Man, the Chronicle takes a week off and look what happens: We've got more corrupt cops, sheriffs, ICE agents, and prison guards than you can shake a stick at. And a state prison mental health counselor, too. Let's get to it:
In Nogales, Arizona, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisor was arrested last Friday for helping Mexican drug cartels move large quantities of cocaine across the border. Richard Cramer, the former agent once in charge of the Nogales ICE office, faces charges of cocaine trafficking and public corruption. DEA investigators said Cramer used his position to run database checks under the guise of drug investigations when he was really checking to ensure that drug traffickers he worked with were not snitches for law enforcement. He is being extradited to Florida, where federal prosecutors say a majority of his illegal acts occurred.
In Memphis, a Memphis police officer was arrested August 27 by FBI and DEA agents as part of the ongoing Operation Tarnished Blue, which targets corruption within the Memphis Police Department. Officer Lowell Duke, 33, faces federal charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He is at least the 34th department officer or civilian employee to be arrested under Tarnished Blue and other investigations since 2003. Charges in those cases have included ticket fixing, robbery, prostitution, extortion and drug conspiracy.
In Tavares, Florida, a Lake County Correctional Institution mental health counselor was arrested September 3 on charges she brought drugs into the prison. Now former prison employee Julia Bedenbaugh, 39, is charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. She went down when an inmate in trouble after being caught with a contraband cell phone snitched her out. Authorities found her name and P.O. Box address on the phone, seized two envelopes from the box and got a positive hit on them from a drug dog. Police then returned the packages to the P.O. Box and arrested Bedenbaugh after she picked up the packages. One contained a cell phone and charger and the other contained two cigar tubes packed with crack and wrapped in electrical tape. She is out on a $20,000 bond.
In Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a Monongahela police officer was arrested last Friday on drug and corruption charges. Officer George Langan is accused of subverting the work of a Washington County drug task force by tipping off dealers and peddling dope himself. He is the fifth Monongahela police officer arrested on corruption charges in the past year-and-a-half in what a local prosecutor called a "culture of corruption." Langan was hit with 11 counts of violating the state drug law and 23 counts of public corruption, including official oppression, evidence tampering and criminal conspiracy. Authorities said Langan had been under investigation by various bodies for the past 10 years. He has been jailed under a $500,000 bond.
In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested September 3 for trying to shake down an undercover internal affairs investigator posing as a drug dealer. Officer Michael Sylvester, 29, was arrested after stealing $70 from the investigator. Police later recovered three small bags of cocaine from Sylvester's locker. He had recently been transferred from the Central District's Pennsylvania Avenue task force, working one of the East Coast's largest drug markets, after complaints about him extorting drug dealers surfaced. He will face theft and drug possession charges.
In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, an Arkansas state prison guard was arrested August 29 after marijuana was found in her bra as she reported for duty. Maximum Security Union guard Michelle Anderson, 26, is charged with possession of drugs with intent to deliver and possession of a weapon on prison property. She was arrested after another guard searched her and found more than an ounce of pot in her bra. Officers then searched her vehicle in the parking lot and found a handgun.
In St. Joseph, Michigan, the former head of the Benton Harbor police narcotics unit pleaded guilty Wednesday in a corruption investigation of the Benton Harbor police. Former officer Bernard Hall, 33, conspired with another, already convicted and imprisoned, officer, Andrew Collins, to falsify search warrants, obtain warrants without probable cause, embezzle funds, file false police reports, steal money and personal property, and divert seized drugs. Hall pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Benton Harbor residents. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. He has been in custody since his July 17 arrest. No word yet on a sentencing date.
In Bridgeton, New Jersey, a former state prison guard pleaded guilty August 31 to smuggling drugs and a syringe to an inmate at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Cumberland County. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend he do five years. The eight-year veteran will be permanently barred from public employment in the state.
In McAllen, Texas, a former Texas sheriff was sentenced September 3 to more than five years in federal prison for helping Mexican drug traffickers smuggle drugs through his county in return for cash payments. Former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra. Guerra was one of more than a dozen people indicted by a federal grand jury in Operation Carlito's Weigh, which targeted the Gulf Cartel. He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to distribute narcotics.
More fun for the Philly narcs, a New Jersey ICE employee goes down, and a Brooklyn drug squad supervisor gets off easy. Let's get to it:
In Brooklyn, New York, the former supervisor of an NYPD narcotics team was sentenced last Friday to 160 hours community service for stealing $40 from a drug dealer and giving it to an informant who turned out to be an undercover cop. Michael Arenella was arrested in 2007 and charged with conspiring with corrupt cop Jerry Bowers, who agreed to testify against him. But Bowers flipped-out, allegedly killed his girlfriend, and wounded another woman. Bowers is doing time for the corruption case and faces trial for the attacks. Arenalla was acquitted by his trial judge of drug possession and sales charges, and has continued to deny significant involvement in a corruption scandal that put hundreds of cases against drug dealers at risk.
In Newark, New Jersey, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employee was arrested last Friday after allegedly trying to steal what he thought was a 110-pound shipment of cocaine. Valentino Johnson, 25, who worked for ICE's Detention and Removal Operations, was instead busted by federal agents and a New Jersey State Police SWAT team in a sting operation. He and two codefendants are charged with conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine. They face between 10 years and life in prison. Johnston and his pals went down after one of the pals bragged to an ICE informant that the trio had been robbing drug dealers. The informant set up a meet and told Johnson a cocaine shipment would be arriving. Johnson and pals went for the bait. Now, they're in jail.
In Philadelphia, another victim of a Philadelphia police drug squad run amok has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. Jose Duran, owner of Super One Market is suing over a September 2007 raid in which members of the Narcotics Field Unit entered the store, arrested Duran for selling small plastic baggies sometimes used by drug dealers, then proceeded to take what they wanted and trash the place. Part of the raid was captured on store video cameras -- before one of the officers was seen climbing toward a camera and grabbing the wires before the screen went black. The lawsuit contends police destroyed video equipment to "cover up illegal search and seizures" and that the narcs "intentionally and maliciously destroyed property, consumed food and beverages, stole money and merchandise, and deliberately caused food and other items to spoil by their illegal search practices." Duran said $15,000 worth of video equipment was destroyed and that the narcs stole or ruined another $10,000 in cash and merchandise. The Duran case is only one of many being investigated by a joint police Internal Affairs-FBI task force after one drug officer's former snitch publicly alleged that some officers made up information to get judge's to approve search warrants. Four veteran drug officers -- Jeffrey Cujdik and his brother Richard, Robert McDonnell, and Thomas Tolstoy -- have been put on desk duty pending the outcome of the inquiry. Both Cujdiks, Tolstoy, and three other police drug officers are named as defendants in the Duran suit. Jeffrey Cujdik, McDonnell, and two others are named in a separate lawsuit.
Read last issue's corrupt cops stories here.