Two of our three cases this week involve cops protecting their steroids dealers. Go figger. The other one is a crooked police chief who bragged, "I'm the best cop money can buy." Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Arlington, Texas, an Arlington police officer was charged last Wednesday with revealing the name of an undercover narcotics officer to an illegal steroids dealer. Officer Thomas Kantzos is accused of using state and federal law enforcement databases at least a half-dozen times to check names and license plates for the dealer, who also peddled the pills to Kantzos and another Arlington police officer, Danial Vo. Vo shot and killed himself last Tuesday. The first time Kantzos checked records for the dealer, the dealer discovered that the man with the laptop parked down the street was a member of a local drug task force and that someone had hidden a tracking device on his car. The investigation into Kantzos and Vo revealed that a number of Arlington police were using steroids, at least one of whom also ran a records check for the dealer, who has since become a cooperating witness. Kantzos is charged with exceeding authorized access to a protected computer, which carries a maximum 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
In North Bend, Oregon, a former North Bend police officer pleaded guilty last Tuesday to tipping off an illegal steroids dealer about an ongoing investigation. William Downing, 43, admitted to using steroids himself and was found in possession of them when his home was searched by federal agents in 2011. Downing went down in a spin-off from a broader investigation into fraud by a defense contractor, whose sons got steroids from the same dealer Downing did. When search warrants were issued in the fraud case, Downing notified the steroids dealer and warned him that the two sons were under investigation and the feds could be monitoring their calls. Downing will do five years probation.
In Pittsburgh, a former East Washington police chief was sentenced last Friday to more than 11 years in federal prison for extorting $8,000 from undercover FBI agents he thought were drug dealers. Former Chief Donald Solomon, 57, went down in a sting operation where he protected two staged drug deals and agreed to buy the dealers police-issue stun guns in return for the cash. A paid informant introduced Solomon to the fake drug dealers, and he was recorded saying, "I'm the best cop money can buy."
Earlier this week, investigative journalist Clarence Walker published a Chronicle feature article, "Sex, Lies, and a Georgia Drug Frame-up," about how now ex-Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran allegedly attempted to have local woman Angela Garmley framed on bogus drug charges after she accused him of seeking sexual favors in return for helping her in a pending court case.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Two Murray County sheriff's deputies have already pleaded guilty to participating in the frame job, which consisted of a handyman employed by the judge hiding methamphetamine on Garmley's vehicle and her subsequent arrest by a deputy alerted to be on the lookout for her vehicle by a sheriff's captain who just happened to be the judge's cousin.
Today, the handyman, Clifford "CJ" Joyce, pleaded guilty in federal court in Rome, Georgia, to his role in the conspiracy. Joyce copped to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and is now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison, although federal sentencing guidelines call for a much shorter sentence.
"CJ pled, and the government colloquy was great and agreed to, saying that he did conspire to distribute meth, to 'discredit' the woman who had made complaints about Judge Cochran," Garmley's attorney McCracken Poston told the Chronicle. "It also came out that he was a tenant in Cochran's trailer park, and there is a third party intermediary that also needs to come to justice. He was the go-between with Cochran and CJ. He was not mentioned in court but I know who he is and got it confirmed with CJ's lawyer, as I developed the information and gave it to the feds."
The plea came after federal prosecutors presented evidence that Joyce was a middleman in the plot to get Garmley falsely arrested.
"The defendant attempted to manipulate the criminal justice system to serve his own purpose by framing someone for drug possession," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "While the narcotics charges were ultimately dismissed, this outrageous conduct cannot stand."
"The investigation and prosecution of persons involved in public corruption are a priority of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Many of the cases such as this require partnership of local, state and federal authorities," said GBI Director Vernon M. Keenan.
The three perpetrators of the Garmley frame-up have now all pleaded guilty in the case, but the alleged instigator, former Judge Cochran, is yet to even be indicted. And now, there's a fourth player. Stay tuned.
A pill-popping Florida cop goes to jail, a coke-slinging New York TSA agent gets busted, and a North Carolina narc gets fired. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Wilmington, North Carolina, a New Hanover County sheriff's narcotics officer was fired Tuesday, effective immediately, for violating departmental "truthfulness; evidence procedures; and drug policy." Lt. Joey LeBlanc was basically fired for violating procedures for handling seized drugs. He went down after his colleagues in the sheriff's drug unit began to notice "irregularities" in his actions and an internal investigation ensued. Local prosecutors said LeBlanc's actions have impacted several drug cases, both pending and closed. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating, and local prosecutors will seek an outside prosecutor if any criminal charges are filed.
In Buffalo, New York, a TSA officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he was dealing in cocaine. Todd Stoddard, 29, went down after law enforcement received information about his alleged drug dealing, leading to a month-long investigation by the sheriff's office and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Stoddard worked at the Niagara Falls International Airport, but authorities don't believe he used his position there to smuggle drugs. He was charged with three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance and two counts of criminal use of drug paraphernalia.
In Brooksville, Florida, a former New Port Richey police office was sentenced last Thursday to three consecutive one-year jail terms after being convicted of possession of hydrocodone, fleeing law enforcement, and tampering with evidence. John Michael Nohejl had also been charged with trafficking hydrocodone, but the jury failed to convict him on that charge. Nohejl had been stopped for speeding by a Hernando County vice detective, but refused to identify himself and sped away. The detective and a police cruiser quickly caught up to him and found one pain pill on the driver's side floorboard and 27 more pills in a cellophane wrapper thrown from the vehicle as Nohejl fled. Nohejl had been suspended by the New Port Richey police before his arrest because of numerous disciplinary issues and was fired in February for failing to report his own arrest. While out on bail, Nohejl was arrested in April in Hernando County and charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. That case has yet to be resolved.
Special to Drug War Chronicle by investigate journalist Clarence Walker, email@example.com. Part four of an ongoing investigative series, "Prosecutorial Misconduct and Police Corruption in Drug Cases Across America."
With a plot out of a Hollywood movie or a gripping Lifetime TV show, a mesmerizing drama of sex, power, frame-ups, planted drugs, and lies unfolded in real life in Georgia when two Murray County sheriff's deputies recently pleaded guilty in federal court for their part in a scheme to send an innocent woman to prison. Now both deputies await sentencing on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from an FBI civil rights investigation into the odd goings-on Down South.
Angela Garmley (courtesy attorney McCracken Poston) The woman in question, Angela Garmley, had filed a complaint with the Georgia Judicial Qualification Committee alleging that Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran solicited sex from her in return for legal favors in a pending assault case in which she was the victim. Shortly after Garmley filed her complaint, she was arrested on August 14, 2012 in sleepy Chatsworth, Georgia, and charged with possession of methamphetamines.
"My client was set up and framed with methamphetamine drugs by Judge Bryant Cochran, whom she had accused of soliciting her for sex in exchange for legal favors in a case she had in Cochran's court," attorney McCracken Poston told the Chronicle.
Poston, a former Georgia state representative from nearby Ringgold with a reputation as a crack attorney, is representing Garmley in a civil lawsuit against Murray County. And Garmley isn't alone. Since this scandal broke, three women who worked in Cochran's court have filed a separate lawsuit against the judge and the county claiming Cochran sexually harassed them while county officials negligently failed to protect their rights.
"The judge, two deputies, and a handyman named C.J. who is employed at Judge Cochran's property conspired to plant the drugs on my client. And if the frame-up hadn't been discovered my client would've been facing 25 to 30 years in prison," Poston said, echoing the allegations made it the lawsuit.
Although Garmley's drug charge was dismissed a week later at the request of investigators when the frame-up was exposed, she is still suffering the consequences of her false arrest. Under Georgia law, it takes one year for the charge to be removed from Garmley's record, and the arrest has already cost her.
"My client was denied a much higher paid job due to the felony drug charge on her record and what the judge and cops did to her. Nobody should have to suffer like that," Poston said.
Lust and Privilege at the County Courthouse
According to Garmley's lawsuit -- and largely supported by the record in judicial proceedings so far -- she went to the courthouse on April 9, 2012 in regard to an assault on her by three persons the previous day. When Garmley arrived at Cochran's office, he requested that she meet with him alone, preventing her sister, who had been an eyewitness to the assault, from attending or providing a corroborating statement.
"While privately sitting in chambers with Cochran, I related details about the assault," Garmley said in the lawsuit.
But Cochran was more interested in the state of her marriage, the suit alleges, whether or not she had cheated on her estranged husband, and whether the persons who assaulted her "have anything on her to hurt her divorce from Joe Garmley." While shying away from particulars of the assault, Cochran made repeated comments about "how pretty" Garmley was and then veered into even more uncomfortable territory.
"My wife doesn't take care of my sexual needs and I need a mistress to have sex with I can trust," Garmley said Cochran told her. He had "a real boner" for her and wanted her to return to his office the following week, he added flirtatiously, the lawsuit alleges.
Garmley played along as if interested in his offer, the suit alleges, and then Cochran upped the ante by asking Garmley to send him a photo of herself in a seductive way to let him take a "sneak peek" at what he was going to get. After giving Garmley his private cell number, Cochran, with a fixed stare at Garmley, gave her a direct order: "Come back on Wednesday with a dress and no panties so we can have sex."
Garmley told investigators and her attorney that she complied with Cochran's request for a revealing photo, sending him pictures of herself in her underwear.
"I sent the pictures hoping Judge Cochran would permit my assault case to move forward to get justice," Garmley stated in her suit. "But I had no intention of meeting behind closed doors without panties to have sex with the judge."
Instead, Garmley filed a complaint against Cochran with judicial authorities, and that's when her experience with Murray County justice shifted from bad dream to nightmare.
[image:2 align:left caption:true]The Drug Bust That Wasn't
Within days of filing her complaint against Cochran, Garmley suddenly found herself on the wrong side of the law, charged with possession of methamphetamine after a roadside traffic stop by Murray County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Greeson. Greeson's arrest report -- now in the hands of the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorneys Office, and Garmley's attorneys -- provided the official version of events.
"On 8-14-2012, while patrolling Eastbound on the Brown Bridge Road I noticed a vehicle heading Westbound with its bright lights on. As the vehicle passed me I turned around to make a traffic stop for failure to dim its bright lights," Greeson wrote. "Failure to dim headlights is an indicator someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol."
Garmley was a passenger in the vehicle, being given a ride by a male friend, Jason Southern, who was also charged with meth possession, as well as driving with a suspended license, and who is also a plaintiff in Garmley's lawsuit. Southern was giving Garmley a ride to the property she shared with her estranged husband, who lived in a separate residence on the property.
"When the vehicle pulled into the trailer park at 4177 Brown Bridge, I turned my blue lights on for the vehicle to stop," Greeson wrote in his report. "When I got out I approached the passenger side and requested to see both the driver and the passenger driver's license. Mr. Southern stated his license was suspended."
Then Joe Garmley showed up and began angrily arguing with his wife and Southern. Joe Garmley repeatedly ignored Deputy Greeson's orders to step away from the vehicle and continued to argue with his wife. Greeson then arrested him for obstruction of justice. Joe Garmley is also a plaintiff in Garmley's lawsuit.
"When Mr. Garmley was arrested," Poston explained, "his offense was a simple misdemeanor that he could have bonded out on that same night, but guess what? Mr. Garmley was held overnight without bond."
Returning to the business at hand, Deputy Greeson continued to investigate.
"When Mrs. Garmley stepped out of the vehicle she stumbled and had slurred speech, which led me to believe that she was on some sort of illegal drug," he reported. "I asked Ms. Garmley if she had used any illegal drugs or if there was any illegal drugs inside the vehicle and she said no. I asked Ms. Garmley if I could run my dog around her vehicle to assure me that there wasn't anything illegal in the vehicle and she stated it was fine to search her vehicle if I wanted. I got my K-9 Ruhl out of my patrol car and started my search at the back driver's side tail light."
Greeson also noted in his report that during the first search of the vehicle with the K-9 dog that the animal sniffing enhanced at the driver's side front tire and front lower part of the door. "On my second pass by the driver's side, the sniffing of the K-9 enhanced again."
"Due to my training with Ruhl at the South Georgia K-9 school, I was certain that his alert was true," Greeson wrote. "And based on my police training about different techniques that are used to hide narcotics, I looked up under the vehicle and located a small metal can stuck to the front of the vehicle right under the driver's door. When I opened the can there were bags of a crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine."
Garmley denied that the drugs were hers. "Then Mrs. Garmley said this was a set up," Greeson wrote in the report.
At this point, Murray County Sheriff's Captain Michael Henderson, a first cousin to Judge Cochran, appeared on the scene. "You happen to be in the wrong place," he told Southern, according to the lawsuit.
Both Ms. Garmley and the driver, Jason Southern, were charged with possession of meth and hauled off to jail while her husband Joe was transported to jail in a separate vehicle. Garmley posted a $2,500 bond and was released from jail. Her husband Joe also posted bail, but Southern remained in jail.
"Once Angela told me what happened, I knew the whole case stunk to high heaven," attorney Poston said. "My client and I had been on TV about the sexual allegations that Ms. Garmley had filed against Judge Cochran with the State Judicial Qualification Board and all of a sudden, my client gets pulled over and drugs were found in her car. I told the judge in open court that my client had been set up and that I would have the case investigated," Poston added.
Poston complained to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and GBI investigator James Harris launched an immediate investigation, questioning Deputy Greeson, Captain Henderson, and others involved. That's when the official story began to fall apart.
A Frame-Up Exposed
Garmley's distinctive automobile that was stopped (courtesy attorney McCracken Poston) The day after the arrest, Deputy Greeson testified that he had not received prior information about Garmley's white Dodge vehicle prior to pulling it over. During GBI agents' interviews with Greeson a week later, he insisted again that he had not been instructed to pull Garmley over. But by then, Poston and Garmley had reported to investigators that a man known as "C.J.," who worked as a handyman for Judge Cochran, had confessed to planting the drugs on Garmley's car.
"This C.J. guy confessed to me and Garmley that Judge Cochran paid him money to plant the drugs on Garmley's vehicle," Poston told the Chronicle. "She told both me and GBI investigators that on the night prior to her arrest, C.J. came by her house around 1:30am acting strange, asking Garmley if her father, who no longer lived with her, wanted to trade off his guitar. Mrs. Garmley said as C.J. talked, she noticed him watching her cell phone, but she moved it. C.J. said the judge told him that if he got ahold of Garmley's phone that he would get paid more, particularly because Garmley had the judge's phone number and text messages."
Realizing that his cell phone log could be subpoenaed regardless of whether his messages were deleted, Greeson finally cracked, telling investigators that Henderson had asked him to pull the drug-planted car over and to keep quiet about it.
"Henderson asked Greeson not to tell investigators about his order to pull Garmley's car over, which put Greeson in a position to lie about it, and that's a conspiracy," said Poston. "Captain Henderson then changed course and confessed his role in the scheme to have Garmley's car stopped so Greeson could find the planted drugs."
Surrounded by reporters, Greeson sobbed as he recalled having feared to refuse Captain Henderson's order to deny knowing ahead of time about Garmley's car having drugs. Greeson also said Henderson visited his home before he spoke with GBI about Garmley's arrest.
"I can't remember exactly how Henderson put it, but he said for me not to mention about the lookout on the vehicle and that I was the only one who knew about the lookout. And if I didn't say nothing about it, nobody would know," he said. "I was always told to stay on Henderson's good side."
Both Henderson and Greeson were fired from the sheriff department and Cochran,who had just been reelected for a third term, abruptly resigned his judgeship a day after the arrests of Garmley, her husband Joe, and Jason Southern.
Henderson later told investigators he arrived at the arrest scene to assist Greeson with Garmley's husband Joe after he appeared on the scene and disrupted the investigation. Judge Cochran denied Garmley's allegations and further denied that he resigned because of them, instead offering up that he had resigned over warrants he had pre-signed for officers when he wasn't available during normal hours. Pre-signing warrants is a breach of judicial ethics; it would allow any officer to pick up a blank warrant with Cochran's signature and fill in the blanks to effect the arrest of search of a citizen without the judge's knowledge or any judicial oversight.
Michael Henderson, 41, a former captain with Murray County Sheriff Department pleaded guilty on March 27 to obstructing a civil rights investigation into allegations surrounding the "throw down" dope found under Mrs. Garmley's vehicle as well pleading guilty to a charge of tampering with a witness pending a civil rights investigation. He faces up to 20 years in prison with a fine up to $250,000.
Josh Greeson, 26, pleaded guilty on April 12 to similar charges after previously denying he had not been instructed by then-Captain Henderson to pull over Garmley's drug-laden car as she headed home. Greeson admitted to obstructing a pending public corruption and civil rights violations by tampering with a government witness -- Angela Garmley. Greeson also admitted to deleting text messages and call logs that he received on his phone from Henderson and Cochran on the night he stopped Garmley with the planted drugs.
As part of their plea deals, both Greeson and Henderson agreed to tell everything they knew about the set-up, as well as what Judge Cochran knew. The investigation continues. Judge Cochran has yet to be indicted on any criminal charges, and the same goes for the man known as C.J., who admitted to planting the drugs. But both are named in Garmley's civil suit.
The case has drawn howls of outrage from prosecutors, law enforcement, and defense attorneys alike.
"The criminal justice system is based on the premise that police officers must be honest and truthful above all," said Northern District of Georgia US Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Mr. Henderson and Mr. Greeson weren't, and such conduct cannot stand."
"We as taxpayers should all be horrified," said prominent Houston criminal defense lawyer Vivian King. King is host of a weekly court justice program called Truth & Justice. "We as taxpayers should hold our judges and law enforcement officers to a higher standard and if found guilty they should be punished. And the judge in this case should be disbarred."
"I never had fellow narcotics officers plant drugs, but usually when something like this happens, there is usually a woman somewhere in the mix," said retired Houston police narcotics officer Billy Williams, and the case of Judge Cochran was no exception. "So he abused his power for sex and a woman brought him down."
Henderson and Greer await sentencing, and Poston is urging them to sing like canaries.
"Under federal sentencing guidelines the only thing the deputies can do to help themselves is to tell everything they know about my client being framed with the drugs and that includes everything they know about the judge's involvement," he said. "I suspect there are more people involved or knew the dope was planted because Judge Cochran made several calls to the sheriff department about my client's vehicle having drugs inside."
In this case of lust, power, and justice perverted, the fat lady is yet to sing.
It's judges gone wild! Plus sticky-fingered narcs, lying narcs, crooked deputies, and more! Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested May 23 for stealing drugs and money from a suspected drug dealer. Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested after an FBI sting operation in which agents recorded him bragging about how easy it was to rip off drug dealers. Walker and a federal informant concocted a scheme to plant cocaine in a suspect's car, then rob him. Walker did just that, arresting the suspect, then entering his home and stealing $15,000. He was arrested with the cash in hand. At last report, Walker was still in federal custody.
In Pittsburgh, a former Washington County judge was arrested May 24 on charges he stole cocaine from evidence in cases over which he presided. Paul Pozonsky abruptly resigned from the bench in 2012 and moved to Alaska after police checked evidence envelopes and found the cocaine had gone missing. Court officers said that Pozonsky had begun asking them to bring confiscated drugs into the courtroom, where they would be entered as evidence and kept by either the judge himself of members of his staff.
In Des Moines, an Iowa state narcotics agent was arrested May 26 on charges he forged the signature of a Polk County judge in a bid to shortcut an after-the-fact approval of a drug-related search warrant. Jonathan Borg, 39, allegedly forged the judge's signature as he returned with the warrant after conducting a search in a drug investigation where the charges have now been dropped because of his actions. He is charged with one count of felonious misconduct in office and is looking at up to five years in prison if convicted.
In Belleville, Illinois, a St. Clair county judge was arrested last Friday in relation to the cocaine overdose death of another St. Clair county judge while the pair partied together at a hunting lodge in March. Judge Michael Cook, 43, who presided over the county's drug court, was charged by federal prosecutors with possession of heroin and possession of a firearm while illegally using controlled substances. His colleague, Judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose. A St. Clair County probation officer, James Fogarty, has been charged with selling cocaine to both judges. Judge Cook had handled more than 500 criminal cases since 2010; now, those found guilty can come back and seek new trials.
In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was arrested last Friday on multiple charges, including trying to sell heroin. Officer Ashley Roane, 25, went down in a sting operation, accepting cash payments and providing protection for a man she thought was a drug dealer, but who was actually an informant for Baltimore police and the FBI. She agreed to access law enforcement databases listing informants and other sensitive information for the drug dealer, and provided Social Security numbers to him as part of a scheme to obtain false tax refunds, prosecutors said. She's looking at a mandatory minimum 17 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts.
In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Wednesday for faking paperwork to cover up his involvement in the unlawful search and arrest of two men. Isaias Alicea had stopped and arrested two men in Harlem last year and later falsely told his supervisors he saw them in a drug transaction. But surveillance images showed no transaction occurred and the charges against the men were dropped. He was convicted of official misconduct, a felony, and will be fired based on that felony conviction. Sentencing is set for next month.
In San Antonio, five Hidalgo County narcotics officers pleaded guilty last Wednesday to federal charges in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy. The five, all members of now-defunct drug task force called the Panama Unit, including the son of the county sheriff, acknowledged roles in a scheme to steal drug loads from street-level dealers and sell them to a man alleged to be a local trafficker. Jonathan Trevino a 29-year-old former Mission police officer and the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy. Three other members of the unit, including ex-Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies Salvador Joel Aguello, Claudio Alberto Mata, and Eric Michael Alacantar, also entered guilty pleas. The fifth man, Gerardo Mendoza Duran, is a former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy but was not assigned to the Panama Unit. He admitted last Wednesday that he had aided and abetted the group's plans to escort the drug loads. They're all looking at 10 years to life in federal prison.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the former commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force agreed to plead guilty last Friday to stealing at least $125,000 from drug proceeds seized by the unit. Jeff Snyder, 55, embezzled money that the task force seized between June 2010 and June 2012, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office. Snyder admitted to pocketing seized cash during drug raids and failing to log it into task force ledger books and deposit it in task force bank accounts. In his plea agreement, Snyder and prosecutors agreed to an 18 month federal prison sentence. That agreement has yet to be approved by a judge.
New York City seems indifferent to the costs imposed on it by rogue narcs, a Florida deputy gets popped for growing weed, a US Virgin Islands environmental cop gets popped for cocaine trafficking, and a rogue California narc heads for prison. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In New York City, news broke on Sunday that a Brooklyn NYPD narcotics team had cost the city more than $1.5 million settlements, even as the officer who led the team was being promoted. NYPD Lt. Daniel Sbarra and his rogue narc squad have been hit with nearly 60 lawsuits, with at least 15 cases involving him personally. Those lawsuits include charges ranging from racial profiling slinging racial slurs to the unprovoked beating of a man in front of his young son. The city's Law Department, which must defend the cases seemed unconcerned. "Being named in a lawsuit or settlement is not an accurate barometer for evaluating an officer’s conduct," it said in a statement. "For example, an officer who works in high-impact roles, such as narcotics or emergency services, is more likely to be sued in his or her line of duty than an officer in a less confrontational role."
In Fort Myers, Florida, a Lee County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday after authorities executed a search warrant at his home and found marijuana plants. Now former Deputy Piotr Urbanski and his girlfriend were both arrested after the raiders found 30 plants two to four inches tall. Both are charged with one count each of producing marijuana, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, and possession of drug equipment or paraphernalia. Urbanski went down after the department "received information" there might be a grow at his home. In addition to the plants, deputies found 12 grams of processed pot and two pipes "that reportedly had been used to ingest pot." Urbanski posted $4,000 bail and is free pending trial.
In the US Virgin Islands, the islands' head environmental enforcer was arrested last Friday after allegedly being caught with a cache of cocaine on a government patrol boat. Robert Tapia, director of environmental enforcement for the Virgin Islands' Department of Planning and Natural Resources, was armed, uniformed, and in possession of a bag containing 15 pounds of cocaine when he was arrested. He is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and was being held without bail pending a hearing this week.
In Oakland, California, the former head of the Contra Costa County drug task force was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison for heading up a drug-stealing and -dealing scheme that also involved a local private investigator. Norman Wielsch, 51, admitted stealing drugs from police evidence lockers for resale, as well as conspiring with the PI to do illegal search-and-seizure operations against prostitutes they located via Craigslist and target spouses in divorce cases handled by the PI for fake drunk driving arrests. Wielsch cried during his sentencing Monday.
If it weren't for crooked cops in the Land of Lincoln, this space would be blank this week. Instead, we have an Illinois corrupt cops twofer. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Caseyville, Illinois, the Caseyville police chief was arrested last Wednesday on charges he kept a seized drug vehicle for his own use. Chief JD Roth faces two felony counts of official misconduct, and prosecutors have told town officials to keep him away from criminal investigations because his lack of credibility would hurt cases. Casey had been suspended in March after village records showed he had not sold the seized 2003 Dodge Ram pickup, but instead kept it for his own personal use. To add insult to injury, Roth also billed the village $6,000 for maintenance for the truck.
In East St. Louis, Illinois, an East St. Louis police detective was indicted last Friday, one of seven people accused of operating a cocaine distribution ring. Detective Orlando "Monte" Ward is charged with possession and conspiracy to possess more than five kilograms of cocaine. The 12-year police veteran was being held in jail pending a bond hearing set for Wednesday.
Something is still rotten along Utah's Wasatch Front, a DC cop gets popped for money-laundering, a Detroit-area cop pleads to running protection for traffickers, and a South Texas cop heads for prison for shipping guns to Mexico. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In West Valley City, Utah, prosecutors announced Friday they will drop 26 more cases in which the West Valley Police Neighborhood Narcotics Unit was involved. Ninety-nine other cases have already been dropped, and prosecutors have filed notices of possible impeachment of evidence in another 48 cases. That means the cases will move forward, but judges and defense attorneys will be notified there may be evidence calling into question the credibility of police witnesses. The department has been in turmoil since March, when prosecutors first announced cases were in jeopardy because of "unspecified issues" with narcotics detective Shaun Cowley. Cowley has since been suspended, as have other members of the dope squad, over allegations of misconduct. Cowley and fellow officer Kevin Salmon shot and killed unarmed alleged heroin user Danielle Willard in November, and that killing and the other allegations are now being investigated by the FBI.
In Washington, DC, a DC Metro police officer was arrested Monday on charges he was part of a drug trafficking scheme. Officer Jared Weinberg, 28, is accused of helping to launder money in the scheme that stretched from Pittsburg to the Baltimore area. The federal indictment, which focuses on a time before Weinberg became a DC police officer, alleges that he helped hide drug trafficking profits by setting up accounts at 29 banks in Baltimore, Chicago, and New York. Deposits totaling $1.08 million were made to those accounts. At the time, Weinberg was making $6,500 a year as a lifeguard. Money from those deals helped buy apartments in the DC-Baltimore metro area, including one for Weinberg. He is one of more than a dozen defendants in the case, including his father.
In Detroit, a former Highland Park police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to taking money in exchange for protecting a shipment of cocaine. Shawn Williams, 33, admitted that he and three other Highland Park officers took the money to do the dirty deed. All four were caught up in an FBI sting, taking cash to protect what they thought was coke. Williams copped to one count of extortion and is now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.
In Brownsville, Texas, a former Rio Hondo police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to five years in federal prison for buying guns that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Armando Duenez had been arrested in 2008 after being charged with gun trafficking for buying 15 semiautomatic rifles, but fled to Mexico and didn't return until last year. He got five years each for one count of gun trafficking and one count of failure to appear, but the sentences will run concurrently, except for an additional four months he will have to do for fleeing.
A couple of strange and disturbing items this week, plus some good, old-fashioned thievery. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Quincy, Illinois, an Adams County probation officer was arrested last Friday on charges he was cooking meth at his home with a probationer who resided with him. Probation officer John Grotts, who also served as the department's drug court liaison, went down after the Adams County Sheriff's Office and the West Central Illinois Drug Task Force raided and searched his home following complaints from neighbors. Grotts is charged with possession of methamphetamine and unlawful use of a property to violate the Methamphetamine Control Act, both felonies. His probationer roommate, who was also a graduate of the drug court program Grotts monitored, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for illegal possession of meth precursors.
In Milwaukee, a former Milwaukee police officer pleaded guilty last Monday to eight charges for conducting illegal strip searches and body cavity searches on black male drug suspects. Michael Vagnini, 34, had faced 25 criminal charges, including seven counts of sexual assault, but those charges were dropped, and he pleaded no contest to four felony and four misdemeanor counts of misconduct in public officer. Prosecutors said Vagnini regularly pulled over drivers on pretenses such as not wearing a seat belt and searched them without legal reason, often conducting searches of men's anal and scrotal areas, including inserting his finger into their rectums. Three other police officers charged with Vagnini -- Jeffrey Dollhopf, Brian Kozelek and Jacob Knight -- had had their cases separated because they face fewer counts and were not charged with sexual assault. They are charged with misconduct in office and being parties to the crimes of illegal searches, based on their on-duty presence when prosecutors say Vagnini committed them. They are set for June trials. All are suspended with pay, as Vagnini was until he pleaded no contest.
In Phoenix, a former Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty last Tuesday to stealing money that was supposed to be paid to a confidential drug informant. Torrey McRae made off with more than $5,000 in snitch cash and later tried to repay the money without being detected, but it was too late. His supervisors had already noticed discrepancies in the account used to transfer money to informants, and he was arrested in March. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft, two counts of forgery, and two counts of misuse of public money by a custodian. He will be sentenced May 20.