Police Corruption

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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 "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.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Iowa deputy's pill habit got way out of control, a Pennsylvania cop gets in trouble for letting a drug gang use his apartment as a stash house, and more. Let's get to it:

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a Hanover Township police officer was arrested last Friday for letting a Wilkes Barre apartment he owned be used as a stash house by a drug trafficking operation with ties to Mexico. Officer Kevin Davis is related by marriage to the alleged gang leader, and authorities say he assisted the group in their operations. Davis was just one of nine people busted in the operation, which netted 10 pounds of meth, 2.7 pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of marijuana, and $15,000 in cash. He and most of the others are charged with possession with intent to distribute, corrupt organizations, conspiracy, and criminal use of communications facility.

In Bakersfield, California, a Kern County sheriff's detention deputy was arraigned Monday for allegedly bringing meth into the jail. Deputy Elizabeth Fernandez, a 21-year veteran, was found in possession of the drug during her shift, and was charged with being under the influence of drugs, drug possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff's officials said it was not clear if the drugs were for her personal use or if she was trafficking to inmates.

In Los Angeles, a former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer pleaded guilty June 10 to smuggling what he thought was meth through LAX in return for an $8,000 bribe. Michael Williams, 39, was instead the victim of a sting by authorities who suspected him of helping smuggle drugs past checkpoints at the airport. He met with an informant to receive the fake meth in a backpack and agreed to deliver it to an accomplice past the airport's security checkpoint. Then he did so. Then he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to one count of attempted distribution of methamphetamine. He's looking at a 10-year federal mandatory minimum.

In Le Mars, Iowa, a former Plymouth County deputy was sentenced last Tuesday to a whopping 40 years in prison for burglarizing multiple homes to steal prescription drugs. Aaron Leusink, 43, who served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer, had pleaded guilty in April to 11 charges, including burglary, felonious misconduct in office, unlawful drug possession, and theft. Leusink went down after investigators viewing body camera footage of a possible "on the job inappropriate relationship" in an unrelated matter instead found footage of him breaking into a home and stealing prescription pills. A subsequent search of his home turned up more than 1,600 pills, many which appeared to come from the department evidence locker and others that linked him to five unsolved pharmacy burglaries. At his sentencing, Leusink told the judge he had become addicted to painkillers after surgery.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Mexico cop gets popped for using drugs to lure potential mates, a Texas deputy partied too hearty, a Minneapolis cop goes away for stealing drugs during bogus traffic stops, and more. Let's get to it:

In Gadsden, Alabama, a Marshall County sheriff's jail guard was arrested June 2 for smuggling meth into the jail. Corrections Officer David Lowe went down after an internal investigation uncovered small amounts of meth and marijuana, and is charged with first-, second-, and third-degree promoting prison contraband and two counts of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine).

In Meridian, Mississippi, an East Mississippi Correctional Facility officer was arrested June 1 for trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Guard Jashati Amore Alford was caught bringing five pounds (!) of weed into the jail. She is charged with attempting to introduce contraband into a correctional facility, and was last reported residing at her former place of employment until she made bail.

In Sulphur Springs, Texas, a Van Zandt County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Saturday on drug-related charges after he was found unconscious on the floor of a metal shop with a meth pipe and a subsequent search of his home uncovered a substantial dope stash. Deputy Jon Phillips claimed all the drugs found were evidence, but he never logged them in anywhere. His stash included 209 grams of liquid meth, two grams of crystal meth, 70 units of liquid in a hypodermic syringe believed to be meth, 28 ounces of marijuana, and under a half-gram of cocaine. He is charged with possession of less than 400 grams of a controlled substance, possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance

In Albuquerque, a former New Mexico state police officer was convicted last Monday of dealing drugs to teens while he was on the force. Daniel Capehart went down in a 2018 sting operation where he offered marijuana to someone he thought was a teenage girl in exchange for photos of her. Subsequent investigation revealed that he was stealing drugs seized during arrests and given them to women he was attracted to, including a 16-year-old girl. He is looking at a mandatory minimum five years in prison, but prosecutors are asking for eight.

In Minneapolis, a former Minneapolis police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to more than three years in prison for stealing drugs from people during bogus traffic stops. Ty Jindra, 29, was convicted last November of stealing Tramadol, methamphetamine, and oxycodone from people he had stopped—one for a tag violation and one a group of teens who rolled through a stop sign—and then conducted unlawful searches, confiscating the drugs for his own use. That garnered him two civil rights violations for the illegal searches. Tindra admitted to developing a dependence on Xanax and then moving on to street drugs. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas cop's party partners partied too hearty, a Kansas cop is in trouble after the evidence locker gets inspected, and more. Let's get to it:

In Ellinwood, Kansas, a former Ellinwood police officer was arrested last Thursday after drugs and cash went missing from the department evidence locker over the winter. Christopher Rowland, 40, went down after an audit of the evidence locker shortly after he resigned showed that drugs and money had gone missing. He is charged with theft, possession of marijuana, official misconduct, interference with a law enforcement officer and interference with the judicial process.

In McAllen, Texas, a McAllen police officer was arrested last Friday on drug charges after one of his companions called police saying she was receiving "messages from strangers" and saw "the silhouette of two people" outside her home. When police arrived, the caller was determined to have an outstanding drug warrant, and when she asked if she could go back in the house to get some clothing, police accompanying her found two men and illicit drugs in plain view in the house. One of the men was Officer Juan Garza, Jr, 33, who, along with the other two people, was charged with possession and use of a volatile chemical, possession of marijuana, possession of controlled substances, and manufacture or delivery of controlled substances. Garza resigned after his arrest.

In San Antonio, Texas, a Bexar County sheriff's deputy was arrested Sunday after attempting to smuggle marijuana into the county jail. Deputy Kolbe Count Ramirez, 21, went down after an inmate was caught speaking in code on a phone call, leading deputies to uncover an operation to smuggle drugs into the jail. A subsequent search of Ramirez' vehicle in the jail parking lot turned up marijuana and synthetic marijuana. He is charged with criminal conspiracy to commit substances in a correctional facility, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Oklahoma police chief gets nailed for peddling meth, an Oklahoma prosecutor uses his position to get sexual favors, and more. Let's get to it:

In Tulsa, a former Ottawa County assistant district attorney was arrested April 27 over allegations he traded legal work for sex and drugs. Daniel Thomas Giraldi is accused of obtaining sexual favors in exchange for special treatment of some defendants and of inducing women to travel with him for sex in exchange for money or drugs. Investigators recorded numerous incriminating phone calls and text messages where Giraldi agreed to do legal favors in exchange for sex. When he met with a confidential informant on one of his assignations, he gave her a bag containing several pills that were later found to be controlled substances. He also had condoms with him. He is charged with accepting bribery as a public official, interstate racketeering, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and drug trafficking.

In St. Louis, a county jail guard was arrested May 7 for smuggling fentanyl into the facility at least twice last fall, leading to two non-fatal overdoses among inmates. Jailer Joeisha Cofer went down after authorities found text messages between her and an inmate, who was also charged after a search turned up 33 fentanyl pills in his cell. Both Cofer and the inmate are charged with delivery of possession of a controlled substance at a jail. Cofer is now residing at her former place of work after a judge refused to grant her bail.

In Placerville, California, an El Dorado Sheriff's Office correctional officer was arrested May 11 after allegedly showing up for work high. Jailer Anthony Horne, 29, drew the suspicion of coworkers upon arrival at the jail and was then arrested for driving under the influence. When deputies then searched him, they found methamphetamine on his person. In addition to DUI, he is now charged with possession of a controlled substance and bringing a controlled substance to the jail.

In Calvin, Oklahoma, the Calvin police chief was arrested May 13 on charges he was using and selling methamphetamine. Chief Joe Don Chitwood was arrested by Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics agents after a month-long investigation prompted by a tip that he was involved with meth. After Chitwood sold $20 worth of meth to an undercover informant, agents raided his residence and found more meth. He has since resigned as police chief, leaving the town with no police force since he was the sole member of the department.

In Fort Myers, Florida, a guard at the Charlotte Correctional Institution was sentenced Monday to 2 ½ years in federal prison for trying to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Leslie Spencer, 49, went down in a sting in which an inmate working as an FBI snitch got him to agree to smuggle three ounces of meth, three ounces of MDMA, and two cellphones into the prison. After making the deal, Spencer met an FBI agent posing as a drug supplier and took possession of the meth, MDMA, cellphones, and payment for the smuggling operation. He pleaded guilty in September 2021 to attempting to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances.

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