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Latin America: Mexican Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war: Wednesday, September 23 Nine people were killed in a nine hour span in Ciudad Juarez. The dead included a beheaded man, and bullet-riddled bodies of three men and a woman found in a car. Additionally, another gunshot victim was found by the side of a road, and two bodies-one beheaded-were found wrapped in a blanket. The ninth victim was found dead inside a car. Four people were killed after a gun battle in La Crucita, Durango. The four dead, all men, were killed during a firefight between two groups of rival drug traffickers in a hillside community. Three bullet-riddled SUV's were left at the scene. Thursday, September 24 At least three US citizens were killed when gunmen attacked a motel in Ciudad Juarez, along with a Mexican man, whom police believe was the intended target. The two women who were killed were sisters. A high-ranking police official was ambushed in Sinaloa. The official, Jesús Adolfo Fierro Bojórquez, had called his wife to pick him up after his car broke down. She arrived to find him dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. Additionally, a police radio operatior was shot and killed in Ecatepec, near Mexico City, and 18 people were killed across Ciudad Juarez in a 24 hour period. Two men were killed in Tijuana, and three in Guerrero. Friday, September 25 Five suspected Sinaloa cartel assassins were arrested by the Mexican army in Ciudad Juarez. The men are thought to be involved in at least 45 murders, including the two recent attacks on drug rehabilitation centers in which 28 people were lined up against a wall and executed. Monday, September 28 In the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, two Canadian men were shot and killed in execution-style slayings. Gunmen attacked Gordon Douglas Kendall and Jeffrey Ronald Ivan’s outside an apartment building, chasing them to the pool area before finally killing them. Canadian law enforcement officials were apparently aware of the two men, and believed they were deeply involved in the British Columbia cocaine trade. A former Juarez police officer was arrested over the weekend, and is suspected of taking part in at least 18 killings in the city. He was one of several arrests made by Mexican military and police forces in Juarez over the weekend. The ex-officer, Miguel Angel Delgado Carmona, 39, was captured with an accomplice following a vehicle chase after an aborted extortion attempt at a Juarez funeral home. He is also suspected of taking part in locating another 80 homicide victims, and was captured with two AK-47’s. Tuesday, September 29 In Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexican army elements took over police stations and surrounded a stadium where municipal vehicles are kept. They also interrogated local police officers about an incident that occurred on the 3rd of September, in which it is suspected that local police leaked information to drug traffickers who killed at two police officers and a fireman who were travelling unarmed. Wednesday, September 30 Army troops seized $7.3 million in cash from a house in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state. The raid came after soldiers received a tip from local residents who said they had seen several armed men at the house. Four handguns and four vehicles were also seized in the raid on the home, which is thought to have been a Gulf Cartel safe house. Three civilians were wounded when soldiers at a military checkpoint shot at the car in which they were travelling. The incident took place in Morelia, Michoacan. The three men in the car were apparently drunk, and security in the area was high because of a visit to the city by President Calderon. This is the latest in a series of shootings at road blocks set up by the military to stem the flow of drugs and arms moving along Mexico's roads. Body count for the last two weeks: 275 Body count for the year: 5,411

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops busted for testilying, a deputy arrested for demanding a bribe from a pot grower, a jail guard arrested for smuggling pot into the prison, and a Michigan town still doesn't know who stole drug buy money from the police department. Let's get to it:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/prisonguard.jpg
If we can't keep drugs out of the prisons, how can we keep them out of the country?
In Los Angeles, three LAPD officers were charged Wednesday with lying under oath in a drug possession case that was dismissed last year after a videotape contradicted their testimony. Officers Richard Amio and Even Samuel testified that they chased a man into an apartment building and saw him throw away a black object. They testified that Samuel picked it up and found $260 worth of powder and crack cocaine in it. But videotape from the apartment building showed the officers searching for more than 20 minutes before producing their "evidence." A third officer, Manuel Ortiz, also testified about the case at a preliminary hearing. The judge in the drug possession case dropped the charges against the defendant at prosecutors' request. The three officers all face perjury and conspiracy charges.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Lebanon Correctional Institution guard was arrested last Friday on charges he was trying to bring drugs into the prison. Guard Dennis O'Rourke, 25, was arrested by state troopers as he met his contact to pick up marijuana. He is charged with attempting to convey drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility, a third-degree felony, and child endangerment, a first-degree misdemeanor, because he had his two-year-old daughter with him during the drug transaction.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a Broward County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for accepting money from a marijuana grower not to arrest him. Deputy Manuel Silva, a nine-year department veteran, allegedly showed up at the grow house last week in plain clothes, but carrying a badge and a gun. He was arrested after picking up an unspecified amount of cash. Silva went down after the grower told someone else about the incident, who in turn went to the authorities. He is now charged with burglary, armed extortion, and drug possession -- he happened to be carrying some oxycodone not prescribed to him when he was arrested. No word on what happened to the grower.

In Troy, Michigan, Troy police still can't find $40,000 that went missing from a police safe in January. The money was earmarked for narcotics investigations. The Oakland County Sheriff's Department has not closed its investigation, but admits it is at a standstill. The Troy police say they have changed policies and procedures regarding funds and restricted the amount of cash on hand for special investigations.

This Evening's Corrupt Cops Story

Here's one from Michigan that's making a lot of people look bad:

BENTON HARBOR — Berrien County Prosecutor Arthur Cotter has dismissed 40 drug convictions since members of Benton Harbor’s police narcotics unit pleaded guilty to federal charges that they made up evidence, conducted illegal searches and wrongfully arrested people.

Cotter said that he is continuing to review the many cases that involved the two officers who comprised the city’s entire narcotics unit.

"They didn’t engage in misconduct in every single case they did," Cotter said. "The problem is that everybody who had a case now wants review." [Michigan Messenger]

No, people who want their cases reviewed are not the problem. The problem is that "the two officers who comprised the city’s entire narcotics unit" were lunatics. And it didn’t help that the department brushed citizen complaints under the rug.

It's hardly a unique or unusual story amidst the rich history of gratuitous civil rights abuses in the war on drugs. But it does provide a helpful illustration of the far-reaching consequences of drug war corruption: the police chief is being forced out, the city will have to pay huge sums to victims, the prosecutor's office is now preoccupied with freeing the innocent instead of jailing the guilty, and the public has one more reason not to trust or cooperate with police.

You can't possibly calculate how much damage is caused by just a handful of bad cops, which is exactly why so many departments bend over backwards to prevent this stuff from ever seeing the light of day. For every wretched episode of extreme police misconduct that gets exposed, far more remain buried beneath false reports, perjured testimony and broken accountability mechanisms.

We'll never know the true dimensions of the problem, but we know its origins. Police corruption emerges first and foremost from the enforcement of our filthy drug laws. Does anyone really need to read past the headline to find out which law enforcement activity it was that turned cops into criminals? It's the same story every time.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We've got two weeks worth of corrupt cops again: dope-peddling cops, dope-stealing cops, cops who rip off motorists, cops who rip off their departments, cops who take bribes, cops who squeal to dealers. Let's get to it (although a few more may dribble in by Friday): In Weston, Missouri, a Weston police officer was arrested September 22 on two drug-related charges. Officer Kyle Zumbrunn, 26, was arrested by officers of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at the request of the Atchison Police Department. He went down after selling a suspected controlled substance to a KBI undercover officer. Zumbrunn now faces charges of sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school and using a telephonic device to facilitate a drug transaction. In Watertown, Connecticut, a Waterbury police officer was arrested September 24 on a variety of drug charges. Officer Francis Brevetti, 29, was injured in a traffic accident the previous weekend, and when police towed his vehicle, they found drugs inside. He is now charged with possession of cocaine, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school and possession of drug paraphernalia. In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer assigned to a federal drug task force was arrested September 24 on charges he stole money and jewelry from houses targeted in drug raids and embezzled funds used to pay snitches. Officer Mark Lunsford, a six-year veteran, had been assigned to the Baltimore DEA, which conducts large-scale drug investigations. Now he's been assigned to a federal detention facility pending a bond hearing. In West Columbia, Texas, a former West Columbia police detective pleaded guilty September 21 to five felony charges, including two counts of tampering with physical evidence and theft of a firearm by a public servant. Former officer Joseph McElroy, 33, admitted to stealing a gun and cocaine from the department evidence room, forging signatures on department checks, and falsely signing a collection book receipt saying he had returned money to someone when he hadn't. In exchange for pleading guilty, McElroy gets one year in jail and 10 years on probation. In Miami, a former Miami-Dade County police officer pleaded guilty September 24 to stealing marijuana and cash from a driver during a traffic stop. Jesus Rodolfo Hernandez will do 30 days in jail for pulling over a confidential informant, arresting him for a traffic offense, and stealing marijuana and $575 in cash he found in the driver's back pocket. He pleaded guilty to grand theft, possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence. He will also spend two years on probation and must pay back the nearly $25,000 it cost to investigate and prosecute the case. In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer was convicted September 24 of tipping off a friend about an impending drug raid. Former Officer Rickie Durham, 44, was found guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of lying to investigators for tipping off a cocaine kingpin hours before a raid four years ago, while he was working as a member of an FBI drug-gang task force. Durham now faces 12 to 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on January 6. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the former Holland police chief was sentenced September 18 to two years in prison for ripping off the town in various ways, including stealing seized drug money. Former Chief Kevin Gleason pleaded guilty to larceny by scheme of more than $250 and two counts of larceny of more than $250. He admitted to selling town-owned guns and rifles and pocketing the money, receiving $655 in reimbursements for a conference he never attended, and stealing $2,190 in seized drug money from a locker to which he had the only key. In Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis police officer was sentenced September 23 to 25 years in federal prison for using false search warrants or breaking into homes in order to steal drugs and cash. Former Officer Robert Long, 35, and two other now-convicted former officers were tracked by the FBI as they did their misdeeds. Long was found guilty in June of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 kilograms of marijuana, three counts of possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana and attempt to possess with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. One of his comrades in crime took a plea deal and got the minimum 10 years in prison. A third renegade officer awaits sentencing. In New York City, a former Customs and Border Protection supervisor was sentenced September 24 to 10 years in federal prison for turning a blind eye to drug trafficking through JFK Airport. Walter Golembiowski, 66, a former Supervisory Customs and Border Protection Officer at JFK, pleaded guilty in March to narcotics conspiracy and two counts of bribery conspiracy. He must also pay $10,000 in fines and more than $2.5 million in asset forfeiture.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

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.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

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.

Resignation of Mexico's Attorney General Won't Change Much

I have an invited comment online at JURIST, explaining why the resignation of Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora won't change much. (Hint: It's Prohibition.) JURIST, which is published at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is "the world's only law school-based comprehensive legal news and research service," according to its FAQ. It's also free, archives included. I've already added it to my Google Reader.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have a Deep South trio of dirty officers this week. Let's get to it:

In Brandon, Mississippi, a veteran drug enforcement officer with the Rankin County Sheriff's Office was arrested August 20. Deputy Scott Walters, head of drug enforcement and the department's drug dog officer, is charged with falsifying his time sheet. That charge is a felony. More charges could follow.

In Cochran, Georgia, a Cochran police officer was arrested August 20 on drug and other charges. Officer Elijah Mills, 30, faces charges of conspiracy to sell a controlled substance and violating his oath of office. His arrest comes as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of misconduct in the department.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a former East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to 10 years in prison on drug charges. Former deputy Larry Wright, 28, was convicted of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. He will also do three years of supervised release after serving his time.

Read last issue's corrupt cops stories here.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A quiet week on the corrupt cops front, but the two stories we do have share a common theme: problems with snitches. Let's get to it:

In Gaffney, South Carolina, a Cherokee County sheriff's officer was arrested Tuesday and fired Wednesday for exchanging drugs for sex with a female confidential informant. Now former Officer Troy Cooper, 56, is accused of providing marijuana, money, and other contraband to the informant in return for sexual favors between March 2008 and last week. Investigators from the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) were called in by Sheriff Bill Blanton. A search warrant in the case indicates that SLED has recorded telephone conversations between Blanton and the informant.

In St. Louis, police commanders are at odds with the police union over departmental demands that up to 20 officers reveal details about their confidential informants. The department has acknowledged in court filings that "one or more" officers "have included false information in affidavits" for warrants, and says the investigation is aimed at stopping "the concerns of police abuse and violation of civil rights." At least two officers, Shell Sharp and William Noonan, have already resigned, and prosecutors have dropped 39 cases in which one or the other officer was involved. But the police union has won a temporary restraining order to block the revealing of informant information, saying it would endanger snitches and officers. Whether they can win a permanent injunction will be decided next week.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The Chronicle may have taken a week off, but corrupted law enforcers didn't take time off from their illicit enterprises, and there was no letup in corrupt cops stories. Here's this week's motley crew.

In Verona, Virginia, an Augusta County Correctional Center guard was arrested August 1 for smuggling in marijuana for inmates. Guard April Hogsett, 26, faces a Class 5 felony charge and is looking at up to 10 years in prison. A Virginia Department of Corrections Office of the Inspector General agent executed a search warrant on Hogsett's vehicle the previous day and seized a phone, plastic baggies, and letters -- but no marijuana. That search came after an informant told authorities Hogsett was to supply marijuana to an inmate known to be dealing in the jail. Authorities said cell phone and inmate money order records backed that story.

In Clatskanie, Oregon, a Clatskanie police officer was arrested August 5 for burglarizing a home to steal prescription drugs. Officer Joseph Lee Harrison, 35, was charged with burglary, theft, and official misconduct for the late July burglary. He was accused of stealing prescription painkillers, and the victims told deputies they believed he was addicted to the drugs. Harrison is out on bail.

In Crossett, Arkansas, a Crossett police officer was arrested Sunday for selling drug investigation information and other files to the target of that investigation and conspiring with him to invest in the crack cocaine trade. Officer Darrell Webb is now a former officer, having been fired immediately after being charged with second degree forgery, theft of property, conspiracy to deliver cocaine and laundering criminal proceeds. Last July, Webb stopped a vehicle driven by the drug suspect, set up a meeting at a remote location, showed him a case file on him, and offered to sell it to him for $800. The suspect gave Webb $600 and agreed to meet later to pay the balance. The next day, the suspect called Webb at work and asked him if he wanted the rest of the money. The suspect recorded that call. The pair met, the suspect paid, and again recorded the conversation, with Webb saying he had deleted the damaging information. Webb then asked if he could make a profit investing in drugs for retail sale. The drug suspect then went to the department's top brass with his information, and Webb went down. He's now in jail trying to raise $50,000 bond.

In Zanesville, Ohio, a former Zanesville police officer was sentenced July 30 to 20 years in prison for teaming up with two other former local cops to rip off drug dealers. Former officer Sean Beck and his co-conspirators Trevor Fusner and Chad Mills had all originally been charged with six felony counts after being arrested in October 2007 in the act of ripping off a drug dealer at gunpoint in a local cemetery. All three eventually pleaded to one count each of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and one count each of having a weapon while committing a drug trafficking offense. The trio went down after a local drug dealer went to the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office to complain they were shaking him down, making him sell drugs for them, and splitting the proceeds. He then became a confidential informant, recording various conversations, and informing authorities so that deputies and FBI agents were waiting when Beck and buddies tried their cemetery heist.

In San Diego, a former San Diego police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in federal prison for giving inside information to drug traffickers. Former officer Juan Hurtado Tapia, 39, had admitted informing drug traffickers about an ongoing investigation and lying to federal officials about it. He pleaded guilty to obstructing an official investigation, making false statements, and a misdemeanor count of misusing a computer. Hurtado provided traffickers with background check information about a person they suspected of being an informer.

(Read last issue's corrupt cops compilation here.)

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