-related search warrant. Jonathan Borg, 39, allegedly forged the judge's signature as he returned with the warrant after conducting a search in a drug investigation where the charges have now been dropped because of his actions. He is charged with one count of felonious misconduct in office and is looking at up to five years in prison if convicted.

In Belleville, Illinois, a St. Clair county judge was arrested last Friday in relation to the cocaine overdose death of another St. Clair county judge while the pair partied together at a hunting lodge in March. Judge Michael Cook, 43, who presided over the county's drug court, was charged by federal prosecutors with possession of heroin and possession of a firearm while illegally using controlled substances. His colleague, Judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose. A St. Clair County probation officer, James Fogarty, has been charged with selling cocaine to both judges. Judge Cook had handled more than 500 criminal cases since 2010; now, those found guilty can come back and seek new trials.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested last Friday on multiple charges, including trying to sell heroin. Officer Ashley Roane, 25, went down in a sting operation, accepting cash payments and providing protection for a man she thought was a drug dealer, but who was actually an informant for Baltimore police and the FBI. She agreed to access law enforcement databases listing informants and other sensitive information for the drug dealer, and provided Social Security numbers to him as part of a scheme to obtain false tax refunds, prosecutors said. She's looking at a mandatory minimum 17 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Wednesday for faking paperwork to cover up his involvement in the unlawful search and arrest of two men. Isaias Alicea had stopped and arrested two men in Harlem last year and later falsely told his supervisors he saw them in a drug transaction. But surveillance images showed no transaction occurred and the charges against the men were dropped. He was convicted of official misconduct, a felony, and will be fired based on that felony conviction. Sentencing is set for next month.

In San Antonio, five Hidalgo County narcotics officers pleaded guilty last Wednesday to federal charges in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy. The five, all members of now-defunct drug task force called the Panama Unit, including the son of the county sheriff, acknowledged roles in a scheme to steal drug loads from street-level dealers and sell them to a man alleged to be a local trafficker. Jonathan Trevino a 29-year-old former Mission police officer and the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy. Three other members of the unit, including ex-Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies Salvador Joel Aguello, Claudio Alberto Mata, and Eric Michael Alacantar, also entered guilty pleas. The fifth man, Gerardo Mendoza Duran, is a former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy but was not assigned to the Panama Unit. He admitted last Wednesday that he had aided and abetted the group's plans to escort the drug loads. They're all looking at 10 years to life in federal prison.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the former commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force agreed to plead guilty last Friday to stealing at least $125,000 from drug proceeds seized by the unit. Jeff Snyder, 55, embezzled money that the task force seized between June 2010 and June 2012, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office. Snyder admitted to pocketing seized cash during drug raids and failing to log it into task force ledger books and deposit it in task force bank accounts. In his plea agreement, Snyder and prosecutors agreed to an 18 month federal prison sentence. That agreement has yet to be approved by a judge.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

New York City seems indifferent to the costs imposed on it by rogue narcs, a Florida deputy gets popped for growing weed, a US Virgin Islands environmental cop gets popped for cocaine trafficking, and a rogue California narc heads for prison. Let's get to it:

In New York City, news broke on Sunday that a Brooklyn NYPD narcotics team had cost the city more than $1.5 million settlements, even as the officer who led the team was being promoted. NYPD Lt. Daniel Sbarra and his rogue narc squad have been hit with nearly 60 lawsuits, with at least 15 cases involving him personally. Those lawsuits include charges ranging from racial profiling slinging racial slurs to the unprovoked beating of a man in front of his young son. The city's Law Department, which must defend the cases seemed unconcerned. "Being named in a lawsuit or settlement is not an accurate barometer for evaluating an officer’s conduct," it said in a statement. "For example, an officer who works in high-impact roles, such as narcotics or emergency services, is more likely to be sued in his or her line of duty than an officer in a less confrontational role."

In Fort Myers, Florida, a Lee County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday after authorities executed a search warrant at his home and found marijuana plants. Now former Deputy Piotr Urbanski and his girlfriend were both arrested after the raiders found 30 plants two to four inches tall. Both are charged with one count each of producing marijuana, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, and possession of drug equipment or paraphernalia. Urbanski went down after the department "received information" there might be a grow at his home. In addition to the plants, deputies found 12 grams of processed pot and two pipes "that reportedly had been used to ingest pot." Urbanski posted $4,000 bail and is free pending trial.

In the US Virgin Islands, the islands' head environmental enforcer was arrested last Friday after allegedly being caught with a cache of cocaine on a government patrol boat. Robert Tapia, director of environmental enforcement for the Virgin Islands' Department of Planning and Natural Resources, was armed, uniformed, and in possession of a bag containing 15 pounds of cocaine when he was arrested. He is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and was being held without bail pending a hearing this week.

In Oakland, California, the former head of the Contra Costa County drug task force was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison for heading up a drug-stealing and -dealing scheme that also involved a local private investigator. Norman Wielsch, 51, admitted stealing drugs from police evidence lockers for resale, as well as conspiring with the PI to do illegal search-and-seizure operations against prostitutes they located via Craigslist and target spouses in divorce cases handled by the PI for fake drunk driving arrests. Wielsch cried during his sentencing Monday.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

If it weren't for crooked cops in the Land of Lincoln, this space would be blank this week. Instead, we have an Illinois corrupt cops twofer. Let's get to it:

In Caseyville, Illinois, the Caseyville police chief was arrested last Wednesday on charges he kept a seized drug vehicle for his own use. Chief JD Roth faces two felony counts of official misconduct, and prosecutors have told town officials to keep him away from criminal investigations because his lack of credibility would hurt cases. Casey had been suspended in March after village records showed he had not sold the seized 2003 Dodge Ram pickup, but instead kept it for his own personal use. To add insult to injury, Roth also billed the village $6,000 for maintenance for the truck.

In East St. Louis, Illinois, an East St. Louis police detective was indicted last Friday, one of seven people accused of operating a cocaine distribution ring. Detective Orlando "Monte" Ward is charged with possession and conspiracy to possess more than five kilograms of cocaine. The 12-year police veteran was being held in jail pending a bond hearing set for Wednesday.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Something is still rotten along Utah's Wasatch Front, a DC cop gets popped for money-laundering, a Detroit-area cop pleads to running protection for traffickers, and a South Texas cop heads for prison for shipping guns to Mexico. Let's get to it:

In West Valley City, Utah, prosecutors announced Friday they will drop 26 more cases in which the West Valley Police Neighborhood Narcotics Unit was involved. Ninety-nine other cases have already been dropped, and prosecutors have filed notices of possible impeachment of evidence in another 48 cases. That means the cases will move forward, but judges and defense attorneys will be notified there may be evidence calling into question the credibility of police witnesses. The department has been in turmoil since March, when prosecutors first announced cases were in jeopardy because of "unspecified issues" with narcotics detective Shaun Cowley. Cowley has since been suspended, as have other members of the dope squad, over allegations of misconduct. Cowley and fellow officer Kevin Salmon shot and killed unarmed alleged heroin user Danielle Willard in November, and that killing and the other allegations are now being investigated by the FBI.

In Washington, DC, a DC Metro police officer was arrested Monday on charges he was part of a drug trafficking scheme. Officer Jared Weinberg, 28, is accused of helping to launder money in the scheme that stretched from Pittsburg to the Baltimore area. The federal indictment, which focuses on a time before Weinberg became a DC police officer, alleges that he helped hide drug trafficking profits by setting up accounts at 29 banks in Baltimore, Chicago, and New York. Deposits totaling $1.08 million were made to those accounts. At the time, Weinberg was making $6,500 a year as a lifeguard. Money from those deals helped buy apartments in the DC-Baltimore metro area, including one for Weinberg. He is one of more than a dozen defendants in the case, including his father.

In Detroit, a former Highland Park police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to taking money in exchange for protecting a shipment of cocaine. Shawn Williams, 33, admitted that he and three other Highland Park officers took the money to do the dirty deed. All four were caught up in an FBI sting, taking cash to protect what they thought was coke. Williams copped to one count of extortion and is now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Rio Hondo police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to five years in federal prison for buying guns that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Armando Duenez had been arrested in 2008 after being charged with gun trafficking for buying 15 semiautomatic rifles, but fled to Mexico and didn't return until last year. He got five years each for one count of gun trafficking and one count of failure to appear, but the sentences will run concurrently, except for an additional four months he will have to do for fleeing.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A couple of strange and disturbing items this week, plus some good, old-fashioned thievery. Let's get to it:

In Quincy, Illinois, an Adams County probation officer was arrested last Friday on charges he was cooking meth at his home with a probationer who resided with him. Probation officer John Grotts, who also served as the department's drug court liaison, went down after the Adams County Sheriff's Office and the West Central Illinois Drug Task Force raided and searched his home following complaints from neighbors. Grotts is charged with possession of methamphetamine and unlawful use of a property to violate the Methamphetamine Control Act, both felonies. His probationer roommate, who was also a graduate of the drug court program Grotts monitored, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for illegal possession of meth precursors.

In Milwaukee, a former Milwaukee police officer pleaded guilty last Monday to eight charges for conducting illegal strip searches and body cavity searches on black male drug suspects. Michael Vagnini, 34, had faced 25 criminal charges, including seven counts of sexual assault, but those charges were dropped, and he pleaded no contest to four felony and four misdemeanor counts of misconduct in public officer. Prosecutors said Vagnini regularly pulled over drivers on pretenses such as not wearing a seat belt and searched them without legal reason, often conducting searches of men's anal and scrotal areas, including inserting his finger into their rectums. Three other police officers charged with Vagnini -- Jeffrey Dollhopf, Brian Kozelek and Jacob Knight -- had had their cases separated because they face fewer counts and were not charged with sexual assault. They are charged with misconduct in office and being parties to the crimes of illegal searches, based on their on-duty presence when prosecutors say Vagnini committed them. They are set for June trials. All are suspended with pay, as Vagnini was until he pleaded no contest.

In Phoenix, a former Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty last Tuesday to stealing money that was supposed to be paid to a confidential drug informant. Torrey McRae made off with more than $5,000 in snitch cash and later tried to repay the money without being detected, but it was too late. His supervisors had already noticed discrepancies in the account used to transfer money to informants, and he was arrested in March. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft, two counts of forgery, and two counts of misuse of public money by a custodian. He will be sentenced May 20.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There are problems at a Maryland state prison in Baltimore, fallout continues from a bust of crooked cops in suburban Chicago, and a jail guard goes down in a Texas border town. Let's get to it:

In Schaumberg, Illinois, two former Schaumberg police officers were sued last Thursday by a man who alleges they planted drugs and drug paraphernalia on him during an illegal search in August 2012. Wisconsin resident Chris Nelson said former officers John Cichy and Terrance O'Brien rousted him outside a nightclub and planted cocaine and digital scales on him, then arrested him. Those two officers, along with former officer Matthew Hudak, were arrested in January on federal charges that the stole and resold drugs. Nelson is seeking more than $50,000 in damages in the five-count suit, which accuses the village and two officers not only of false arrest and conspiracy but also violation of due process, negligent supervision and indemnification. At least a dozen people convicted of drug offenses have been cleared of the charges since the trio of rogue cops were arrested.

In Baltimore, 13 Maryland state prison guards were arrested Tuesday on federal charges they aided and abetted a prison gang's drug trafficking scheme. The 13 prison guards, all women, are accused of "essentially handing over control" of the Baltimore City Detention Center to leaders of the Black Guerrilla Family gang. Four of them got pregnant by one inmate, and two of them had that inmate's name tattooed on their bodies. The guards allegedly helped the gang run its criminal enterprise by smuggling drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the prison. The gang leader allegedly used some of the proceeds to buy luxury cars, which he allowed some of the guards to drive. The 13 guards are charged with racketeering offenses.

In Rio Grande City, Texas, a Starr County jail guard was arrested Tuesday on drug possession charges as authorities investigate whether he was selling them to inmates. Rogelio Canales, 67, now a former Starr County jail guard was caught possessing "a slew of narcotics," including marijuana and cocaine while working at the jail. He currently faces four counts of possession of a controlled substance.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There's something rotten in the Salt Lake Valley and maybe in East Tennessee, too. Meanwhile, an Arkansas cop heads to prison for protecting dope loads and a Mississippi narc gets nailed for his pill habit. Let's get to it:

In West Valley City, Utah, an internal audit released Friday has found that narcotics officers stole money and other items from vehicles they seized and may also have taken drugs and money confiscated during arrests. The audit identified six "areas of concern," including improper evidence handling, missing cash and drugs, officers taking cash from vehicles, officers taking trophies or souvenirs, and the improper use of confidential informants. This is only the latest blow against a department plagued with corruption allegations. Earlier this week, 69 more drug cases were dismissed, bringing the total to well over a hundred state and federal cases dismissed because of questions about the credibility of West Valley narcs. The drug squad has been disbanded, and two of its members are on administrative leave. Those two, Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, were also involved in the fatal shooting of alleged drug user Danielle Willard last November, an event as yet unexplained, and one that led to the unraveling of the scandal within the department.

In Erwin, Tennessee, the Unicoi County sheriff has requested an investigation of the department's drug funds and drug evidence after one of his narcotics officers resigned upon testing positive for drugs. Sheriff Mike Hensley has asked the local district attorney and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation. Narc Matthew McNally resigned last Friday, two days after taking the drug test. He said he had a new job.

In Oxford, Mississippi, the former head of the Oxford Police drug squad pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of "doctor shopping." Former head narc Searn Lynch was arrested on charges he obtained prescriptions from at least 17 different doctors. He was fired after the November arrest. He will be sentenced at a later date.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a former Helena-West Helena police officer was sentenced last Thursday to 2 ½ years in prison for her role in the Operation Delta Blues federal corruption investigation. Marlene Kalb was convicted of taking cash to escort a felon she thought was transporting cocaine through the area. She was convicted extortion and attempt to possess a controlled substance. Although she faced up to 20 years on each charge, the judge said her sentence complied with federal sentencing guidelines.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Some Utah narcs are having a spotlight shined on them, an NYPD cop goes down for robbing drug dealers, and a Florida deputy gets caught buying pain pills on the street and stealing them from his aunt.Let's get to it:

In Salt Lake City, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday they were dropping eight cases involving the suburban West Valley City Police Department's narcotics unit, which was disbanded in December. Local prosecutors had already dropped an additional 19 cases last month. All but one of those cases involved drug offenses, and all 19 of the cases dropped by local prosecutors involved West Valley narcotics investigator Shaun Cowley. Last week, the FBI announced it was joining investigations into corruption in the dope squad, as well as whether there has been a cover-up in the November shooting death Danielle Willard, a suspected heroin user who was gunned down in her car by Cowley and Detective Kevin Salmon. Five months later, West Valley police have yet to make any public pronouncements about results of investigations into her death.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested last Wednesday on charges he was a member of a crew that robbed drug dealers of thousands of dollars in cash and drugs. Officer Jose Tejada, 45, is accused of taking part in three robberies or attempted robberies in 2006 and 2007, while he was assigned to Harlem and in uniform, according to federal prosecutors. He also supplied police uniforms, paraphernalia and police vehicles to crew members. He is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to facilitate drugs, and unlawful use of a firearm. Tejada is the second NYPD officer charged in more than 100 robberies of drug dealers that began in 2001 and netted more than 250 kilograms of cocaine and a million dollars in cash. Former officer Emmanuel Tavarez was sentenced to 25 years in prison last May for his role in the same crew.

In Key West, Florida, a Monroe County Sheriff's deputy was arrested Saturday on charges he bought drugs from an informant and stole drugs from relatives. Deputy Jaime Miranda went down in a sting, buying fake oxycodone from an informant while on duty, in uniform and in his police cruiser. He was stopped shortly thereafter, and police found nine fake oxycodone tablets (he admitted eating the 10th as soon as he bought it), as well as hydromorphone tablets he admitted stealing from his aunt's house.  Miranda is charged with three felonies: conspiracy to purchase narcotics, possession of synthetic narcotics and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. He made $12,000 bond Saturday night and is suspended without pay pending further investigation.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas cop gets caught pilfering pain pills, a Georgia sheriff's captain gets nailed for trying to frame a woman, and a Louisiana police chief is accused of having sticky fingers. Let's get to it:

In Canton, Texas, a Canton police officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he used his position as an officer to obtain prescription pain pills by fraud. James Melvin Bradshaw, 32, is accused of telling people with pain pill prescriptions that they needed to turn excess pills over to him on at least six different occasions. He now faces six counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation. He's looking at up to four years in federal prison on each count.

In Atlanta, a former Murray County Sheriff's Office captain pleaded guilty last Wednesday to trying to set up for arrest a woman who had complained about sexual advances by a local judge. Michael Henderson and Murray County Deputy Josh Greeson had been fired in August after a local woman was arrested on meth possession charges in the wake of her complaints against the judge. Henderson had told deputies that a vehicle that fit the description of her car was carrying drugs, and Greeson pulled her over, found the meth, and charged her. An investigation found that the meth was planted in her vehicle, and the charges against her were dropped. Henderson pleaded guilty to obstructing a pending civil rights investigation -- he had lied to investigators looking into the case by denying that he had issued the heads up for the vehicle. The judge who was accused of sexual impropriety in the case has resigned after it was revealed he was also pre-signing warrants for officers to use. Henderson is looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 31.

In Jennings, Louisiana, a former Jennings police chief pleaded not guilty last Friday to charges he stole items from the department's evidence room. Johnny Lassiter was arrested in January after an audit of the evidence room found several items missing, including seized drugs. He is charged with theft over $1,500, malfeasance, and obstruction of justice.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Dirty cops go down in Miami and New York, so does a jail guard in DC, and a Long Island dope squad's problems continue to mount. Let's get to it:

In Southampton, New York, drugs have gone missing from the police department evidence room. Crack cocaine, prescription pain pills, marijuana, and other drugs tied to a now disbanded Southampton Police Department drug unit are gone. An internal investigation is now underway. The drug unit was disbanded after unit supervisors, including current Police Chief Robert Pearce, allowed a member addicted to pain pills to return to duty with only a doctor's note. Prosecutors have so far dropped three cases where the evidence has gone missing.

In Washington, DC, a DC jail guard was indicted last Friday for smuggling marijuana and other drugs into the jail. Guard Jonathan Womble was arrested last month after a police dog detected the scent of marijuana inside his work locker while the dog's handler was going to the bathroom. Upon investigation, local authorities found that Womble had been working with another man, who supplied with drugs to be delivered to a prisoner. That man has been arrested, too. Womble faces charges of distribution of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

In Detroit, a former Highland Park police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to taking money from people he thought were drug dealers to protect their shipments. Craig Clayton, 55, is one of four Highland Park officers charged last year with accepting bribes, conspiring to distribute cocaine, and carrying a firearm in the furtherance of a drug crime. In a plea bargain, he copped only to a single count of conspiracy to commit extortion. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced. The case against the rogue cops began in August, when two of them arrested a man for carrying a firearm. They beat him and stole his money and jewelry, then told him if he paid them money, they could make the charge go away. The Highland Park police chief received a complaint, and the man agreed to work with investigators. He then delivered $10,000 in cash to the two officers, who then failed to show up for his arraignment. Then, the officers agreed to help the man with drug trafficking, and that's when Clayton entered the picture. In January, he drove a car containing what he thought was two kilos of cocaine and accepted $1500 cash from an undercover FBI agent for his services.

In Miami, a former Miami police sergeant was sentenced last Friday to four years in federal prison for planting cocaine on a suspect, stealing drugs and money from other suspects, and lying about it to investigators. Raul Iglesias, 40, was convicted in January of eight counts, including two civil rights violations, conspiracy to possess and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine, obstruction of justice, and making false official statements. He must also do three years probation when he gets out of prison.

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