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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Drug War Chronicle may have taken a week off, but the corrupt cops didn't. There's continuing fall-out from the Henry County, Virginia, sheriff's office bust in October, another Tennessee cop running interference for drug dealers, a long-time fugitive INS officer caught, and, of course, a couple more jail guards bringing goodies to the prisoners. Let's get to it:

In Roanoke, Virginia, two former Henry County sheriff's deputies pleaded guilty to charges they were part of a conspiracy to sell drugs seized from drug dealers. Former Deputy James Alden Vaught pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, while former Deputy David Allan King pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and drug conspiracy. Both were among 20 people, including Henry County Sheriff H. Franklin Cassell and 12 other sheriff's deputies, who were indicted in October. Sheriff Cassell has resigned since being accused of turning a blind eye as his deputies sold drugs seized in investigations, as well as other misconduct. King faces up to 40 years in prison and Vaught up to 20 years, but their sentences will depend on how much they cooperate with the government in the cases against their colleagues. Meanwhile, another former Henry County deputy has been re-indicted in the case. Former Deputy Robert Keith Adams was originally charged with making false statements, but was hit with a new, six-count indictment December 21. Adams allegedly knew that Vaught had stolen two kilograms of cocaine and $40,000 in cash, but instead of turning him in, demanded $20,000. He is charged with concealing a felony, attempting to obstruct an official proceeding by encouraging a potential witness to withhold and/or present false evidence to federal investigators, making false statements and attempting to mislead federal investigators.

In Nashville, a city police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury December 21 for using his position to help his nephew distribute cocaine. Officer Ernest Cecil, 49, a 15-year veteran of the force, faces counts of conspiring to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, possession with the intent to distribute over 500 kilograms of cocaine, brandishing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, and robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act, a federal law that prohibits extortion affecting interstate commerce. Cecil was a narcotics detective from 1997 through 2004. He is accused of, among other things, protecting his nephew's drug dealing operation by warning him about police investigations.

In El Paso, a fugitive former Immigration and Naturalization Service officer was captured December 22. Jose Trinidad Carrillo, had been convicted of conspiracy to import marijuana, aiding and abetting the importation of marijuana, and bribery of a public official in 1994, but fled to Mexico. He returned to the El Paso area at an unknown date and someone informed US Marshals he was in the area. They arrested him without incident although he was armed. Carrillo was carrying false identification when he was arrested.

In Indianapolis, a Marion County Jail guard was arrested December 24 for trying to smuggle marijuana and cigarettes into the jail. Tacaria Eskew was arrested after jail supervisors told police she received a package containing 20 cigarettes and two small bags of marijuana hidden inside food containers. Eskew told the Indianapolis Star she was set up and didn't know who sent her the package.

In Albemarle, North Carolina, an Albemarle District Jail guard was arrested December 22 on charges he smuggled drugs into the jail. Ryan White, 25, had worked at the jail for about six months when she was arrested. She was in possession of the prescription drugs Flexaril and Darvocet when the bust went down. She was charged with possession with intent to sell/deliver a schedule IV controlled substance, selling/delivering a schedule IV controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance in a prison facility and providing a controlled substance to an inmate. All four are felony charges. White was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

The Rack N' Roll Conspiracy

It's diabolical! It's confusing! It's the Rack N' Roll Conspiracy and Radley Balko has created an entire category for it.

This is the story of David Ruttenberg, the totally law-abiding owner of Rack N' Roll billiards in Manassas, Virginia, who for years now has been targeted in repeated and fruitless attempts to link his business to drug activity. His livelihood is now almost completely destroyed and most of the cops and public officials in Manassas seem to be in on it. Motivated by an apparent desire to build an off-track betting facility on the property, Manassas police and others have spared no expense in this otherwise inexplicable series of bizarre events.

My favorite part is when Ruttenberg tries to explain his plight to a local news reporter at 1:00 in the morning and the Mayor suddenly jumps out of the bushes and tells the reporter not to trust to him.

Balko's research illustrates the ease with which ambiguous allegations of drug activity can be used by politicians as leverage against their enemies. Still, I suspect that the only thing unique about this story is the fact that someone as meticulous as Balko took an interest in it. His work on the Cory Maye case similarly illustrates the improbability of severe police corruption coming to light absent the involvement of a politically savvy blogger from Washington, D.C.

When business owners can be held liable for activities they had no knowledge of, it becomes painfully easy for corrupt officials with ulterior motives to capitalize on malfeasance.

If you were trying to screw over a business owner, how would you do it? Think about how easy it is to frame someone for drugs. Think about it, then ask yourself how often it happens.

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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Virginia drug-fighter gets caught selling drugs, so does a retired NYPD officer, and yet another jail guard goes down. Also this week, an interesting update on Operation Lively Green, the FBI sting that nailed dozens of military and Arizona law enforcement personnel for protecting the drug trade. Let's get to it:

In Portsmouth, Virginia, a Portsmouth police lieutenant was arrested Tuesday on cocaine distribution charges. Lt. Brian Keith Muhammed Abdul Ali, a 21-year veteran of the force who heads the department's drug-fighting unit, was arrested along with his nephew, a civilian. Both face charges of felony conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Ali was in jail with no bond set as of Wednesday.

In New York City, a retired NYPD officer was one of nine men arrested on charges they peddled drugs at a city-owned Manhattan marina. The arrests last week at the Dyckman Street Marina were the culmination of a six-month investigation in which undercover officers purchased heroin, crack, ecstasy, and marijuana on at least 48 occasions. Jeremy O'Rourke, 42, who quit the department in the late 1980s, is accused of brokering deals between large-scale dealers and the buyers who turned out to be narcs. He faces multiple counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy. His bail is set at $500,000.

In Albany, New York, two Montgomery County Jail guards have been arrested for selling marijuana to inmates. Luis Morales Jr., 26, was arrested last week, while Alvin Hoyt Jr., 20, was arrested earlier this year. Hoyt's arrest during the summer for promoting contraband led to an investigation that has now also netted Morales. Morales was arraigned December 13 on federal charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, but the charges against Hoyt were reduced and the judge has sealed his case. I wonder which one cut a deal to testify?

In Tucson, the Arizona Daily Star dug into the Operation Lively Green corruption scandal and found that a dozen US military recruiters were allowed to stay on the job, sometimes for years, after the FBI knew they were involved in drug-running. Operation Lively Green was the two-year FBI sting that has so far netted guilty pleas or verdicts from 60 members of the military and Arizona law enforcement agencies who took bribes from undercover agents to traffic cocaine. The ten recruiters who so far have pleaded guilty netted $180,000 between them.

Report: FBI let recruiters suspected of drugs stay on

Tucson, AZ
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Army Times

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a week heavy with crooked guards peddling dope to prisoners, but we also have missing drug evidence in Boston, a cop marketing meth in Mississippi, and a Border Patrol agent headed for prison. Let's get to it:
tempting evidence
In Boston, all 10 Boston Police officers working in the department's central drug warehouse have been transferred because anticorruption investigators think someone is stealing evidence. The department has been aware of the missing dope, much of it Oxycontin, for several weeks, but only confirmed last week that it thinks the drugs have been stolen. It is seeking help from the State Police. The drug warehouse holds evidence from 190,000 cases, some going back 20 years. Police said it appeared many of the missing drugs were from cases that had been dismissed. The Boston Police said this week that "findings suggest that evidence tampering is not solely historical, but also current."

In Moss Point, Mississippi, a Moss Point Police officer was arrested December 7 on federal drug distribution charges. Officer Wendy Peyregne was on duty, in uniform, and holding six grams of methamphetamine when she was arrested in Pascagoula and charged with meth distribution. The arrest was the result of a joint investigation by the Moss Point Police Department, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County, and came after at least two snitches bought speed off Peyregne. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

In Houston, a former US Border Patrol agent was sentenced December 7 to 14 years in prison for taking bribes to help drug and immigrant smugglers and selling immigration documents. David Duque, 36, pleaded guilty to bribery and document counts in September. Prosecutors showed that he had accepted $5,000 to let a vehicle carrying 11 pounds of cocaine to go through the Falfurrias, Texas, highway checkpoint in June. FBI agents said Duque had been doing it for years, as well as selling passports, birth certificates, and other identification documents.

In Onslow County, North Carolina, a New Hanover County jail guard was arrested December 7 when he was caught with two pounds of cocaine. Thurston Miles, 33, went down after a two-month investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, the Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office. He now faces cocaine distribution charges, and was last reported sitting in jail under a $500,000 secured bond.

In Oklahoma City, an Oklahoma County jail guard has been arrested for smuggling marijuana and other contraband into the jail. County detention officer Eddie Daniels was busted with a quarter-ounce of pot and 3 ½ pounds of tobacco when he reported for work at the jail. Jail officials also turned up a half-pound of pot in the jail they said was linked to Daniels' arrest. Investigators said they believed Daniels had made $5,000 working with an inmate to bring contraband into the jail. The inmate also faces drug and contraband charges. No word yet on the formal charges Daniels faces.

In Linton, Indiana, a Wabash Valley Correctional Facility officer was arrested December 8 and charged with financing the delivery of methamphetamine. Dustine LeDune, 24, was being held without bond. LeDune was arrested after making a deal to sell an eightball (3.5 grams) of meth in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but Linton Police said they had been investigating him for several months. Correctional facility officials said LeDune has been suspended pending the outcome of his trial.

In Hutchinson, Kansas, a prison contract worker was sentenced to 15 months behind bars for selling meth to prisoners. Joseph Delancy, who worked for Aramark Services at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility had pleaded guilty to trafficking in contraband in a correctional facility, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and unlawfully arranging a drug sale by a commercial device. He could have received almost 5 years in prison, but Judge Tim Chambers was apparently moved by his contention that he fell into drug use after the death of his 4-year-old son.

In East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office deputy was arrested Sunday night for allegedly peddling drugs in the Parish Prison. Deputy Kendrick Jamond Lockett, 24, was arrested after an investigation by the sheriff's office, the Baton Rouge Police Department the Louisiana Office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and a snitch. Lockett is charged with attempting to enter contraband into a penal facility, malfeasance in office, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy, attempt to distribute marijuana and attempt to distribute Ecstasy. He was fired Monday morning as he sat in jail.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Careful readers will have noted that there was no corrupt cops story in Drug War Chronicle last week. That's because we couldn't find any. One of our primary sources, Bad Cop News, had essentially gone silent, and my Google alerts on various drug-related words and phrases had turned up nothing. I appealed to my readers in a blog post on Friday, however, and thanks in part to their responses, we have more corrupt cops stories this week. I have revised and widened my Google alerts, but I'm still calling on readers to send me any local corrupt cops stories they come across. I may have seen them already, but maybe not. Just visit my contact page at and put "corrupt cops" in the subject line to send them along.

This week, it's a veritable potpourri of police misconduct with a heavy emphasis on the larcenous. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, three police officers were charged Monday in a widening probe into allegations Chicago police shook down drug suspects. Officers James McGovern, 40, Frank Villareal, 38, and Margaret Hopkins, 32, all members of the department's special operations section, are charged with official misconduct, and Villareal and Hopkins are also charged with home invasion. Four other Chicago police officers were arrested on similar charges in September. All are accused of robbing, kidnapping, and intimidating drug dealers and using their badges to gain access to homes. So far, the arrests have forced prosecutors to drop more than 100 drug cases.

In Norwalk, Iowa, an assistant fire chief is accused of stealing drugs and covering it up. Assistant Fire Chief Michael Wenger, 41, was arrested last Friday after admitting stealing opiate pain relievers used for EMS calls, including morphine, Tordal, and Fentanyl, and altering logs to hide his thievery. He is charged with fraudulent practices and two counts of possessing a controlled substance. Norwalk, which has been without a fire chief for the past year, now lacks an assistant chief, too.

In Las Vegas, New Mexico, a New Mexico Highlands University security officer has been charged with drug trafficking. Police allege they found cocaine in Officer Michelle Espinoza's purse last week. According to a university spokeswoman, Espinoza, 35, has been placed on leave pending resolution of the case.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Pittston Township police officer was charged in federal court last Friday with felony drug and weapons offenses. Officer Michael Byra, 28, recently testified he had made at least 60 drug busts, but it appears he had problems leaving the evidence alone. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm during a felony drug trafficking transaction and possession of a stolen firearm. The charges came after the DEA investigated missing evidence -- heroin, cocaine, marijuana, guns, $10,000 in cash, files, and a log book. Byra now faces up to life in prison.

In Ashland, Kentucky, a former state trooper pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges he stole $180,000 from police drug buy funds. Former trooper Louie Podunavac Jr., 41, was a sergeant responsible for the narcotics division in Boyd, Greenup, and Lawrence counties in eastern Kentucky until he retired in July upon being questioned by investigators hunting for missing funds. He admitted in court that he used his access to a state bank account to take money designated for drug buys and transfer it to an account in his own name. Podunavac will be sentenced March 12. He also faces six state charges of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. Podunavac's attorney, David Mussetter, explained that Podunavac broke his ankle in 2003, got strung out on Lortab, and stole the money to buy painkillers.

Near Boston, a Malden Police officer was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on November 15 for ripping-off a drug dealer. Officer David Jordan, a 19-year veteran of the force, participated in a scheme with a local drug dealer to stop a rival dealer and steal three kilograms of cocaine valued at $81,000. Jordan's co-conspirator, Anthony Bucci, 43, of Wakefield, got 22 years the same day.

Readers, Thanks for Your Help. Keep Those Corrupt Cop Story Tips Coming!

On Friday, I blogged about how for the first time in years I hadn't run a "This Week's Corrupt Cops" piece because I couldn't find any stories. The response has been most gratifying, with several of you sending stories I hadn't seen my way via the blog. I'd like to encourage all of you to keep it up! The response to my last post demonstrates that even Google doesn't catch everything, so if you come across a corrupt cop story in your local rag, please send it to me. Don't post it as a response here; send it to me at [email protected]. Maybe I will have already seen it, maybe not. In any event, your efforts are much appreciated.
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Readers, I need your help! Where are the corrupt cops?

Some of you have undoubtedly noticed that the long-running "This Week's Corrupt Cops" feature was missing this week. That's because I didn't have any stories for it. Now, it may have been because there was no corrupt cop news in the past week, but I find that hard to believe given the outstanding record our police have built up over the years. Part of the problem is that one of my primary sources of corrupt cops stories, Bad Cop News seems to have gone silent. Whoever Bad Cop News is, he has only posted a couple of items in the past three weeks, as opposed to the dozen or so a day he used to post. I also rely on my Google searches. I have Google send me every story that has "marijuana," "heroin,", "cocaine," etc. in the text. Corrupt cop stories involving drugs typically show up that way. But not this week. So, dear readers, can you help me out? Can you send me any corrupt cop stories you come across? You may be duplicating Google or Bad Cop News, but you might not be, either. Also, if any of you know of sites similar to Bad Cop News that compile this kind of stuff, let me know. Maybe all the cops have decided to go straight. Somehow, I doubt it.
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