Police Corruption

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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A potentially very ugly scandal is brewing in the DC suburbs, a Pennsylvania cop gets busted just after buying some smack, a California prison guard was peddling PCP, and a former Miami-Dade cop cops a plea in an Ecstasy sting. Let's get to it:

In Washington, DC, federal authorities are investigating a group of Washington area police officers they suspect took money to protect a gambling operation frequented by powerful drug dealers. The officers include five from Prince Georges County, Maryland, a DC police official, and a former DC Housing Authority officer. Investigators have phone records, surveillance, and other records tying the officers to the game's operators, which include known drug dealers. Investigators are looking into whether any of the officers are linked to several killings connected to the ring. An FBI task force and Prince Georges internal affairs are investigating at least two of the officers for active participation in the drug trade and several of them for trafficking in stolen property.

In Pittsburgh, a New Bethlehem police officer was arrested last week when his vehicle was pulled over just after purchasing $450 worth of heroin. Officer Charles Edwards III faces charges of felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver; carrying a firearm without a license as a third-degree felony; possession of a controlled substance as an unclassified misdemeanor; and two traffic law violations. Police saw a pistol in plain sight in his car when they stopped him, and Edwards consented to a search of the vehicle. Police found the heroin during the search. Edwards was booked and released last week on $5,000 cash bail. He has been suspended without pay while his department investigates.

In Fresno, California, a Corcoran State Prison guard was arrested last Friday for selling PCP. Argelia Tovar went down after a three week investigation into drug sales at her home. Fresno police found five grams of solid PCP, a small quantity of liquid PCP, and a dozen PCP-laced cigarettes. It is unclear whether she was smuggling drugs into the state prison. Tovar is now on administrative leave.

In Miami, a former Miami-Dade County police officer pleaded guilty July 22 to drug charges after he got caught in an FBI undercover sting involving Ecstasy shipments. Jorge Delgado, a three-year veteran, admitted using his patrol vehicle to protect what he thought was a shipment of Ecstasy. He was supposed to get $2,500 for his efforts; instead he got arrested. Delgado faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced September 30.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Drug war-related corruption extends beyond cops and deputies, and this week is a good example. We've got a federal probation agent in trouble, a US Navy police officer in trouble, a prosecutor heading for prison, as well as a crooked narc and an Ecstasty-dealing deputy. Unusually, what we don't have this week is a dope-smuggling prison guard. Let's get to it:

In McAllen, Texas, a federal probation officer was arrested July 15 for using government data bases to run background checks on truck drivers for a drug trafficking organization. Armando Mora, 36, is charged with drug trafficking and bribery. He allegedly took payments from drug traffickers to do the background checks and warned them against hiring three truck drivers this year because two were undercover agents and one was one of his own probationers and an FBI informant. Mora got paid $5,000 for that last bit of information.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a Benton Harbor police narcotics supervisor was arrested last Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges. Bernard Hall, 33, had supervised former Officer Andrew Collins, who was convicted of planting drug evidence and falsifying search warrants in January. Collins is currently serving 37 months in federal prison. Hall is accused of conspiring with Collins to falsify search warrants and plant drugs, as well as unlawfully seizing cash and personal property during drug raids. A second count charges him with making false statement to a grand jury investigating Collins, and the third count charges him with making false statements to the FBI and the US Attorney's Office about a drug deal by a snitch he had overseen. That drug deal never took place. Hall stepped down after being arrested. Local prosecutors are reviewing more than 100 drug cases and convictions in which Hall and Collins were involved.

In Billings, Montana, a former Carbon County prosecutor was sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison July 16 on a single count of maintaining a drug-involved premises. Robert Eddleman hosted cocaine parties at his residence before and after becoming the country prosecutor in 2006. He was convicted on state cocaine charges and resigned in March. Prosecutors said he tried to scuttle at least one drug case to cover up his own activities.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a US Navy police officer pleaded not guilty Monday to cocaine possession and distribution charges. Andy Regalado, 36, has been in custody since he was pulled over for driving erratically last month. Police turned up nine pounds of cocaine when they searched his vehicle.

In New Orleans, a Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputy was indicted July 16 by a federal grand jury after being arrested by federal agents earlier this month and charged with possession with the intent to distribute Ecstasy. Kevin Whittington, 44, faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a corrupt cops twofer for New Jersey, another twofer for Indiana, a two-for-one special on Texas deputies, and a lone prison guard in Florida. Let's get to it:

In Bridgeton, New Jersey, a Cumberland County Jail guard was arrested Saturday for trading drugs to inmates in return for money and sex. Corrections Officer Sergey Udalovas, 52, was charged with aggravated sexual assault against a female prison visitor, with whom he had sex in return for smuggling drugs in to her jailed friend. He is also charged with possession of marijuana and possession of heroin with intent to distribute. He is currently in the Atlantic County Jail on $175,000 full-cash bail.

In Irvington, New Jersey, a New Jersey Transit police officer was indicted last Friday on charges of official misconduct, drug possession with intent to distribute, and possession of a gun during a drug offense. Sgt. Barrington Williams, 47, had been arrested last July when detectives stopped his vehicle and found 3.7 pounds of marijuana, $3,600 cash, and his service weapon. Williams, a 13-year veteran of the force, has been suspended without pay. He is out on bail.

In Westville, Indiana, an Indiana Department of Corrections guard was arrested July 7 when she arrived for work at the Westville Correctional Facility. Both the Indiana State Police and the prison's Internal Affairs Division were involved in the investigation and arrest. Guard Karen Gibson, 27, is charged with one felony count of drug trafficking. If convicted, she faces two to eight years in prison. She was last reported in jail trying to make bail.

In Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer was sentenced July 9 to 10 years in federal prison for ripping off marijuana dealers and reselling their wares. Former officer James Davis, 34, was convicted last month of drug possession and conspiracy to distribute. He was one of three officers indicted by a federal grand jury in the scheme, which included one "raid" where they ripped off five pounds of pot and $18,000 in cash. His two partners, Jason Edwards and Robert Lear, were convicted earlier and await sentencing.

In Lubbock, Texas, two Hockley County sheriff's deputies were arrested last Friday as part of a 110-count federal indictment aimed at the Aces and Eights outlaw motorcycle gang for a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. Deputies Gordon Bohannon and Jose Quintanilla are accused of providing gang members with information that hurt efforts to shut down the conspiracy. They and the other 28 defendants are all charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of meth, which carries a mandatory minimum 10 year prison sentence. Other defendants face additional charges.

In Sebring, Florida, a Florida prison guard was arrested last Friday for planning to smuggle drugs into the prison. Richard Pillajo, 37, thought he was conspiring with an inmate's family, but was actually talking to a Highland County Sheriff's office undercover officer when he agreed to purchase 112 grams of marijuana, 29 grams of cocaine, and 20 hydrocodone tablets and smuggle them into the Avon Park Correctional Institute in exchange for $2,500. He was charged with possession of an opium derivative with intent to sell, distribution of marijuana, trafficking in cocaine, smuggling contraband into a prison facility, and possession of narcotic equipment. At last report, he was in the Highlands County Jail trying to make a $50,500 bond.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A crooked Chicago cop goes to prison and a pair of jail guards get stung. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, a former Chicago police officer was sentenced June 30 to almost 11 years in prison for robbing drug dealers. Former officer Richard Doroniuk, 33, had pleaded guilty to racketeering and bribery and testified against another officer involved in return for prosecutors dropping a civil rights charge that could have left him looking at 30 years in prison. Doroniuk and his partner went down after they were videotaped in an FBI sting stealing $31,000 from self-storage lockers they thought were rented by drug dealers.

In Miami, an Everglades Correctional Facility guard was arrested July 2 in a sting where he thought he was negotiating with an inmate's family to smuggle a pound of pot, four ounces of cocaine, and two cell phones into the prison. Correctional Officer Shamel Watson went to collect the contraband in Collier County, but was instead met by a Collier County sheriff's deputy and arrested. It's not clear yet what the charges are, but Watson has been fired and prosecutors are promising to go after him to the fullest extent of the law.

In Amite, Louisiana, a Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday in a DEA sting. Deputy Kevin Whittington, 44, was allegedly providing drugs to inmates at the parish jail, and was arrested after a DEA snitch gave him 24 grams of crack cocaine and he agreed to take it to an inmate at the jail. He faces federal charges for intent to distribute crack cocaine, and is looking at up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine if convicted.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's been a relatively quiet week on the corrupt cops front, with just two stories this week, but one of them is a real doozy. Let's get to it:

In Memphis, a former Memphis police officer was sentenced Wednesday to a whopping life plus 255 years after being convicted of 44 counts of civil rights, narcotics, robbery, and firearms offenses. Arthur Sease IV was one of a group of rogue Memphis police officers who from November 2003 through April 2006 robbed drug dealers of cash, cocaine, and marijuana, and then sold the stolen drugs for their own profit. Sease was linked to at least 15 armed robberies during the trial. Three other Memphis police officers and two civilians have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced in the case, though none to anywhere near as long as Sease.

In Bentonia, Mississippi, a part-time Bentonia police officer was arrested Monday on felony drug charges. Officer Carl Fleming, 49, is charged with two counts of selling cocaine. He will remain behind bars until trial. He is not eligible for bail because he is already under indictment for assaulting a school teacher and was out on a felony bond at the time of his arrest.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More drug corruption in Philly, more fallout from the Kathryn Johnston killing in Atlanta, and yet another crooked border guard. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police detective was arraigned June 18 on charges he tipped off a major drug suspect about an imminent search warrant. Det. Rickie Durham pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and given advance notice of a search. He is accused of alerting Philly "drug kingpin" Alton "Ace Capone" Coles of a pending police raid in August 2005 and then lying to investigators when they questioned him. Durham has been suspended for 30 days, and the department says it is on track to fire him. He is on house arrest pending trial.

In Yuma, Arizona, a US Customs and Border Protection officer pleaded guilty June 18 to bribery and drug charges. CBP Officer Henry Gauani, 41, copped to conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to import Ecstasy for accepting $33,000 to allow vehicles loaded with Ecstasy to pass through the Port of Entry from Mexico without inspection. Gauani went down after a federal investigation and a sting on January 27 in which he allowed a vehicle containing what he believed to be a half million Ecstasy tablets pass through his lane without inspection. He is looking at up to 20 years in federal prison and $1,250,000 in fines.

In Atlanta, a former Atlanta Police narcotics unit supervisor was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in an illegal break-in search of a Dill Avenue duplex in 2005. Former officer Wilbert Stallings had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of the homeowner. At sentencing, US District Court Justice Julie Carnes said the sentence also reflected Stallings' role in allowing a culture of corruption to run rampant in the unit he supervised. Members of that unit were responsible for the 2006 killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a raid based on fabricated evidence. Stallings went down as investigators looking into the Johnston killing put his unit under the microscope.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The stench emanating from Philadelphia's Narcotics Field Unit grew even more rank this week, an Arizona cop steals cash to feed his pill habit, and two Indianapolis cops turned thugs are headed for prison. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, the festering narcotics squad scandal just keeps getting uglier. The Philadelphia Daily News reported Wednesday that at least three women who were present at addresses raided by the Narcotics Field Unit have accused a unit member, Officer Thomas Tolstoy, of sexually assaulting them. None of the women have criminal records, none were arrested during the raids, and none of them knows the others. You can read the ugly details at the link above. This is just the latest sordid tale to emerge about the Narcotics Field Unit since February, when the Daily News reported that unit member Officer Jeffrey Cujdik lied on search warrant applications in order to get into suspected drug houses. In March, the same newspaper reported that Cujdik, Tolstoy and other dope squad members routinely raided corner stores that sold small plastic baggies, disabling surveillance cameras, threatening owners with arrest, and stealing thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise. Tolstoy is now on desk duty as the department and the FBI investigate.

In Yuma, Arizona, a Yuma Police officer was arrested June 8 for allegedly stealing more than $11,000 in cash from seized evidence to buy prescription drugs to which he was addicted. Officer Geoff Presco is charged with one felony count of theft and has been placed on paid leave. Presco went down after a detective following up on a case noticed the missing cash and other evidence and tracked it back to Presco, who had apparently been dipping into the till since February. He was named Yuma's patrol officer of the year last year. He was being held on a $55,000 bond.

In Indianapolis, two former Indianapolis Police narcotics detectives were convicted last Friday for their roles in a scheme to steal marijuana and money from pot dealers. Former detectives Robert Long, 35, and Jason Edwards, 38, were found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, as well as several counts of drug possession or attempted possession with the intent to distribute. The pair went down during an FBI sting in which they were videotaped stealing pot and cash from a stash house in one incident and ripping off $20,000 from a supposed drug courier. A third officer, James Davis, earlier pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme. He faces 10 to 15 years in prison, while Long and Edwards are now looking at 20 years.

How Many Innocent People Are in Jail on Drug Charges?

It's a question I've often pondered and one that anybody with strong opinions about drug policy should consider, regardless of where you stand on the issue. Surely, there exists no realistic formula with which to approximate an answer, but one need only observe and understand what the drug war is and how it works to know that grave injustices are forever embedded into the drug war equation.

The question resurfaced this week in an AP report that tells the story of Jose and Maximo Colon. The brothers were arrested and charged with cocaine distribution stemming from an alleged encounter with undercover officers in a sketchy NY bar. The case imploded when surveillance tape from the establishment revealed that the pair had simply not committed the crime or even interacted with the agents. They were arrested moments later by a back-up team, without a clue as to the reason why. Worse still, an outdoor camera captured footage of the undercover investigators "literally dancing down the street" afterwards, apparently pleased with their accomplishment.

It's a striking and gratuitous example of police misconduct to be sure, but the larger question is how many similar cases have led to convictions and prison time for their victims:

Jose quickly got the tape to defense attorney Rochelle Berliner, a former narcotics prosecutor. She couldn't believe what she was seeing.

''I almost threw up,'' she said. ''Because I must've prosecuted 1,500, 2,000 drug cases ... and all felonies. And I think back, Oh my God, I believed everything everyone told me. Maybe a handful of times did something not sound right to me. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic but I was like, sick.''

If it were only possible somehow to reveal the full scope of wrongful, fraudulent convictions in the war on drugs, I don't doubt that the entire nation would be stunned and sickened. Yet, for anyone who's paying attention, it's not necessary to fantasize about the true extent of injustice and corruption that the drug war has unleashed on innocent people. You can read about it in the newspaper all the time.

In Ohio, we saw a DEA agent indicted for helping frame 17 innocent people. In Atlanta, we saw police plant drugs in the home of an innocent 88-year-old woman after shooting her to death. In Tulia, TX we saw a rogue narcotics officer frame and arrest most of the black people in town. In Hearne, TX we saw the same damn thing. And across the country, we've seen dozens of innocent people who might well have ended up in prison if they hadn't been killed first by the police who raided their homes.

Behind all of this lies a matrix of perverse incentives, loose evidentiary requirements, and diminished accountability mechanisms that make mind-blowing miscarriages of justice more than inevitable. A central element of modern drug enforcement involves the use of informants, who trade information on other people for leniency in their own criminal cases. They have every incentive to lie and they do so constantly, as we've seen over and over again. Prosecutors offer leniency in exchange for "substantial assistance" in helping convict others, a practice that inherently favors the guiltiest party. Inevitably, those most directly involved in a criminal conspiracy are armed with names and other critical details that prosecutors crave, while peripheral players and innocent bystanders who become entangled in drug investigations are placed at a remarkable disadvantage.

Of course, it shouldn't be necessary to persuade anyone that our drug laws are designed to make things easy for police and hard for criminal suspects. These vast drug war powers are bestowed on police and prosecutors by legislators who are eager to provide law-enforcement with every necessary tool in the fight against crime. That much power creates countless innocent casualties even at the hands of our most honest public servants, and it's a nightmare when passed along to corrupt cops like the men who framed the Colon brothers.

Yet, when these dramatic fiascoes get exposed, police can often be found downplaying it and insisting that you can't fight the drug war without these sorts of aggressive and dirty tactics. If that's even remotely true, then the war on drugs is just far too filthy and corrupt to tolerate in a free and civil society.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It never ends. Another week of greedy jail guards and thieving policemen. This whole cops robbing drug dealers thing is getting kind of old, too. But let's get to it:

In Carlisle, Indiana, a Wabash Valley Correctional Facility guard was arrested June 4 as he attempted to go to work carrying marijuana, cell phones and chargers, tobacco, and a video game player. Guard James Sheerin, 25, faces drug trafficking and possession charges. When investigators searched his car after his arrest, they also found cocaine, heroin, and more cell phones. Sheerin was last reported being held at the Sullivan County Jail.

In St. Louis, three jail guards were indicted by a federal grand jury June 4 for distributing drugs to inmates at the St. Louis City Justice Center. Correctional officers James Lamont Moore, Peggy O'Neal, and Marilyn Denise Brown are accused of repeatedly delivering what they thought was heroin to prisoners this year. In a sting operation, the hapless trio received purported heroin from an individual outside the Justice Center, along with cash, and secretly delivered the fake smack to an inmate inside. Moore and Brown face one count each of attempted distribution of heroin; O'Neal faces two counts. Each count carries a maximum 20-year sentence upon conviction.

In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer was convicted Monday of using his police badge and gun to rob drug dealers. Former officer Malik Snell was found guilty of conspiracy, attempted robbery, and a weapons charge for an attempted home invasion robbery in Pottstown. He was also convicted in another incident in which he ripped-off $40,000 from a South Philly drug kingpin during a bogus traffic stop. Snell had endured two earlier trials than ended in mistrials, but the third time was the charm. He faces up to 17 1/2 years when sentenced on September 9.

In Laredo, Texas, a former Laredo airport police officer was sentenced last Friday to 20 months in federal prison on cocaine distribution charges. Former airport cop Vidal Gerardo Sepulveda went down in an FBI sting after selling $700 worth of cocaine while in uniform.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor narcotics officer was sentenced Wednesday to 37 months in prison and four years probation for staging phony drug raids where he stole drugs. Former officer Andrew Collins, 26, went down after an FBI investigation found crack cocaine and other drugs in his locker. He pleaded guilty to intent to distribute more than five grams of cocaine.

Bad Cops Caught on Camera

Dear Men and Women of Law Enforcement,

There are video cameras everywhere these days. In people's pockets, on trees and lampposts. On your squad car and in front of local businesses. So maybe you should think twice before beating people up for no reason and filing false charges.

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