Police Corruption

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A South Texas cop goes down for escorting drug shipments, a Colorado prison guard gets nailed carrying pens full of dope, and more. Let's get to it:

In Canon City, Colorado, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Tuesday to two years' probation for trying to smuggle meth and opioids into the Fremont prison. Kyle Gotham Tatro, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of felony contraband after authorities stopped him on his way to work and seized four plastic pens. One contained 6 grams of meth, two contained 20 grams of opiates, and one contained nine blue oxycodone pills. Tatro admitted being paid $250 to deliver the drugs.

In Bessemer, Alabama, a guard at the William Donaldson Correctional Facility was arrested last Wednesday for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the jail. Wilson Brian Clemons, 32, faces one count of conspiracy and one count of using a facility in interstate commerce in furtherance of an illegal activity. He is accused of taking bribes to facilitate the smuggling and using a fake name to create an account on Cash App so he could accept bribes anonymously. Clemons went down in November 2021 after he tried to bring cell phones, marijuana, Xanax, cigars, and scales into the facility. Clemons also agreed to forfeit the money he made from the conspiracy. He's looking at up to five years in state prison.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Brownsville police officer was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison for providing protection for what he thought was a load of methamphetamine being transported through the city. Jose Salinas had earlier pleaded guilty to trafficking at least one kilogram of meth over a March 2020 incident where he took $2,500 in cash for escorting drugs from a car lot he owed to a stash house he provided. He had parked a city police car in front of the stash house to protect the shipment.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Pentagon cop gets nailed peddling cocaine, a Memphis cop goes to prison for ripping off and torturing alleged drug dealers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lamesa, Texas, a prison guard was arrested October 10 after being caught trying to smuggle liquid PCP and liquid fentanyl into the Lamesa state prison. Guard Gilma Paredes was caught with 17.5 ounces of liquid PCP and 21 ounces of liquid fentanyl as she arrived at work, and authorities found an additional 30.5 ounces of liquid PCP and five ounces of liquid fentanyl in her vehicle.

In Vidalia, Louisiana, a former jail guard was arrested October 13 for smuggling drugs into the Concordia Parish Jail. Now former Correctional Officer Anthony Godbold, 35, is charged with two counts of malfeasance in office, two counts of introducing contraband into jail two counts and possession of schedule I controlled substances with intent to distribute.

In Chickasha, Oklahoma, an Oklahoma City police officer was arrested October 21 on drug dealing charges. Officer Dean Yancy Forbes was booked into the Grady County Jail on unspecified multiple charges, as was his wife, Sandra Joy Forbes. He is now on administrative leave with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

In Easley, South Carolina, a now former Greenville County sheriff's deputy was arrested October 24 on marijuana distribution charges. Deputy Nicholas Craig Ison, 22, went down after providing weed to a confidential informant and was immediately fired as well as arrested. He was booked into the Pickens County Jail.

In Arlington, Virginia, a Pentagon police officer was arrested Monday after narcotics detectives watched him picking up a shipment of cocaine. Officer Eric Welch, 33, went down after Arlington detectives received a tip that he was selling cocaine and caught him as he was restocking his supply. He faces charges of possessing at least 2.5 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute and while carrying a firearm. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In Richland, Washington, a former state prison guard was sentenced October 4 to 46 month in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the Benton County Jail. Former guard Eric Christian, 34, had pleaded guilty in December 2021 to conspiracy to provide prohibited objects to an inmate of a prison in exchange for bribes. Christian and six codefendants conspired to introduce multiple cell phones, methamphetamine, heroin, suboxone strips, and other contraband into the Benton County Jail. As part of the conspiracy, Christian and his co-conspirators also provided access to dangerous offenders and gang members so that they could identify, assault, and retaliate against cooperating defendants as well as inmates charged with certain types of offenses.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former Columbus vice officer was sentenced October 6 to 18 months in federal prison for planting cocaine on the owner of a strip club. Former Officer Steven Rosser, 46, had been convicted in February of violating the civil rights of club owner Armen Stipanyian by searching him and his vehicle without a warrant and then falsely claiming he found cocaine residue on a desk in Stipanyian's office and arresting him. The planted cocaine amounted to .017 grams. After fraudulently arresting Stipanyian, Rosser falsified documents to conceal his misdeeds. The strip club investigation was an outgrowth of the arrest of adult film star Stormy Daniels at another strip club in the city, and it was FBI agents looking into the Daniels arrests that turned up Rosser's misbehavior. The vice unit that Rosser belonged to was disbanded in 2019 after the Stormy Daniels debacle.

In Machias, Maine, a former Calais police officer was sentenced October 15 to four years in state prison on drug and gun charges after originally being arrested for giving opioid pain pills to a teenage girl in a high school parking lot. The pills were meant for the girl's mother. Jeffrey Bishop, 55, was arrested less than a week after retiring from the department. It is not clear what the exact charges he was convicted of are.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a former Memphis police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison for his role in a police gang that robbed and beat alleged drug dealers. Former Officer Sam Blue, 63, conspired with others from 2014 to 2018 to rob drug dealers and provided his coconspirators with information such as the home addresses of their targets obtained from restricted law enforcement sources, as well as police badges and dashboard blue lights.

In one case, the gang targeted Eric Cain, surveilling him and putting a GPS tracker on his vehicle. Blue provided the gate code needed to get access to Cain's apartment complex, and the rogue crew stopped him on the pretext he was being arrested, handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to another house in Memphis, where they beat him and burned him on his arms, neck, and head while demanding he tell them where his money was. Cain escaped and went to authorities after spending a week in the hospital for his injuries. Blue pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to violate civil rights by using force, violence, and intimidation, and conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, it's all jail and prison guards gone wild. Let's get to it:

In Charlotte, North Carolina, an Alexander County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly supplying $300,000 worth of suboxone and synthetic marijuana to inmates at the jail. Guard Caroline Nicole Lyon, 29, went down after what authorities said was an extended investigation. She is charged with one account of felony providing drugs to inmates and placed under a $10,000 secure bond.

In Boston, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday after being found in possession of suboxone as he arrived for work at MCI-Norfolk. Guard Vito Forlano, 44, is charged with possession of a class B drug, as well as distribution of a class B drug and delivering an article to a prisoner. He has been placed on leave and ordered to stay away from the prison.

In Albany, Georgia, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison for trying to smuggle drug and cellphones into the Calhoun State Prison. Tempress Johnson, 35, was caught in a prison van with two pounds of meth and eight cellphones and admitted being paid $10,000 for her efforts. She had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Arkansas cop breaks bad, a North Carolina detective gets nailed for crooked busts, and more. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a former Raleigh police detective was arrested on July 29 for a string of wrongful drug arrests he made in 2019 and 2020. Then-Detective Omar Abdullah used an informant on controlled drug buys to arrest Black men on drug trafficking charges. But lab tests showed that the "drugs" the informant used in those transactions were not illegal narcotics and Abdullah failed to record the transactions on video. He was fired from the department in November 2021, and he is now charged with felony obstruction of justice.

In San Antonio, Texas, a former Bexar County jail deputy was arrested last Monday for smuggling drugs to a jail inmate. Mario Sepulveda, 21, went down after the sheriff's office was tipped that he was sneaking meth and synthetic marijuana to an inmate. Authorities then listened to a recorded phone conversation between the inmate and a woman on the outside that revealed the woman would give drugs to Sepulveda and he would be paid through an online app. He is charged with abuse of official capacity between $1,500 and $20,000, a state jail felony, and possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility, a third-degree felony.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a Broward County jail deputy was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. Deputy Victoria Campos-Marquetti, 21, came to authorities' attention over a relationship with an inmate, and that led to her arrest. She is charged with possessing oxycodone with intent to deliver, unlawful compensation, and committing a second-degree felony while armed.

In Gatesville, Texas, a state prison guard was arrested last Wednesday after being caught with cell phones, various illicit drugs, and other contraband that was destined for the prison. Guard Mederis Shaw, 33, faces being fired from his job and possibly felony charges once the prison system finishes its investigation and refers to the case to its Special Prosecution Unit.

In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a state prison guard was arrested Monday for allegedly selling drugs to a prisoner. Guard Natalie Greene, 24, went down after authorities got word of drug sales and set up a deal where undercover investigators posed as drug distributors to meet with her. She accepted $1,000 in cash and a package of fake drugs and was then arrested. She is charged with contraband and drug dealing offenses.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a former Lowell police officer was sentenced August 18 to more than 12 years in federal prison for slinging meth. Skylar Houston went down after his name came up as the Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force was investigating a drug trafficking operation. Detectives then conducted two separate controlled meth buys from Houston and then arrested him in April 2021. During a search of his residence, they found over 7 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 4 pounds of marijuana, 1,485 Xanax pills, LSD, mushrooms and steroids.  Two additional firearms were also seized during execution of the warrant.  The drugs were locked in a safe for future distribution by the organization.  

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A California cop gets nailed for flushing legal weed down a toilet, a Denver sheriff's deputy heads to the slammer for her role in a drug-dealing ring, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bakersfield, California, a senior Bakersfield police officer was arrested last Thursday for -- get this! -- flushing legal marijuana down a toilet. Officer Brendan Thebeau was part of a team of officers who served a search warrant on a residence, where the suspect brandished a weapon at officers and was arrested. When other officers were not looking, Thebeau flushed the pot down the toilet. He went down after a citizen complained and a review of his body camera footage showed him doing so. He is charged with petty theft and is now on administrative leave pending further investigation.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a former Mat-Su prison guard was sentenced last Wednesday to two years in prison for smuggling drugs and cellphones into the Goose Creek Correctional Center. Angela Lincoln pleaded guilty to smuggling suboxone and cellphones to an inmate serving a 100-year sentence and admitted that she allowed "greed to overcome her ethical responsibilities." She also admitted pocketing $30,000 in bribes for her efforts.

In Denver, Colorado, a former Denver County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to 51 months in federal prison for her role in a drug-selling scheme. Syvlia Montoya, 49, went down after being caught with drugs and cash during a traffic stop. But first, her co-defendant was caught with a stolen, loaded handgun, 8 grams of meth, and 1.6 grams of cocaine during a traffic stop while driving her vehicle. In the second traffic stop weeks later, Montoya and her co-defendant were caught with $3,000 in cash and a plastic bag with a powdery white residue. After that, police searched her apartment and found 102 grams of cocaine, 8 grams of heroin, 27 grams of meth, four digital scales, and $1,342 in cash. Montoya had earlier pleaded guilty to maintaining a residence for the purpose of distributing illegal narcotics.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A small-town Pennsylvania got too friendly with the local drug dealer, a small-town Ohio cop probably wishes he had maintained domestic bliss, and more. 

In Ironton, Ohio, an Ironton police officer was arrested last Wednesday after a domestic dispute turned into a drug bust. Officer Bradley Spoljaric, 29, went down after Ironton police responded to a morning domestic disturbance call at his home. By that evening, he was arrested and charged with first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence, second-degree felony possession/trafficking in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 dugs and third-degree felony tampering with evidence. That's about all we know. 

In Dickson City, Pennsylvania, a Dickson City police office was arrested last Thursday for revealing a confidential informant's identity to a drug dealer. Patrolman Brandon Muta, 23, drew suspicions when he grew angry upon learning that another officer's informant had identified a certain man as a meth dealer. Muta told a detective that the dealer sometimes supplied him with information. Days later, that informant reported that the dealer had refused to sell her drugs and called her a "snitch," When interviewed later by the detective, the dealer had revealed the informant's name to him. The dealer also confirmed that he had snitched on other dealers for Muta and that Muta had revealed the identities of other informants. It's not clear what the exact charges against Muta are.

In LaGrange, Georgia, a Troup County Sheriff’s Office detention officer was arrested Tuesday after he got caught bringing drugs into the jail for money. Officer Steven Michael Crowder, 23, went down after allegations were made that he was bringing drugs in for inmates and being paid by a third party. An investigation ensued, and his arrest was the result. He faces four counts of violation of oath by a public officer, four counts of items prohibited for possession by inmates, and one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine

This Week's Corrupt Cop Stories

A South Carolina deputy gets in trouble for his relationship choices, a former small-town Pennsylvania police chief's heroin habit gets him in trouble, and more.

In Walterboro, South Carolina, a former Colleton County sheriff's deputy has resigned after an internal investigation found that he had been in a sexual relationship with "a known drug dealer/user" for the past year. Former Deputy William Janecki, who supervised the department's narcotics team, allegedly rented motel rooms for her and would overlook drugs in her possession during traffic stops with other deputies, as well as letting her know when warrants for her arrest were filed. Janecki has not yet been charged with anything, but the internal investigation has now been turned over to the State Law Enforcement Division, which will determine if any criminal charges are to be filed.

In Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, the former Elizabeth Borough police chief was indicted on federal charges last Wednesday for stealing heroin from the evidence locker. Former Chief Timothy Butler stole heroin evidence and was using it himself for nearly a year-and-a-half. He had already pleaded guilty to state charges for the same offense back in 2019 and skated with 45 months of probation. The feds have now charged him with one count of theft of government property. He was a member of a federal drug task force at the time and the drugs he stole were considered federal seized property.

In Tallahassee, Florida, a former Gadsden County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Tuesday to 10 months in federal prison for lying to a federal official about aiding a drug trafficker in 2018 and 2019 after he plea-bargained down from six charges, including unlawful use of a communication device or facilitate possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and intentionally attempting to possess a controlled substance, in this case cocaine. Joseph Barnes, 54, was also linked to a dog-fighting ring but was never charged for that. He went down after an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which was told that Barnes would help "large-scale" traffickers by, for example, removing covertly installed tracking devices from their vehicles. An informant then asked Barnes to remove any tracking devices from his vehicle, which he did with FBI agents watching. He also provided expertise on how to defeat drug dogs. When he was questioned by the FBI, he lied about it, and that is what he is going to prison for.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Michigan detective goes to prison for peddling fentanyl, a Tennessee deputy is in trouble over a tricky scheme to get his hands on a vehicle seized in a drug bust, and more. Let's get to it:

In Angola, Louisiana, an Angola state prison guard was arrested last Wednesday after she got caught sneaking meth into the prison inside a bag of potato chips. Now ex-Corrections Officer Alissa Plessy, 53, went down in a random search as she reported to work and was found to be carrying nearly 17 ounces of the drug, She is charged with possession with intent to distribute Schedule II narcotics and introduction of contraband into a penal institution.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly selling ghost guns and drugs to a motorcycle gang. Officer Steven Umberto Angelini, a 16-year veteran of the force, began selling and trading drugs with the president of the Maryland Infamous Ryders Motorcycle Club after a drug supplier they both knew was murdered. In January, he provided 90 oxycodone pills in exchange for $100 and an eighth-ounce of cocaine. He also offered the biker leader information on the dealer's murder and on buying more drugs. In April, Angelini made another deal, this time trading a ghost gun he said he built for cash and cocaine. The exact charges he faces were not specified.

In Covington, Tennessee, a former Tipton County sheriff's deputy was indicted last Wednesday for using his position as an evidence custodian to post a car that had been seized in a drug investigation for sale on a state web site in the middle of the night and then having a friend of his buy the vehicle for $500 34 seconds later using a "Buy Now" option. The vehicle was later sold on the site for $2,853.83 in October 2021. Former Deputy Daniel Jacobs was charged with official misconduct, attempted theft of property over $2,500 and computer crimes over $2,500.

In Highland Park, Michigan, a former Highland Park Police detective was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for peddling fentanyl. Tiffany Lipkovitch, 47, an 11-year detective, was caught arranging deliveries of samples of her wares on numerous recorded phone calls and in recorded meetings. She was convicted of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.

Chronicle Book Review: Opium's Orphans

Chronicle Book Review: Opium's Orphans: The 200-Year History of the War on Drugs by P.E. Caquet (2022, Reaktion Books, 400 pp., $35.00 HB)

The history of drug prohibition is increasingly well-trodden territory, but with Opium's Orphans, British historian P.E. Caquet brings a fascinating new perspective embedded in a sweeping narrative and fortified with an erudite grasp of the broad global historical context. Although Asian bans on opium pre-dated 19th Century China (the Thai monarchy announced a ban in the 1400s), for Caquet, the critical moment in what became a linear trajectory toward global drug prohibition a century later came when the Qing emperor banned opium in 1813 and imposed severe penalties on anything to do with it, including possessing it. Precisely 100 years later, after two Opium Wars imposed opium on the empire followed by decades of diplomatic wrangling over how to suppress the trade (and for moralizing Americans, how to win favor with China), the 1913 Hague Opium Convention ushered in the modern war on drugs with its targeting not just of opium (and coca) producers or sellers but also of mere users for criminal prosecution. It urged countries to enact such laws, and they did.

What began at the Hague would eventually grow into an international anti-drug bureaucracy, first in the League of Nations and then in United Nations bodies such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the International Narcotics Control Board. But it is a global prohibition regime that has, Caquet writes, straight-jacketed itself with an opium-based perspective that has proven unable or unwilling to recognize the differences among the substances over which it seeks dominion, reflexively resorting to opium and its addiction model. Drugs such as amphetamines, psychedelics, and marijuana don't really fit that model -- they are the orphans of the book's title -- and in a different world would be differently regulated.

But Opium's Orphans isn't just dry diplomatic history. Caquet delves deep into the social, cultural, and political forces driving drug use and drug policies. His description of the spread of opium smoking among Chinese elites before it spread into the masses and became declasse is both finely detailed and strangely evocative of the trajectory of cocaine use in the United States in the 1970s, when it was the stuff of rock musicians and Hollywood stars before going middle class and then spreading among the urban poor in the form of crack.

Along the way, we encounter opium merchants and colonial opium monopolies, crusading missionary moralists, and early Western proponents of recreational drug use, such as Confessions of an English Opium Eater author Thomas De Quincey and the French habitues of mid-19th Century hashish clubs. More contemporaneously, we also meet the men who achieved international notoriety in the trade in prohibited drugs, "drug lords" such as Khun Sa in the Golden Triangle, Pablo Escobar in Colombia and El Chapo Guzman in Mexico, as well as the people whose job it is to hunt them down. Caquet notes that no matter how often a drug lord is removed -- jailed or killed, in most cases -- the impact on the trade is negligible.

For Caquet, drug prohibition as a global phenomenon peaked with the adoption of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Coming as it did amidst a post-World War II decline in drug use around the world, the treaty criminalizing coca, cocaine, opium and opioids, and marijuana seemed to ratify a successful global prohibitionist effort. (In the US, in the 1950s, when domestic drug use was at low ebb, Congress passed tough new drug laws.) But before the decade was over, drug prohibition was under flamboyant challenge from the likes of LSD guru Timothy Leary and a horde of hippie pot smokers. The prohibitionist consensus was seeing its first cracks.

And the prohibitionist response was to crack down even harder, which in turn begat its own backlash. Drug use of all sorts began rising around the world in the 1960s and hasn't let up yet, and the increasingly omnivorous drug war machine grew right along with it, as did the wealth and power of the illicit groups that provided the drugs the world demanded. As the negative impacts of the global drug war -- from the current opioid overdose crisis in the US to the prisons filled with drug offenders to the bloody killing fields of Colombia and Mexico -- grew ever more undeniable, the critiques grew ever sharper.

In recent years, the UN anti-drug bureaucrats have been forced to grudgingly accept the notion of harm reduction, although they protest bitterly over such interventions as safe injection sites. For them, harm reduction is less of an erosion of the drug war consensus than all that talk of drug legalization. As Caquet notes, perhaps a tad unfairly, harm reduction doesn't seek to confront drug prohibition head-on, but to mitigate its harms.

The man is a historian, not a policymaker, and his response to questions about what to do now is "I wouldn't start from here." Still, at the end of it all, he has a trio of observations: First, supply reduction ("suppression" is his word) does not work. Sure, you can successfully wipe out poppies in Thailand or Turkey, but they just pop up somewhere else, like the Golden Triangle or Afghanistan. That's the infamous balloon effect. Second, "criminalization of the drug user has been a huge historical blunder." It has no impact on drug use levels, is cruel and inhumane, and it didn't have to be that way. A century ago, countries could have agreed to regulate the drug trade; instead, they tried to eradicate it in an ever-escalating, never-ending crusade. Third, illicit drugs as a group should be seen "as a historical category, not a scientific one." Different substances demand different approaches.

Opium's Orphans is a fascinating, provocative, and nuanced account of the mess we've gotten ourselves into. Now, we continue the work of trying to get out of that mess.

This Week's Corrupt Cop Stories

A Pennsylvania state trooper gets wasted on the job, and more. Let's get to it:

In Honesdale, Pennsylvania, a former Pennsylvania State Police corporal pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing drugs from the barracks evidence room. Ex-Corporal Brain Rickard didn't just steal them; he got wasted with them on the job, leading to his current predicament. And he used office computers to cover up the thefts. Richard had been found at work "in a compromised state, unable to function normally, and made a commotion when he was told to return home," prosecutors said. A subsequent search of his office turned up empty heroin packets and a crumpled evidence envelope, and additional packets with the same branding were found in Rickard's home when it was searched. He pleaded guilty to acquisition of controlled substance by misrepresentation, obstructing administration of law, tampering with physical evidence, forgery, and theft by unlawful taking. Sentencing is set for September 19.

In El Paso, a former El Paso police officer was sentenced last Thursday to two years in prison for helping her stepfather sell cocaine out of his house. Monica Garcia, 24, admitted using her position as a police officer to help him avoid being caught, including running license plates through a police database to figure out which ones belonged to undercover officers. But her stepfather still managed to make a sale to a snitch, leading to his arrest and conviction and subsequently to her arrest and conviction. She copped to one count of conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved house.

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