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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

From sea to shining sea, cops, jail guards, and court officers go bad. This week, in addition to the usual rogues' gallery of corrupt cops, we get an abusive one, too. Let's get to it:

In Jackson, Alabama, a Madison County deputy resigned last month after an internal investigation found that he either gave narcotics to an inmate or allowed the inmate to take them himself. Deputy Dustin Newman, 24, resigned on August 18 after investigators determined that "the only fact disputed is whether Newman took the drugs from a property box himself or just provided information which led to the drugs being taken by the trusty."

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a University of Tennessee Police Department officer was arrested September 17 for selling drugs in student housing. Officer Matthew Chambers, 35, faces one count of sale and distribution of Schedule II narcotics for selling one oxycodone tablet to a snitch. In a perhaps not so surprising twist, Chambers' attorney claims the snitch is his client's former girlfriend, who ratted him off in an effort to get charges she is facing reduced.

In Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, a Mt. Juliet police officer faces aggravated assault charges after being caught on video using a chokehold on a man suspected of hiding marijuana in his mouth. Mt. Juliet Police Corporal William Cosby pleaded not guilty September 18. Police car video showed Cosby choking James Lawrence Anders Jr. until he passed out during an April traffic stop. Anders was charged with marijuana possession, but those charges have now been dropped, and Anders has filed a civil lawsuit over the incident.

In St. Helens, Oregon, the Columbia County drug court coordinator was arrested over the weekend for allegedly selling drug investigation information to drug dealers and users. Emily Davis Cayton, 30, was initially charged with drug possession, but prosecutors said her case could go before a grand jury and result in further charges any day now. Investigators said they got a tip through their "informant system," but are unsure what information was leaked or how much Cayton was paid. She was arrested after a weeks-long investigation, they said. Cayton is now on paid administrative leave from her drug court gig.

In Walla Walla, Washington, a state prison guard was arrested Monday after being caught bringing "a substantial amount" of drugs into the prison. Prison guard Camren James Jones, 20, was jailed on suspicion of delivering cocaine, heroin, methadone and marijuana. Authorities described the amount of heroin as about the size of two golf balls.

In McAllen, Texas, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced September 16 to five years in federal prison for lying about cocaine seizures. Juan Espinoza, 31, pleaded guilty to making false statements or entries in August 2006. Investigators found that Espinoza had seized cocaine from drug traffickers and conspired with others to distribute it. He had been free on bond, but now he's behind bars.

In Mineola, New York, a former NYPD officer was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for stealing handguns from a police evidence room and trading them for painkillers. Former Officer Hubertus Vannes had pleaded guilty in May to criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal sale of a firearm. He admitted trading three guns to a man in return for painkillers and was caught with 76 pills when arrested. The guy he traded the guns to has also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced October 14.

Europe: Kosovo Has Lowest Illicit Drug Prices in Region

Budget-conscious European junkies looking for the biggest bang for their drug buck might want to visit Kosovo, if a report from Balkan Insight is accurate. According to the report, Kosovo has the lowest street prices for illicit drugs in the entire Balkan region.

Kosovo is the former Serbian province largely populated by ethnic Albanians who broke away from Serbia in 1999. It is currently a UN-administered territory still occupied by several thousand US and NATO troops.

According to the US State Department's 2008 report on international drug trafficking: "Kosovo is a transit point for Afghan heroin moving to Western Europe by way of Turkey. Narcotics traffickers capitalize on weak border control in Kosovo. The Kosovo Border Police is a young service, lacks basic equipment, and only has a mandate to patrol the "Green Border" (area where there are no official, manned borders or administrative boundary line gates) from two to three kilometers beyond the actual border and administrative boundary lines. NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR) has roving teams that patrol the green border up to the actual border and administrative boundary lines, but traffickers easily take advantage of numerous passable roads leading into Kosovo that lack border or administrative boundary line gates. Moreover, narcotics interdiction is not part of KFOR's mandate; they seize narcotics they happen to encounter while performing their duties, but they do not actively investigate narcotics trafficking. Kosovo Border Police and Customs agents are susceptible to corruption. Kosovo officials are attempting to tackle the problem, but United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) officials believe some officers allow narcotics shipments."

Albania and Kosovo are also the home of well-organized Albanian drug trafficking organizations that helped fund the Kosovo independence movement. Ironically, the NATO blockade of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis accelerated the growth of the Eastern European organized crime groups that are now smuggling Afghan heroin into Europe. By blockading Serbia, the center of the East European economy, NATO sanctions created the conditions for a rapid expansion of clandestine activities.

Now, a gram of heroin in Kosovo goes for as little as 10 Euros, compared to 15 to 25 Euros in Bosnia & Herzegovina, 25 to 40 Euros in Macedonia, and at least 25 Euros in Albania and Serbia. You can get a gram of cocaine in Kosovo for 50 Euros, while that same gram would cost 60 Euros in Macedonia and Bosnia and 70 Euros in Albania and Serbia. Prices for marijuana, around 5 to 10 Euros a gram, however, are similar throughout the region.

Balkans prices are significantly lower than in Western Europe, where the UN Office on Drugs and Crime put the average price per gram of heroin in 2006 at 67 Euros, or in the US, where the UN had a gram of heroin going for $170. That 50-Euro gram of cocaine you bought in Kosovo would cost you 85 Euros on average in the rest of Europe.

Time to party in Pristina?

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas constable and probation/parole officers in Massachusetts and North Carolina are in the spotlight this week. Let's get to it:

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Cameron County constable was sentenced September 11 to four years and nine months in federal prison for selling marijuana from the precinct evidence room. Former Constable Saul Ochoa, 37, had pleaded guilty in July to selling 10 pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant in return for the dropping of three additional counts of marijuana sales. All told, Ochoa is suspected of selling at least 175 pounds of seized marijuana he stole from the evidence room. Only 15 pounds were in the evidence room when there should have been 190 pounds. Ochoa was the only person with a key to the evidence locker. Ochoa told investigators he sold the drugs to finance a $40 a day cocaine habit. When he was arrested in May, police found eight pounds of marijuana, along with a loaded 9 mm Beretta, two shot guns, shot gun ammunition, and an M-16 in his squad car. Investigators also found a small amount of cocaine in his wallet and evidence bags with control numbers matching a constable's office marijuana seizure. At Ochoa's home, investigators found a digital scale, a lighter, pipe, two hunting rifles, a brick of marijuana, and more empty evidence bags.

In New Bern, North Carolina, a former North Carolina probation and parole officer was sentenced September 11 to 46 months in federal prison for aiding in the peddling of crack cocaine. Patricia Lisa Gederberg, 42, was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute more than five grams of crack and aiding and abetting. According to federal prosecutors, Gederberg used her state-issued vehicle to meet with contacts she provided with classified documents and for the transportation of drugs. She was charged last October and copped a plea in December.

In Springfield, Massachusetts, a former state probation officer was sentenced September 9 to 2 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to a series of drug dealing charges. Juan Latorre, a 23-year veteran probation officer, was arrested in March 2007 with three other men as police broke up a large Oxycontin and other pain pill distribution network. Police seized $100,000 in cash during the bust. Latorre pleaded guilty to possession of an opium derivative with intent to distribute, possession of methadone with intent to distribute, possession of diazepam with intent to distribute, and violation of a drug-free school zone. While that case was making its way through the courts, Latorre was busted again and has now ended up also pleading guilty to an additional four counts of heroin distribution and one of possession. His attorney said he was strung-out on Oxycontin after a previous injury.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have cops and prison guards getting into drug war trouble from coast to coast this week, from San Diego to Chicago and from Florida to Maryland. Let's get to it:

In San Diego, a San Diego police officer was arrested September 2 for allegedly tipping off drug dealers about an ongoing investigation. Officer Juan Hurtado Tapia, whom traffickers allegedly called "El Corrupto," was charged in federal court with obstruction, fraud and making false statements. A federal complaint said Tapia ran criminal history checks on a police computer for members of a drug trafficking ring and warned at least one suspect not to try to cross the border from Mexico on a particular night. Tapia is now on unpaid leave.

In Hagerstown, Maryland, a rookie prison guard was arrested September 4 for smuggling pot and cigarettes into the Roxbury Correctional Institution. Rookie Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Officer Krista Blank is charged with possessing marijuana and contraband, and with possessing the materials with the intent to distribute them inside a place of confinement. That is four separate charges -- two each for the pot and the cigs -- for which she faces up to 10 years in prison.

In Lakeland, Florida, a Polk County detention deputy was arrested September 4 for selling Oxycontin tablets to undercover detectives. Deputy Shawn Thomas Lucas, 30, was arrested after detectives received information he was selling pain pills and set up a buy, where he sold them six whole Oxycontin tablets and nine half-tablets, for a total of 4.4 grams, or about $200 worth. During a post-arrest search of his vehicle, detectives recovered a load .45-caliber handgun. Now, he is charged with armed drug trafficking. Lucas told detectives the pills had been prescribed to his deceased father and he was peddling them because he and his family were having financial difficulties. Lucas has now resigned from the sheriff's office.

In Jacksboro, Tennessee, two Campbell County law enforcement officers were arrested September 5 for allegedly stealing drugs from the Jacksboro Police Department and trading them for prescription drugs. Jacksboro Police Officer Ancil Parker, 30, and Campbell County jail guard Tonya Robinson, 34, are both charged with delivery of a schedule II controlled substance and official misconduct. Robinson also was charged with one count of theft under $500. The pair are being held responsible for marijuana and cocaine that went missing from the police department last year.

In Chicago, a Chicago police officer and another man were arrested Monday for plotting to set up the man's estranged wife on drug and firearms charges. Bogdan Mazur, 47, tried to set up his wife by scheming to deliver 44 grams of cocaine, 62 grams of marijuana and a gun with a defaced serial number to his wife, and enlisted Officer Slawomir Plewa, 30, to help him out. Mazur allegedly arranged with Plewa to have him detain and arrest his wife even though both knew the charges were false. The woman was acquitted of the gun and drug charges in January. Now Plewa is charged with official misconduct, perjury, obstruction of justice, unlawful restraint and false reporting. Mazur faces charges of filing a false police report, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to manufacture or deliver cocaine and cannabis, and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to police reports.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A cop with a pain pill habit gets in trouble; so does yet another jail guard. Let's get to it:

In Elwood, Indiana, an Elwood police officer was arrested August 29 for stealing prescription pain pills from the department's evidence room. Officer Shaun "Andy" Murray, 28, is charged with official misconduct, theft and possession of a controlled substance after he admitted stealing 10 hydrocodone tablets from the evidence room. Police said he admitted taking pain pills on numerous occasions over the past year and that he had admitted he had a drug problem. Murray went on leave and entered a treatment program August 23.

In Alamance County, North Carolina, an Alamance County jail guard was arrested August 28 on charges she gave drugs to a county jail inmate. Detention officer Jo Ann Hensley, 58, is accused of providing marijuana to an 18-year-old inmate sometime between August 11 and 13. She is charged with drug distribution and possession of a controlled substance on a jail premise. She was fired the same day.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A key Coast Guard anti-drug fighter gets caught doing cocaine, plus the usual array of miscreants in blue. We don't usually mention cases that only involve drug use, but when it's a top Coast Guard commander in charge of fighting drugs, we think we should make an exception to the general rule. Let's get to it:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coastguarddrugbust.jpg
Coast Guard drug bust, 2004
In San Francisco, a senior Coast Guard officer who supervised anti-drug trafficking efforts in the Western Pacific was arrested August 20 on cocaine charges. Capt. Michael Sullivan, a 26-year veteran, was charged under military law with wrongful use of cocaine and obstruction of justice, a step that sets up an evidentiary hearing and could prompt a court-martial. Officials gave no further details, but said he had been removed from supervisory duties. Sullivan, who was the Pacific area's chief of response since May 2007, supervised the operation of 20 major Coast Guard cutters and directed law enforcement units that protect ports and fisheries and fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration, according to his official biography.

In Benton, Louisiana, an already convicted ex-cop pleaded guilty Monday to seven additional charges. Former Shreveport police officer Roderick Moore, 53, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to trading drugs for sex with a stripper in Caddo Parish in June. Now he has pleaded guilty to an additional seven counts of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute. The pleas in the drug cases come two days after he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated. Although Moore theoretically faces up to 145 years in prison, his sentencing judge said the sentences would run concurrently. The maximum he faces for any one count is 30 years.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a Jackson code enforcement officer was arrested Sunday after being found with six packages of marijuana and $19,000 cash during a traffic stop. Code officer Britanny Arnold was a passenger in a vehicle driven by another man, who was carrying $670,000 in cash. Both Arnold and the driver are now charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Both have bailed out of jail.

In Rutland, Vermont, a former Vermont state prison guard was sentenced August 20 to seven months in jail on drug charges. Former guard Sheri Ann Fitzgerald, 44, had pleaded guilty in March to felony possession and sale charges involving cocaine as well as a misdemeanor charge of possessing a narcotic. Fitzgerald had been a prison guard since 1989, but was fired after being arrested. She has until September 4 to get her affairs in order and report to jail.

In Saginaw, Michigan, a jail guard at the Saginaw Correctional Facility was formally charged August 20 with supplying drugs to prisoners. John Singer, 45, now faces one count of delivery and manufacture of marijuana and one count of operating a drug house. He went down after a two-month investigation by the Bay Area Narcotics Team, one of whose members posed as a drug dealer willing to supply him for sales on the inside. He was arrested as he met with the officer in what he thought would be a drug transaction.

In Houston, a deputy constable was arrested August 18 for accosting drug dealers and stealing their money. Precinct 4 Deputy Constable Terrence Richardson is charged with engaging in organized crime and robbery. Word of Richardson's exploits percolated up from underground to the ears of the Houston Police Department, which set up a sting operation that snared him as he tried yet another rip-off. At last word, he was still in jail on a $200,000 bond. He is also now a former deputy constable, having been fired the night he was arrested.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops "misplacing" money, cops providing help to a pot crew, a court security officer peddling pain pills, and a jail guard getting caught bringing in the goodies. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Bartow, Florida, a Lake Wales police officer was arrested August 13 for providing police information to a friend of his who headed up a marijuana distribution ring. Officer Keenan Olson, 50, faces one count of conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering action, five counts of unlawful use of two-way communications device, and four counts of unlawful use of computer access after he was tied to an investigation that ultimately netted 18 arrests. Olson was overheard on wiretapped phone conversations revealing that a certain car belonged to an undercover officer, confirming that an arrest warrant had not been issued for a ring member, and counseling his friend on how to move forward with his marijuana ring by avoiding police-controlled phone calls and drug buys. Olson resigned the day he was arrested.

In Newport News, Virginia, a Curry County Adult Detention Center officer was arrested August 14 after being caught on videotape supplying drugs and other contraband to prisoners. Officer Charlie Aguirre, 23, is charged with bringing contraband into the jail, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and attempt to commit a felony. He met an $11,000 bond and was released the same day. Aguirre is the fourth Curry County jail guard to be arrested for smuggling dope to inmates this year.

In Dedham, Massachusetts, a former Stoughton District Court security officer was sentenced August 15 to two years in jail for selling prescription pain pills on the courthouse grounds. Keely Johnson, 32, was convicted of two counts of possession with intent to distribute a Class C drug and drug violation near a school or park. After the state attorney general's office received a tip Johnson was peddling pills at the courthouse, undercover officers went in and twice bought Percocet tablets off her. Johnson only got three months for the possession with intent charge, but two years on the drug-free zone charge.

In Hamburg, Pennsylvania, a former Lykens police chief was sentenced Monday to nine months in jail and three months house arrest for "misplacing" $3,200 in money seized in drug arrests. Former Chief Chris Wade must also serve two years on probation and pay $6,000 in fines and restitution.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Boston cop goes to prison for being muscle for drug dealers, and a Miami-area cop and two prison guards get caught up in a massive Oxycontin and health fraud scandal. Let's get to it:

In Boston, a former Boston police officer was sentenced July 29 to 11 years in federal prison for acting as an enforcer for drug dealers. Former Officer Jose Ortiz, 46, pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to extort $265,000 from a man targeted by Colombian drug dealers working in the area. In the scheme, dealers approached a man seeking people who would work in their drug sales business, then told him one of the people he recommended had ripped them off and he was responsible. In August 2006, Ortiz showed up in uniform at the man's workplace, saying he was there on behalf of the dealers, who would kill the man if he did not pay $265,000. In May 2007, the man, who had gone to the FBI with the threats, gave Ortiz $4,000 in cash and four kilos of cocaine in a Revere parking lot. The FBI then swooped down on Ortiz and arrested him.

In Miami, a Hialeah police officer and two Miami-Dade corrections officers were arrested Wednesday along with 59 other people in an illegal Oxycontin and healthcare fraud ring. Fifty-two of the 62 people arrested were Miami-Dade employees, including 17 bus drivers, 10 bus attendants, five school security guards, and six garbage men. Hialeah Police Officer Danette Dell and jail guards Lori Lucky and Reginald Fletcher are among those facing grand theft and other charges in the scam, in which government employees used their health benefits to buy Oxycontin, then resell the pills on the black market.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Prison guards get busted as cocaine traffickers in Louisiana and New Jersey, and a pair of North Carolina cops plea to helping out the local cocaine trade. Let's get to it:

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, a Texas prison guard was arrested Monday night after Louisiana state troopers found 1.2 pounds of cocaine in her vehicle during a drug dog search after a traffic stop. LaQuatta Felder of Houston works at the Darrington Penitentiary in Rosharon, Texas, and was traveling with a former Darrington prisoner, Joseph Harris. Both were booked into the the Jefferson Davis Parish Jail for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

In Newark, New Jersey, a veteran Newark prison guard was charged July 24 with leading a cocaine trafficking ring that bought the drug in Texas and Florida and sold it in New Jersey. Senior corrections officers Eugene Braswell, 29, worked at Northern State Prison. He first came under scrutiny last August, when he shot and killed a former Northern State prisoner outside his home. The investigation into that shooting led to two arrests earlier this month, and then Braswell and three others were arrested last week. Police found $16,000 in cash and a .357 magnum revolver when they searched his home. He is charged with leading a narcotics network, other drug charges, money laundering and conspiracy. Bail was set at $500,000.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, two former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers have cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors in the case against them for conspiring with a drug dealer and an informant to sell crack cocaine. Ex-officers Gerald Holas Jr. and Jason Ross agreed to guilty pleas in return for a prosecutorial recommendation they be sentenced to the statutory 10-year minimum sentence for drug conspiracy. In return for the recommended minimum, the two men must make "full, accurate and complete disclosure" to federal authorities about their involvement in the conspiracy. If they're found to have lied, or if they commit any crime, the deal is off. The pair went down after a confidential informant told the FBI a drug dealer was being protected by them. They claimed they were "working" the dealer to make more arrests, but the feds didn't buy that. Now, local prosecutors say they will dismiss any drug cases brought by the pair. Those could number in the hundreds. The plea bargain must be approved by a federal judge in the fall.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Three cases of crooked cops in Florida this week, and a pair of asset forfeiture abuse situations in St. Louis and Muncie, Indiana. Let's get to it:

In Altamonte Springs, Florida, an Altamonte Springs police officer and his wife were arrested Monday night on federal drug and weapons charges. Officer Clay Adams, a nine-year veteran and former member of the department's drug task force, was arrested by DEA and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents when he went to work Monday night. Adams and his wife are accused of operating a marijuana grow house that supplied pot to distributors in Tallahassee, as well as dealing in illicit prescription drugs. Adams is also accused of possessing weapons and explosives. The pair went down after a person Adams recruited to work in the operation turned out to be a snitch. Adams and his wife were jailed pending a hearing today.

In Miami, five Miami-Dade County jail guards were arrested last Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury for smuggling drugs into the facility. They went down thanks to an FBI undercover operation in which an agent posed as a drug dealer and sold them heroin and cocaine for resale behind bars. A jail kitchen employee and several inmates were also charged. The guards face a maximum 20-year sentence on each charge and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

In Miami, two Miami-Dade police officers were arrested July 17 during a joint state-federal raid on a cocaine and gambling ring. Officer Michael Anthony King, 42, faces state charges of illegal gambling and federal charges of aiding and abetting the distribution of powder and crack cocaine. King is a 19-year veteran officer. Officer Antonio Roberts, a 27-year veteran of the force, faces similar charges. They were among 36 people arrested in the raid, including former Dade County corrections officer Marvin "Cone Head" Coney, who is accused of being a cocaine distributor. King and Roberts allegedly used their positions as police officers to help Cone Head and others avoid arrest. If convicted, they face sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison.

In St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Department has been using seized cars, including those seized in drug busts, to keep the chief's daughter in new vehicles, according to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It wasn't just Aimie Mokwa, the daughter of Chief Joe Mokwa, who benefited from the sweetheart deal between the department and St. Louis Metropolitan Towing, which handles seized vehicles for the city. Police officers also received similar perks, such as free use of seized vehicles and the opportunity to buy them for deeply reduced prices. Now, Chief Mokwa has stopped the practice, but many questions remain. The Post-Dispatch story goes into all the tawdry details.

In Muncie, Indiana, abuses in the way the Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force and the county prosecutor handled local drug asset forfeiture cases are prompting new, tighter rules. Under a draft of the new rules written by a Delaware Circuit Court 2 Judge Richard Dailey, criminal cases will actually have to be disposed of before any civil forfeiture action can begin, and an independent attorney -- not the county prosecutor -- will handle those cases. Current County Prosecutor Mark McKinney received almost $100,000 in attorney's fees over the past decade for handling forfeiture cases. The prosecutor and the drug task force made confidential agreements to divvy up the booty, using much of it to fund further task force operations, as well as buying equipment for police gyms and carpeting the prosecutor's office, a violation of Indiana state law. That law says proceeds from drug forfeitures should be placed in local government general funds and common school funds after law enforcement costs have been paid.

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