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Latin America: Mexico Purges Federal Police Chiefs in Drug Corruption Review

The Mexican government announced Monday it has replaced the federal police chiefs in all 31 states and the Federal District to determine whether they are fighting drug trafficking or abetting it. The move comes as President Felipe Calderón is now six-months into an offensive against the powerful and violent so-called cartels that has seen more than 20,000 soldiers and police swarm into cities and states considered hotbeds of the drug trade.

The 32 purged chiefs must submit to and pass polygraph and drug tests before being reconsidered for their positions. Their financial status will also be scrutinized. If they pass muster, they must be retrained before being reassigned.

Drug prohibition-related corruption has been the bane of Mexican law enforcement for decades. Now, once again, a purge of police is viewed as necessary by high officials. Just last month, six federal police officers were arrested for protecting cocaine shipments at the Mexicali airport.

"Every federal cop is obliged to carry out his post with legality, honesty and efficiency," Public Safety Secretary Genaro García Luna said at a news conference Monday announcing the housecleaning. "In the fight against crime, we have strategies. One axis of our strategy is to professionalize and purge our police corps."

Nearly 7,000 of Mexico's 20,000 federal police, who investigate drug crimes and homicides, have been assigned to work alongside the more than 12,000 soldiers deployed in Calderón's war on drugs. That police are working side by side with soldiers has raised concerns that they could be undercutting Calderón's campaign by passing information on to the drug traffickers.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. A Virginia police chief gets caught selling speed, a New Jersey State Trooper gets arrested for stealing and re-selling seized drugs, a New Jersey prison guard gets nailed trying to smuggle prescription drugs into the prison, a former Schenectady narc pleads guilty to ripping off cocaine from the evidence locker, a former Border Patrol agent is going to prison for stealing a bale of pot he was supposed to be guarding, and a corrupt Milwaukee cop wants back pay. Let's get to it:

In Damascus, Virginia, the police chief was arrested Saturday on charges he was selling methamphetamine. Chief Anthony Richardson faces seven felony counts of drug distribution and possessing a weapon while possessing drugs. He went down after an undercover investigation where a snitch bought speed off the chief on June 12. Richardson was arrested without incident at the city police department. Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said there is now a federal investigation into Richardson.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, a state trooper was indicted and arrested June 21 on charges he stole and sold drugs seized by police. Trooper Brian Holmes, 41, had been suspended without pay since May 2006, when his partner, Trooper Moises Hernandez, pleaded guilty to aiding members of a drug ring. Hernandez is now doing a 24-year state prison sentence. Holmes was indicted on 13 counts including official misconduct, theft, falsifying records and drug trafficking for, among other things, stealing more than 10 pounds of cocaine from a 123-pound seizure at a Newark warehouse in August 2002 and giving the stolen drugs to Hernandez to sell. He is also charged with stealing a thousand ecstasy tablets from a seizure in Elizabeth in 2004 and selling them with Hernandez.

In Fairton, New Jersey, a federal prison guard was arrested June 14 on charges he accepted bribes to smuggle contraband into the prison. Steven Harper, 32, a guard at the Fairton Federal Correctional Institution, is accused of taking money from a person he thought was an inmate's relative to smuggle in prescription drugs, protein powder, work-out supplements and cigarettes. That person was actually an undercover agent. Harper was snitched out by an inmate after agreeing to smuggle in the goods for $6,000. He is now out on $100,000 bond and faces up to 15 years in prison.

In Schenectady, New York, a former Schenectady narc admitted Monday that he stole crack cocaine from the vice squad evidence locker. The admission came as former narcotics officer Jeffrey Curtis pleaded guilty to drug possession and evidence tampering in a plea bargain that will limit his prison time to four years max. Earlier this year, an investigation into missing drug evidence found that cocaine had gone missing in 15 cases and marijuana in one. While Curtis confessed to taking some of the missing dope, he said he couldn't remember if he took all the cocaine State Police investigators said was missing. Curtis first came to investigators' attention after he failed a drug test given in connection with the investigation into the missing drugs. Police put him under surveillance and arrested him March 16 after they spotted him coming out of a suspected drug-dealing house. It's only the latest problem for a troubled department: Earlier this decade, four patrol officers went to prison for rewarding snitches with crack cocaine, another went to prison for giving a gun to a drug dealer, and earlier this year, another officer admitted tipping off a friend about a gambling investigation but was allowed to keep his job.

In Tucson, a former US Border Patrol agent is going to prison for stealing marijuana while on duty. Michael Carlos Gonzalez, 34, was found guilty in March of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. Gonzales was on duty back on December 6 when an Arizona highway patrolman pulled over a vehicle and found 30 bales of weed. The patrolman left Gonzalez to guard the stash, but his dashboard camera showed Gonzalez taking one bale and putting in the trunk of his car. The weed was never recovered. Gonzales must now do 7 ½ years in federal prison.

In Milwaukee, a police detective fired for his involvement in the theft of drug money planted by the FBI is seeking back pay and benefits. Milwaukee Detective Philip Sliwinski was caught up in a sting aimed at another Milwaukee police officer, Edwin Bonilla, after reports that Bonilla had taken drug money from crime scenes. In August 2000, the FBI left a bag with $23,000 in a hotel room, where Bonilla found it. Bonilla testified that he, Sliwinski, and a third officer each took $1,000. Sliwinski was never charged, but he was fired. Now he is seeking back pay and benefits after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled he was denied the right to fully question a federal agent involved in the sting. While the court upheld his firing, Sliwinski's lawyer is arguing that even though he was fired, he should be eligible for pay and benefits up until the state Fire and Police Commission rehears his case.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Puerto Rican narc gets caught robbing an armored car, a Mississippi cop gets nailed for selling and using speed, and a Toledo cop who liked to party too much cops a plea. Let's get to it:

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a Puerto Rican police officer working with the DEA was charged with robbing an armored car. Angel Fernandez Ramos, who worked as an anti-drug officer for the past four years, was one of five men arrested last Friday in the $515,000 heist. Among the others were Ramos' father and two uncles. The money has been recovered. FBI officials said they were looking into links between this robbery and other armored car robberies on the island.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, a former Moss Point police officer was sentenced June 14 to 41 months in prison for drug trafficking on the job. Wendy Peyregne was arrested in December 2006 and charged with six counts of methamphetamine trafficking after a two-year investigation by the FBI. She ended up pleading guilty to two counts. According to the FBI, Peyregne made drug deals while on duty at the Moss Point police station, dealt drugs from her patrol car, and used meth while on duty. She shared the meth she scored with, among others, an ex-boyfriend, who turned snitch and helped bring her down.

In Toledo, Ohio, a former Toledo police officer pleaded guilty June 14 to a drug misdemeanor. Former officer Bryan Traband was originally charged with felony drug possession, and three misdemeanors -- permitting drug abuse, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of drugs -- but was allowed to plead guilty to a single charge of permitting drug use. Toledo police raided Traband's residence after a snitch twice told them in February he was selling, possessing, and using cocaine and marijuana and that he would be having a party on March 16. Police raided the home that night. Traband received a suspended six-month sentence at the Correction Center of Northwest Ohio.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Yet another prison guard goes down, and a Georgia narc gets caught sleeping with his snitches. Let's get to it:

In London, Kentucky, a former guard got 6 ½ years in prison June 8 for smuggling drugs into the Big Sandy federal prison. Alice Marie Stapleton, 31, was charged last year with being part of a conspiracy to smuggle heroin, marijuana, and contraband cell phones into the maximum security prison. She admitted receiving $1,000 each of three times she smuggled contraband behind the bars. Her 78-month sentence was the maximum allowed under federal sentencing guidelines.

In Augusta, Georgia, a former drug squad supervisor pleaded guilty Monday to lying to an FBI agent about not sleeping with his informants. Mathue Phares, 38, an 18-year veteran of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office was forced to resign in December as an investigation into allegations of civil rights violations got underway. Having sex with one's informants could be a civil rights violation because an officer is in a position of power or authority over an informant. Phares initially denied sleeping with his snitches, but later admitted to one sexual relationship. Now the feds say there was more than one. Phares is free on his own recognizance pending sentencing. He faces up to five years in federal prison.

Crooked Cops Weaken Mexico's War on Drugs


This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Well, thank goodness for crooked prison guards! If it wasn't for them, all we would have is a blank space here this week. Let's get to it:

In Michigan City, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested Monday for bringing marijuana intended for an inmate to work in her lunch box. Indiana State Prison guard Joann Smith, 44, a 20-year veteran, was arraigned Tuesday in LaPorte County Superior Court on felony drug trafficking charges. Smith went down after a tip to the prison's Internal Affairs Department. When she was searched upon arrest, her lunch box contained a cell phone, rolling papers, and a package of pot hidden inside her food.

In Quincy, Massachusetts, a Suffolk County jail guard has pleaded not guilty to charges he was selling Oxycontin and steroids on the streets. Alexander Santarelli, 32, a two-year veteran at the House of Corrections, was arrested May 31 after Quincy police armed with a search warrant and drug sniffing dogs raided his home. In a locked safe in his living room closet, they found $7,009 in cash, 60 OxyContin pills, and three handguns and ammunition, according to Quincy police report filed in Quincy District Court. They also found "several types of steroids" and an unloaded .40-caliber Glock pistol in the closet. Santarelli's license to carry firearms has been suspended, and he has been placed on administrative leave without pay. Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral said police are investigating whether Santarelli also sold drugs inside the jail.

Everyone Profits at Helmand's Drug Bazaar--The poppy harvest is in and everyone from the Taliban to local government officials is cooperating to get the opium crop to market.

ISN Security Watch

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Marijuana gone missing from the evidence room, a sheriff pleads guilty, a cop gets arrested for leaking an investigation, and a trooper gets oral sex but loses his job. Just another week of prohibition-related police misbehavior. Let's get to it:

In Nashville, a Tennessee state trooper has been fired for dropping a drug charge against a porn actress in exchange for oral sex. Trooper James Randy Moss was fired May 25 over the May 7 incident, which began when he pulled over 21-year-old Justis Richert, known professionally as Barbie Cummings. According to a citation issued by Moss, he pulled her over for speeding. But in a post on her blog that has since disappeared -- but not before someone reported it to police -- Cummings wrote that Moss discovered her illegal prescription drugs, she told him she was a porn star, they adjourned to his vehicle where they looked up web sites featuring her performing, he threw away the pills, and she provided him with oral sex. Moss faces possible charges for destroying the drug evidence as well.

In Richmond, Virginia, the former Henry County sheriff pleaded guilty May 24 to lying to authorities about widespread corruption in his department. Former Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell and 12 current or former deputies, as well as seven other people, were indicted last fall on charges they sold guns and drugs they had seized. All but three have pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy, narcotics distribution, and weapons counts in a conspiracy that lasted from 1998 until last fall's arrests. Cassell was not charged with participating in the conspiracy, but with ignoring it and lying to federal investigators about it. He pleaded guilty to making false statements and is expected to serve six to 12 months in federal prison.

In Fort Sumner, Texas, marijuana has gone missing from the police department evidence room. Chief Wayne Atchley reported that he spotted a trail of dried marijuana leaves leading out of the evidence room on May 10, and that an unknown portion of a 2,500-plant seizure was missing. There were no signs of forced entry, suggesting it could have been an inside job. It is unclear how many people had keys to the building. Atchley added that it appeared the thieves knew the marijuana was there because it was the only thing taken. He has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate.

In Hollywood, Florida, a fifth city police officer has been arrested in Operation Tarnished shield. Lt. Chuck Roberts, a 23-year veteran, was arrested at his home May 24 on charges he leaked word of the investigation, which has so far resulted in the guilty pleas of four other Hollywood officers on drug conspiracy charges for offering their services to protect drug shipments in an FBI undercover sting. According to an FBI affidavit, Roberts was told of the sting by a senior commander. He then told another officer, who told one of the officers being investigated, thus bringing the operation to a premature end. Roberts then allegedly lied to the FBI about it. He was charged with making false statements to the FBI. Roberts and two other officers were suspended two weeks ago because of their links to the leaks, but the other two have not been charged.

FEATURE-Police corruption undermines Mexico's war on drugs

Reuters AlertNet (UK)

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

State troopers running Oxycontin rings, problem ex-cops running Oxycontin rings, and another conviction in the infamous Dallas "pool chalk" scandal. Let's get to it:

In Boston, a Massachusetts State Trooper was arrested May 15 on charges he ran an Oxycontin trafficking and extortion ring. Trooper Mark Lemieux, who had a long career arresting drug traffickers, was himself arrested along with a former state trooper, Joseph Catanese, and two other people, including Lemieux's girlfriend. Lemieux had been assigned to the Bristol County Drug Force, but that didn't stop him from allegedly arranging with a drug dealer to let his girlfriend courier Oxycontin from Florida to Massachusetts. Lemieux and company went down after the dealer got busted and turned state's evidence. He had been a snitch for Lemieux, but now he has snitched on him.

In London, Kentucky, a former local police officer was arrested May 18 on drug sales charges. Brad Nighbert, the son of state Department of Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert, was an officer for the Williamsburg police for seven years. Things began to go downhill for him when he crashed his cruiser into a woman's car while on duty in 2006, and drug tests showed he had consumed oxycodone and cocaine. As the town board met to consider firing him for that, he resigned. He was later arrested on drug possession and other charges in that incident. While awaiting a September court date on those charges, Nighbert managed to get stopped for acting suspicious in the parking lot of a night club where a stabbing had occurred. Police found 14 Oxycontin pills and $32,000 in cash in his vehicle, and, after obtaining a search warrant, another $3,000 in cash, 57 methadone tablets, and ledgers. He is now charged with trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, having prescription drugs in an improper container, tampering with evidence, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and impersonating a police officer.

In Dallas, a former Dallas police officer was found guilty in the "pool chalk" scandal last Friday. Former officer Jeffrey Haywood was convicted of lying on a police report by saying he field-tested a substance believed to be cocaine when it was seized in May 2001. The substance turned out to be pool chalk with a trace of cocaine. More than two dozen people, most of the Hispanic immigrants, were arrested, convicted and sent to prison as drug traffickers based on drug seizures that turned out to be pool chalk. Former officer Mark Delapaz has already been convicted in the scandal, and cases are pending against two other officers. Haywood was sentenced to two years probation.

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