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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Pennsylvania cop's bad habits get him in trouble, a Boston cop goes to prison for steroids and perjury, and a Texas Department of Public Safety technician goes away for a long, long time for ripping off the lab's cocaine stash. Let's get to it:

In Erie, Pennsylvania, an Erie Police lieutenant was arrested Sunday night on charges he stole cocaine from the police evidence room for his personal use. Lt. Robert Liebel, 46, went down in a sting operation where investigators used surveillance equipment to watch him take 12 grams of coke out of a larger stash investigators had placed in the evidence room earlier in the day. When confronted, Liebel admitted having some of the cocaine in his hand and the rest hidden in the Erie police station. He told investigators he took it for his own use. We don't run corrupt cops stories about cops who merely use drugs, but in this case, the drug-using cop went bad when he stole from his employers, who in turn had taken the stash from private (albeit illegal) businesses. Now, he's trying to make a $100,000 bond.

In Boston, a former Boston police officer was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for distributing steroids and committing perjury and obstructing justice in an ongoing federal probe of police corruption. Former officer Edgardo Rodriguez, 38, went down after federal investigators in a 2006 case where three Boston cops were indicted for guarding cocaine shipments heard those cops mention steroid sales within the department on wiretapped phone calls. But it was the perjury and obstruction of justice by lying to a grand jury and trying to convince another Boston cop to do so that got the prosecutor and judge unhappy enough to give him jail time.

In Houston, a former Department of Public Safety technician was sentenced last Friday to 45 years in prison for stealing cocaine from the agency's Jersey Village crime lab. Former tech Jesse Hinojosa, Jr. had pleaded guilty in December to two counts of possession of more than 400 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute after he and three other men were arrested in a scheme to sell more than 50 pounds of coke stolen from the lab. The other three are doing 25, 25, and 45 years.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More Los Angeles area cops go down in a broad conspiracy, a Customs officer gets nailed for helping traffickers, a Kentucky cop gets nailed for peddling pills, another NYPD cop gets busted, and so does a Tennessee sheriff. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Hamilton County Sheriff was arrested last Friday by federal agents who charged him with extorting money from ethnic Indian convenience store owners and laundering what he thought was drug money sent from Mexico in cremation urns. Sheriff Billy Long, 55, was arrested after an undercover FBI investigation that began in April 2007. Beginning then, Long was videotaped and audiotaped taking cash payments amounting to more than $17,000 from what he thought were convenience store owners seeking to protect their illegal gambling activities and sales of meth precursors. The FBI also hornswoggled Long into accepting five cash payments totaling $6,550 that he agreed to deliver as a payment to someone supposedly laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal drug proceeds. Long was set for a bail hearing early this week.

In Los Angeles, a former LAPD officer and his brother, a former Long Beach police officer, were convicted January 30 of ripping off drug dealers in a series of burglaries and robberies between 1999 and 2001. Former LAPD Officer William Ferguson and former Long Beach Police Officer Joseph Ferguson were found guilty of conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess narcotics with the intent to distribute, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. They were part of a broader conspiracy to rip-off dealers that has so far resulted in guilty pleas from 15 people, including members of the LAPD, Long Beach Police, LA County Sheriff's Department, and the California Department of Corrections. The rogue cops would target locations where drugs were being sold, then hit the places, pretending that they were conducting legitimate drug raids. The victims were variously restrained, cuffed, threatened, or assaulted during the robberies. The cops would give their booty to civilian co-conspirators to sell, then split the proceeds among themselves.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted last Friday on federal charges of attempting to help traffickers smuggle cocaine and heroin into Miami International airport from Puerto Rico. Officer Edwin Disla was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin. Disla went down in a sting after agreeing to carry what he thought was cocaine through the Luis Munoz Marin Airport in Puerto Rico and Miami International Airport. During his trip, he used his law enforcement authority to bypass security. He was arrested in Puerto Rico after agreeing to take possession of multi-pound shipments of what he thought were heroin and cocaine. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in April.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a former central Kentucky police officer was sentenced Monday for plotting with his girlfriend to peddle Oxycontin. Former Lebanon Police Sgt. David Carr, 33, was sentenced to one year and a day after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute the drug. He and his girlfriend were arrested together in June; she got four months in jail and four months of house arrest.

In New York City, an NYPD detective was indicted January 31 on federal charges that he was providing confidential information to cocaine dealers. Detective Luis Batista pleaded not guilty to drug dealing, obstruction of justice, and other charges in a case where he is accused of participating in a drug ring run by old friends. Another NYPD officer, internal affairs Sgt. Henry Conde, was also indicted, on charges that last year he tipped Batista that he was the target of an internal probe.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas probation officer gets busted, a Baltimore cop gets caught beating on a suspected drug buyer, a Virginia cop gets popped for meth, a slew of prison guards get busted in Florida, and another in New Mexico. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Big Sandy, Texas, an Upshur County juvenile probation officer was arrested last month on drug possession charges after police raided the home she shared with her boyfriend. Probation officer Jessica Hill is charged with possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a dangerous drug. The raid came down after an intoxicated man was arrested and said he bought the methamphetamine found in is sock at Hill's home. The police affidavit for the search warrant said officers suspected cocaine, marijuana, meth, and pills were being sold out of the home. Cops found scales, baggies with residues, marijuana, white powders, various pills, and a 9 mm handgun, among other items. According to a later report, Hill's boyfriend moved out some months ago, leaving her as the probable drug seller, assuming in fact drug sales took place. Hill has been freed on bond, but now has to find a new job -- she was fired shortly after her arrest.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested last Friday for assaulting a man he thought was a drug buyer. Instead, the victim was an undercover detective posing as a drug customer in a sting set up by detectives investigating a citizen complaint against the officer. Now that officer, Jerome Hill, 35, has been suspended without pay and faces second-degree assault charges. He was under investigation because of a prior "serious allegation" made by a citizen. Charging documents described how one undercover detective stood on a street corner while another called in a complaint of a suspicion person who seemed to be looking for drugs. In a few minutes, Officer Hill arrived, got out of his car, and punched the undercover detective in the face without provocation. Hill and another officer then attempted to handcuff the undercover detective, but his colleagues arrived on the scene and took Hill to headquarters for questioning. Residents on North Clinton Street, where Hill was arrested, said he had a reputation as a tough officer and that police routinely rough up local youths.

In Abingdon, Virginia, a former Saltville police officer was convicted on two drug charges last Friday. Former Police Investigator Gary Ray Call was convicted of attempted possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm. Call went down after a cooperating witness said she had sold him meth on previous occasions and then set him up to buy four bag of fake meth for resale. According to trial testimony, Call had been using meth for three years and had begun using it with a Smyth County deputy while he was working as a DARE officer. Call is looking at 18 to 24 months in federal prison.

In Sumter County, Florida, nine federal prison employees were indicted last Friday on charges they smuggled contraband -- mostly tobacco, but also marijuana and heroin -- into the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman. Most were accused of receiving bribes of up to $20,000. The charges were filed against seven correctional officers, a cook and a drug-treatment counselor who worked at the five low-, medium- and high-security prison facilities at Coleman.

In Clovis, New Mexico, a Curry County jail officer was arrested January 22 and charged with smuggling marijuana to inmates. Guard Carsten Douglas, 23, admitted smuggling in packages of marijuana, but said he was blackmailed by inmates. According to Douglas, an inmate stole his handcuff keys, and he agreed to carry in packages in return for the inmate not telling authorities about the incident. He admitted to delivering four packages in a one week period. He now faces four counts of bringing contraband into a jail and four counts of conspiracy.

Latin America: Mexican Soldiers Raid Police in Drug Fight in Rio Grande Valley Border Cities

Elite Mexican army troops relieved municipal police forces of duty in border towns in Tamaulipas state Tuesday as part of President Felipe Calderón's bid to break the power of Mexican drug trafficking organizations. From Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, all the way down to Matamoros, near where the river drains into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mexican military was on the move.

Mexican anti-drug patrol
In Nuevo Laredo, soldiers surrounded police headquarters at 8:00am, ordering officers to remain inside while they disarmed them and searched for evidence linking them to drug traffickers. Members of the army's elite Airborne Special Forces Group set up checkpoints throughout the city.

Similar takeovers were reported in Reynosa and Matamoros, where the Los Angeles Times, citing local media, reported 600 police officers were confined to their stations and being questioned by federal authorities.

The Dallas Times reported that Mexican soldiers were also pouring into Ciudad Juárez, setting up checkpoints, and searching homes for weapons. Some soldiers were reported stationed outside a hospital where a top state law enforcement official was recovering from an assassination attempt by presumed drug cartel hit men. Authorities in Juárez had last week asked Calderón for help after 29 people were killed there so far this year.

The military takeovers are not a new tactic for Calderón; he did the same thing last year in Tijuana, sending more than 3,000 soldiers and federal police into the border city to vet local police. That operation lasted three weeks; since then, drug prohibition-related violence has continued unabated. At least 17 people were killed there last week, including three senior police officials, one of whom was shot in his home alongside his wife and two daughters.

It has been similarly hot along the Rio Grande, where the troops are now on patrol. Just two weeks ago, we reported on gun battles between traffickers and soldiers in Rio Bravo, between Matamoros and Reynosa, and a subsequent attack on soldiers on patrol in Reynosa.

President Calderón is aggressively waging the war on drugs, or more specifically, on his country's powerful, violent, and competing drug trafficking organizations. More than 20,000 are taking part in anti-drug efforts, and the arrests and the seizures continue. But so does the killing, and so does the drug traffic.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Scandal broadens in Brooklyn South, a cop working for a federal drug task force goes bad in California, and a pair of private prison guards in Texas get in trouble. Let's get to it:

In New York City, the Brooklyn South Narcotics scandal continues to grow. On Monday night, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly transferred the commanding officer of citywide narcotics, Deputy Chief James O'Neill; the head of Brooklyn South Narcotics, Inspector James O'Connell; and two Brooklyn South Narcotics captains, John Maldari and Joseph Terranova. That move came after word leaked out that 15 Brooklyn South Narcotics detectives have been put on desk duty as the NYPD Bureau of Internal Affairs investigates charges they took sex, drugs and cash from drug users and dealers. Four others have been arrested on charges they stole drugs to pay off informants. The latest trouble in the scandal-plagued precinct began to unravel when Detective Sean Johnstone, 34, forgot he was wearing a wire as he bragged to his partner about seizing 28 bags of cocaine, but only turning in 17. He and another officer, Julio Alvarez, 30, were arrested December 20. Those arrests led to the arrests last week of Sgt. Michael Arenella, 31, and Officer Jerry Bowens, 41, of the same squad. All are accused of stealing cash from drug dealers, and at least one is accused of having sex with an informant.

In Huntington Park, California, a police officer working in a federal drug task force was arrested January 17 for cultivating informants to help him identify and rob drug dealers and sell their wares. Huntington Park Police Sgt. Alvaro Murillo, 44, even tried to rob an undercover DEA agent posing as a dealer, the federal indictment alleges. Murillo and one of his informants face one count each of conspiracy to possess cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute.

In Liberty, Texas, two jail guards were arrested Tuesday after agreeing to smuggle drugs in to a federal prisoner. Guards Shondlyn Jones, 25, and Manitra Taylor, 42, accepted drugs and cash from an undercover agent. They now face charges of conspiring to delivery marijuana and ecstasy. The pair were employed by CiviGenics, Inc., a private prison firm that operates the Liberty County jail.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The Detroit drug squad is under investigation, a Pennsylvania police chief is accused of stealing money from drug busts, and a Wisconsin prison has a problem with pill-stealing guards. Let's get to it:

In Detroit, the Detroit Police Department has invited the FBI to join its investigation of the department's Narcotics Unit. The move comes as the department digs into the unit's "conspiracy crews," teams of narcotics officers who work on long-term investigations of big-time drug dealers. Some members of one of the crews are suspected of stealing as much as a half million dollars. The accused officers have been reassigned to other duties pending the results of the investigation. A minimum of four officers are alleged to be involved, and perhaps more.

In Lykens, Pennsylvania, the police chief was arrested Monday for stealing money seized in drug busts. Chief W.R. Wade, who was suspended with pay two months ago, is charged with two counts of theft for stealing the money, as well as another count of unsworn falsification, for lying about a previous arrest on his job application. He is now suspended without pay. Wade went down after he announced the arrests of 21 people on drug charges, but in the end only arrested seven and failed to provide any evidence. Investigators found $3,800 in missing seized cash from one case and $200 from another in his home.

In Portage, Wisconsin, a prison guard was arrested January 7 for stealing narcotic drugs intended for sick prisoners. David Yatalese, 53, a guard at the Columbia Correctional Institution, is charged with theft, possession of a controlled substance and possession at or near a prison, a felony. According to prison officials, an internal CCI investigation tracked missing oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone back to Yatalese after another prison worker noticed prisoners' prescriptions coming up in need of renewal too quickly. Yatalese is the third guard caught stealing prisoners' drugs in the previous 20 months. One is awaiting trial, and the other got two years probation and drug treatment. Prison officials said they have a "serious problem" and are working on solutions.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There's some funny accounting in some Mississippi anti-drug task forces, a pot-peddling Houston cop is in hot water, there's a bunch of dope missing from the Boston police evidence room, and crooked cops are headed for prison in Chicago, Nashville, and New Haven. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, three former Chicago police officers were sentenced to prison last week for stealing drugs from dealers and then reselling them. Former officer Eural Black got 40 years, Broderick Jones got 25 years, and Darek Haynes got 19 years. The three went down in a joint 2005 investigation by the FBI and Chicago police into cops working with drug dealers. Five dealers were also arrested. The dealers would tip off Jones to where he and his comrades could steal drugs, mainly cocaine and marijuana, and the cops would then raid the place, but instead of arresting the dealers, they resold their wares.

In New Haven, Connecticut, a former New Haven police detective was sentenced to prison Monday for falsifying evidence and stealing money during drug investigations. Former detective Jose Silva had pleaded guilty three months ago to one count of deprivation of individual rights for what prosecutors called his minor role in wrongdoing uncovered during a joint state-federal probe of the department. That probe resulted in the arrest of the department's head narcotics officer and the months-long disbanding of the drug squad. Silva confessed to standing by while another detective moved seized drugs during a raid to bolster the case against a suspect and to splitting with his partner $1,000 confiscated during a drug raid. He got 90 days.

In Nashville, a former Nashville police officer was sentenced to 12 years in prison last Friday for his role in a plot to rip off drug dealers. Former officer Ernest Cecil got 12 years in federal prison for his role in the scheme where the nephew of one of the cops helped them pinpoint and rob a cocaine dealer, but disguised it as a legitimate law enforcement operation. The nephew then peddled the cocaine, and the crooked cops pocketed $70,000.

In Houston, a a Houston police officer was arrested Wednesday for delivery of between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana, a second degree felony. Officer Traci Tennarse, 29, is a Class B officer who works in an administrative capacity in the department Identification Division where she checks fingerprints of all suspects brought to the county jail. She has been relieved of duty with pay, but at last report was being held in the very jail where she checked prints.

In Boston, some 700 bags of drug evidence have gone missing at the Boston Police Department central drug depository, a 14-month investigation into missing evidence has found. Another 265 evidence bags had been tampered with, in some cases with drug evidence replaced by aspirin tablets. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis announced last Friday that the most likely culprit is a police officer because only police are allowed into the depository. Boston police, Suffolk County prosecutors, and the FBI have launched a joint investigation. The 12 officers who worked at the depository were removed last October. Among the missing drugs are cocaine, heroin, Oxycontin, and marijuana.

In Jackson, Mississippi, at least three of the state's multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces are being investigated over suspicious payment vouchers for drug buys and time sheets that appeared to show officers in two places at the same time. The irregularities appeared during routine audits in 2006 and have resulted in at least one task force, North Central, losing its state-disbursed federal funding for the last two years. Officials from the South Central Narcotics Task Force and the Tri-County Narcotics Task force are appealing decisions to deny them funding as well. The state Department of Public Safety has requested that the US Justice Department investigate.

The Drug War is a Training Camp for Corrupt Cops

In order to fight the drug war, police are trained in all the skills they need to become effective criminal masterminds. And many of them end up doing exactly that.

The Los Angeles Times tells the story of a group of narcotics officers who formed a gang that robbed dealers and sold drugs. It's a disturbing, though perfectly typical and illustrative, example of how the drug war functions as a training seminar in police corruption.

In the beginning, corruption is just a tactic for catching the bad guy:
Palomares admitted on the stand that he and fellow officers periodically planted drugs -- "cop dope," he called it -- on suspects against whom they didn't have sufficient evidence and then wrote false police reports, but he said he felt doing so was justified.

"We felt we were at war," he said. The officers who did such things, he said, "were the officers who really did their jobs and didn't let the gang members win."
Then it escalates. Widespread corruption inspires "clean" officers to turn dirty and get a taste of the action:
Palomares said he turned to crime after getting hurt on the job and becoming disillusioned by the suspension and subsequent firing of officers implicated in the Rampart police corruption scandal.
Good cops, once corrupted, make the best bad cops:
Palomares said William Ferguson, whom he met while the two worked together briefly in the Rampart Division, was a thorough searcher whom he could count on to find drugs or money hidden in locations where they conducted their bogus raids.

"I used to joke that he was like a bloodhound," Palomares testified, a slight smile crossing his face. "If there were drugs, I knew he would find them."
Police training and resources are converted into instruments of criminality:
Under questioning by prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blumberg of the Justice Department's civil rights division, Palomares at times sounded like an active duty police officer as he talked about "formulating a plan" prior to doing "takedowns" on the locations.

Blumberg asked about the significance of arriving at the locations in a police car.

"That way we wouldn't have any resistance or any problems," Palomares said.
It's important to note that the reason police are constantly arrested for drug war corruption isn’t because they're sloppy. These are highly skilled criminals with unique knowledge of how to keep their criminal enterprises under the radar. The reason we hear stories like this so often is because police corruption in the drug war is incredibly commonplace and endemic. Thus, for every such story one reads, countless similar operations continue undetected.

As this story illustrates, it does not matter if narcotics officers are subjected to rigorous psychological evaluations, background checks, or financial disclosures. This is all irrelevant because they aren't dirty when they arrive. They are rendered that way by the inherent filthiness of the job itself. The grinding, fruitless, repetitive process of whacking moles with a mallet leaves one defeated and desperate. As frustration ensues, one eventually casts the mallet aside and commences kicking the arcade machine until the coins come pouring out.

So if anybody needs a concrete demonstration of the drug war's inevitable continued failure, look no further than the daily revelations in our nation's newspapers about the role of police themselves in redistributing confiscated narcotics for personal profit.
United States

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cop Stories

A crooked Florida cop seeks a sentence cut, and two more jail guards get in trouble. Let's get to it:

In Miami, a former Hollywood police sergeant convicted in a drug sting is seeking a sentence cut. Former officer Jeff Courtney, one of four Hollywood officers convicted in an operation where FBI agents posed as heroin dealers, is seeking a three-year reduction in his nine-year sentence. US attorneys agreed, saying he offered "substantial assistance" to prosecutors and should be rewarded. Courtney and fellow officers Sgt. Kevin Companion, Detective Thomas Simcox and Officer Stephen Harrison were arrested in February after admitting they helped protect a 10-kilogram shipment of heroin for the FBI agents, who were posing as mobsters. All four pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to possess and distribute more than a kilogram of heroin and all are doing between nine and 14 years.

In Florence, Arizona, a Pinal County Sheriff's Office jail guard was indicted December 27 for conspiracy to take contraband into a correctional facility and conspiracy to transport and/or sell marijuana. Jose Dolores Felix, 45, has been transferred to the Maricopa County Jail and placed on unpaid administrative leave.

In Reed City, Michigan, an Osceola County special prosecutor is pondering charges against a jail guard after he admitted stealing and using prescription drugs intended for inmates. The officer, whose name has been withheld pending formal charges, was arrested December 27 after confessing to the misdeed to investigators from the Michigan Sheriffs' Association. The Osceola County Sheriff's Department contacted the state organization to investigate after it noticed pills were missing. [Ed: Another case where the question needs to be asked, corruption or desperation? More facts than were reported are needed to know for sure.]

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The allure of cocaine proves too much for a California highway patrolman and a pair of Brooklyn narcs, and a pair of New Jersey cops pay for peddling pills. Let's get to it:

In Santa Ana, California, a California Highway Patrol officer was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing more than a million dollars worth of cocaine from a Highway Patrol evidence room. Officer Joshua Blackburn, 32, a six-year-veteran, is accused of breaking into the evidence room at the patrol's Santa Ana headquarters. Highway Patrol authorities discovered the theft Friday and notified Santa Ana Police, who made the arrest. Blackburn is being held on $4 million bail at the Orange County Jail.

In New York City, a former Newark police officer was sentenced December 20 to 33 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in a scheme where he, another Newark police officer, and a New Jersey doctor conspired to obtain dozens of illegal prescriptions for Oxycontin, fill the prescriptions, then sell the drugs for cash. Former officer Ronald Pompanio, 42, faced up to 87 months, but got a break for cooperating in the investigation and testifying against the doctor. Both Pompanio and former officer John Hernandez pleaded guilty in September 2006 to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin, after admitting that they filled the prescriptions and sold the drugs on the street in northern New Jersey. The doctor, Joan Jaszczult of Bloomfield, has also pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in prison. The conspirators admitted to trafficking in a minimum of 250,000 milligrams of oxycodone. [Ed: The question always needs to be asked in cases like this, was the doctor a real conspirator, or was the doctor an unwitting victim about whom the drug sellers made up a story to get time off their sentences? Or whose actions the prosecutors misrepresented? Media outlets often rely on the official line without investigating further, so to really know the story in a case like this it might be necessary to independently examine the facts.]

In New York City, two NYPD officers were arrested on December 19 on charges of misconduct and falsifying records in connection with the disappearance of 11 bags of cocaine. Officers Julio Alvarez and Sean Johnstone of the Brooklyn South narcotics unit arrested a man on September 13 and turned over 17 bags of cocaine as evidence, but Johnstone, who was working undercover with Alvarez, was later recorded saying that Alvarez had actually seized 28 baggies of cocaine. This is the same pair of officers who made these pages last week, when we reported on a brewing scandal at Brooklyn South over the use of racial epithets recorded by transmitters they were wearing. It was those same transmitters that recorded the admission of stealing the 11 bags of cocaine. Unlike most defendants in New York's courts, Alvarez and Johnstone were given the courtesy of appearing in court without handcuffs and were allowed to remain free without bail. [Ed: Why the special treatment? Why not the same courtesy for other defendants?]

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