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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops, cocaine, and corruption, from Florida to Texas to California to Michigan. And some crooked jail guards, too. Let’s get to it:


In Punta Gorda, Florida, a Charlotte County sheriff’s deputy was fired last Friday after an internal affairs investigation revealed he bought drugs and traded them for sexual favors. Deputy Elio Santana would buy cocaine while in uniform and driving his squad car, and the investigation found at least some of it was used to pay for sex.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a local jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he smuggled marijuana into the Pendleton Correctional Center. Laura Whitinger, who has been on the job less than a year, faces charges of trafficking with an inmate, possession of marijuana and dealing a controlled substance.

In Yuba City, California, a Yuba City police officer was arrested last Wednesday on federal charges he was involved in cocaine trafficking. Officer Harminder Phagura, 35, and his brother, Gursharan, 39, were both arrested in an investigation that targeted the brother, but that also implicated Harminder, who is accused of passing on sensitive law enforcement information to his brother. They are both charged with conspiring to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and use of a communications facility in drug trafficking activity.

In Detroit, three Detroit narcs were indicted last Wednesday for allegedly setting up drug deals while in uniform and making fake traffic stops to rip off suspected drug dealers. Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson face charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, while Officer Arthur Levells faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In Rio Grande City, Texas, a Rio Grande City narc was arrested last Saturday on charges he was involved in a cocaine deal. Noel Pena, a narcotics investigator and member of the Starr County HIDTA Task Force, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 10 pounds of cocaine. He was busted by the Homeland Investigations division of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

In Dover, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 4 ½ years in state prison for plotting to smuggle marijuana and cellphones into the Vaughan Correctional Center. Darryl West, Jr. had earlier pleaded guilty to manufacturing, delivering or possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance with an aggravating factor, promoting prison contraband and second-degree conspiracy. He went down after authorities found a quarter pound of pot, $700, and two new cellphones in his vehicle in the prison parking lot.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Who Is Michele Leonhart? DEA Administrator To Step Down Amid Scandals

Michele Leonhart served in the DEA for 34 years, but the widespread sexual misconduct of DEA agents over the last 15 years appears to be ending her career there. Reuters/James Lawler Duggan

Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele Leonhart has resigned as the result of a series of scandals, most recently over the widespread sexual misconduct of DEA agents abroad. As far back as 2001, DEA agents held taxpayer-funded sex parties with prostitutes abroad, often funded by the drug cartels they were tasked with fighting, according to excerpts of a report released by the House Oversight Committee last week.

The committee grilled Leonhart and Associate Deputy FBI Director Kevin Perkins about the sex scandals and found both the DEA and FBI “impeded and obstructed,” a Department of Justice investigation into the allegations. The committee found Leonhart failed to properly penalize officers involved, but she said civil service laws prevented her from firing or otherwise disciplining her agents. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., said the findings of the report reflect “a ‘spring break frat party’ mentality for the last 15 years at the DEA.”

The next day, nine Republican and 13 Democratic lawmakers on the committee released a statement declaring they had no confidence Leonhart could “initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

“Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency,” the press release said. “From her testimony, it is clear she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position.”

Leonhart started her law enforcement career as a police officer in Baltimore in the late 1970s but joined the DEA as a special agent in 1980. After 24 years climbing up the ranks at DEA headquarters, she became deputy administrator in 2004 and became acting administrator in 2007. She was nominated as administrator in 2010 by Obama and was confirmed by Congress shortly thereafter.

Besides the recent sex scandal, her time as administrator was marked by a number of high-level bouts with Obama over his marijuana policy and with Attorney General Eric Holder over her opposition to Holder’s plans to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, NPR reported. Leonhart did not support Obama’s acknowledgement marijuana is not “more dangerous than alcohol,” nor his and Holder’s initiatives to reform drug-related penalties.

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Why Marijuana Legalization Is Good For You (Even If You Won’t Use It)

marijuana glasses


Legalization of Marijuana would save the United States an estimated $20 billion per year.

Even if you don’t use Marijuana, you should be supporting getting it decriminalized.

Tax Marijuana, Hit Cartels Where it Hurts

About 1 in 4 people have claimed to have used Marijuana at least once in their life (the rest are probably lying) and according to the Federal Government about 15 million Americans are currently using Marijuana at least once per month. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the world and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Economics 101 states that where there is demand, there will be a supply and right now, the supply is mainly coming from Mexican drug cartels. These drug sales are grossing Mexican cartels a healthy $64 billion in untaxed drug revenue each year.In the last 5 years, police and drug cartels have killed a staggering 55k people and cartels are growing Marijuana in National Forests while running drug distribution networks in over 1k cities across the U.S. The legalization of Marijuana will put a big dent in the cartel revenue, reducing crime, lowering money spent fighting cartels while adding another source of revenue for the U.S. government.

Each year, over 75k people die from alcohol and over 100k people from prescription drug abuse yet, there have never been any documented deaths from the use of Marijuana.

Legalize Marijuana, Create Jobs & Business Opportunities

With the Marijuana legalization in states like Colorado, Washington and California (medical legalization) and many others, it has opened up many opportunities for new and existing businesses and the direct/wholesale sales industry are not the only ones benefitting from this. Businesses such as Marijuana business listings services like and Weed Maps and have made very profitable businesses helping people find where to buy Marijuana.Other business have followed suit by offering services such as strain testing, publicly traded Marijuana vending machine companies and even scenic Marijuana tours to name a few. Cannabis is a rich source of paper (hemp), plastic and oil which could become a massive industry in no time.

Decriminalize Marijuana on A Federal Level, Increase State Tax Revenue

Even with Marijuana legalized on a state level it’s still difficult to track revenue that should be taxed. This is because Marijuana is still mainly a cash business. As long as Marijuana is illegal on a Federal level, credit card companies won’t service Cannabis businesses which makes it hard to track what revenue should be taxed. By opening up Marijuana legalization on a Federal level, it will solve this problem and help states increase tax revenue from the sale of Marijuana.

Additionally, the United States is known for its high incarceration rates. It is estimated that 1 in 5 inmates in state prisons and are serving time for drug related offenses. At a cost of $20-$40k annually per inmate to taxpayers,this could help reduce state and federal funding requirements for prisons and put that money to use in better places like transportation, education and the like.

Consider the facts

Over the last decade, the NYPD has spent over 1 million hours enforcing Marijuana Laws; in 2012, over 600k individuals were arrested for Marijuana charges with the majority being for simple possession and since Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971, the U.S. government has spent over a trillion dollars fighting it.

Legalize Marijuana, Find More Medical Uses

Decriminalization of Marijuana will open up more studies as pharmaceutical companies will be able to fully profit from its medical benefits. Medical Marijuana has already been found to have medical benefits with things such as pain, Multiple Sclerosis, hardcore drug dependency and depression. Prescription drugs such as Sativex and Marinol have already been approved and are currently being used in countries such as the UK, Canada, Sweden and Denmark to name a few. Legalizing Marijuana would help the U.S. enjoy more medical benefits from Cannabis.

With more citizens including economists and politicians jumping on board to legalize Marijuana; now is the time to make this happen. The first step should be to remove Marijuana as a Schedule I drug and decriminalize it on a Federal level. This will push states to follow suit and ease the burden that it has had on our pocket books.

This piece originally appeared on Medium and was written by David McClellan, a self proclaimed cool guy turned internet nerd and is co-founder of Social Catfish, a people search.

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Police can’t delay traffic stops to investigate crimes absent suspicion, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court handed down a notable Fourth Amendment ruling this morning in Rodriguez v. United States, holding that the Fourth Amendment does not allow the police to extend the duration of a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, even for just a “de minimis” amount of time, for reasons unrelated to vehicle and driver safety. The vote was 6-3, with Justice Ginsburg writing for the majority and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito dissenting. I’m pleased with the Court’s opinion. The Court’s holding, and the reasoning, matches up well with the approach I have suggested.

The issue in the case: When the police make a routine traffic stop, can the police delay the duration of the stop, even just for a small amount of time, to wait for drug sniffing dogs, absent any articulable suspicion to believe that there are drugs in the car? The Court has previously held that officers are allowed to use drug-sniffing dogs at a traffic stop so long as the use of the dogs does not delay the stop. This case raises the flip question: What if use of the dogs delays the stop just a little bit. Is that okay? How much leeway do the police have on the duration of the stop, given that a traffic stop is a seizure and its duration would normally determine how reasonable the delay is?

The case may ring a bell for regular readers, as I’ve blogged about it a bunch of times. My prior posts include this post when the lower court ruled; this post when the Court granted cert, this video after the grant, and this postafter the Supreme Court’s argument.

On to the new decision. The majority opinion begins with what is the most important analytical step in the opinion: Answering the permitted constitutional “mission” of a traffic stop. According to the Court, the fundamental mission of a traffic stop is “ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly.” This principle allows officers to inquire into the traffic violation that justified the stop, as well as to make other safety-related checks:

Like a Terry stop, the tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s “mission”—to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407, and attend to related safety concerns, infra, at 6–7. See also United States v. Sharpe, 470 U. S. 675, 685 (1985); Florida v. Royer, 460 U. S. 491, 500 (1983) (plurality opinion) (“The scope of the detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification.”). Because addressing the infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.” Ibid. See also Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed. See Sharpe, 470 U. S., at 686 (in determining the reasonable duration of a stop, “it [is] appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued [the] investigation”).
. . .

Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer’s mission includes “ordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop.” Caballes, 543 U. S., at 408. Typically such inquiries involve checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 658–660 (1979). See also 4 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure §9.3(c), pp. 507–517 (5th ed. 2012). These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly. See Prouse, 440 U. S., at 658–659; LaFave, Search and Seizure §9.3(c), at 516 (A “warrant check makes it possible to determine whether the apparent traffic violator is wanted for one or more previous traffic offenses.”)

With that mission defined, the Court concludes that bringing out drug sniffing dogs are outside the mission and can’t support a delay absent reasonable suspicion:

A dog sniff, by contrast, is a measure aimed at “detect[ing] evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U. S. 32, 40–41 (2000). See also Florida v. Jardines, 569 U. S. 1, ___–___ (2013) (slip op., at 7–8). Candidly, the Government acknowledged at oral argument that a dog sniff, unlike the routine measures just mentioned, is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 33. Lacking the same close connection to roadway safety as the ordinary inquiries, a dog sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officer’s traffic mission.

Then the question becomes, is there a reason to allow a “de minimis” extension of the stop for reasons outside the mission of the stop? No, the Court reasons: The permitted length of the stop is defined by how long it takes to diligently complete the steps that are part of the core mission of the stop.

Finally, the Court rejects the government’s argument that it should be the overall reasonableness of the duration of the stop that matters. Let’s say an officer completes a stop really quickly and then waits for the dogs. Should the delay then be allowed because the overall stop wasn’t unreasonably long, even though part of that time was waiting for the dogs? No, the Court concludes:

The Government’s argument, in effect, is that by completing all traffic-related tasks expeditiously, an officer can earn bonus time to pursue an unrelated criminal investigation. See also post, at 2–5 (THOMAS, J., dissenting) (embracing the Government’s argument). The reasonableness of a seizure, however, depends on what the police in fact do. See Knowles, 525 U. S., at 115–117. In this regard, the Government acknowledges that “an officer always has to be reasonably diligent.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 49. How could diligence be gauged other than by noting what the officer actually did and how he did it? If an officer can complete traffic-based inquiries expeditiously, then that is the amount of “time reasonably required to complete [the stop’s] mission.” Caballes, 543 U. S., at 407. As we said in Caballes and reiterate today, a traffic stop “prolonged beyond” that point is “unlawful.” Ibid. The critical question, then, is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, as JUSTICE ALITO supposes, post, at 2–4, but whether conducting the sniff “prolongs”—i.e., adds time to—“the stop,” supra, at 6.

A few thoughts:

(1) It’s a correct decision, I think. I’m particularly pleased that the Court adopted the safety-based rationale for traffic stops. As I blogged before, I think that is exactly right, and there hasn’t been much authority on this. For authority, the Court mostly relies on dicta in Prouse and Wayne LaFave’s oft-cited treatise. In the grand scheme of things, that’s relatively slim doctrinal pickings. But I think the Court was quite right on this, and that it’s a conceptually important step.

(2) Similarly, it’s important that the Court distinguished Terry stops from traffic stops. There is caselaw on the proper length of Terry stops, but I readRodriguez as saying that the proper length of traffic stops is a different animal. That’s doctrinally quite important. In Caballes and Muehler, the Court indicated that the police are allowed to look for evidence of criminal activity during traffic stops, by asking questions and bringing in the dogs, as long as they don’t extend the length of the stop. Rodriguez imposes some limits on that by adopting a more limited framework for the duration of the stop and saying that the criminal-related steps can’t extend the stop even a second beyond that.

Of course, as with every defense win in Fourth Amendment law, some will criticize the opinion for not going far enough. But Caballes made time the key variable, and given the arguments in play, Rodriguez ends up imposing a limit on the variable of time.

(3) The most important sentence in the opinion is this: “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are— or reasonably should have been —completed.” Unpacking that, there are two limits on the duration of a traffic stop. First, the stop has to end When the safety-related tasks are done (absent reasonable suspicion that turns the traffic stop into a Terry stop). Second, the stop has to end when the safety-related tasks should have been done (again, absent reasonable suspicion that turns the traffic stop into a Terry stop). Either limit is sufficient.

This means that there are two kinds of Rodriguez claims defense counsel can make. First, they can argue that the tasks actually had been completed and the stop was over, not allowing any further delay. Second, they can argue that the officer was taking his sweet time and delayed the stop, ending his constitutional authority for the stop even though the safety-related checks were not complete. (The latter kind of claim is probably more important, even though the former is the focus of Rodriguez.)

Justice Thomas points out a possible implication in his dissent:

The majority’s rule . . . imposes a oneway ratchet for constitutional protection linked to the characteristics of the individual officer conducting the stop: If a driver is stopped by a particularly efficient officer, then he will be entitled to be released from the traffic stop after a shorter period of time than a driver stopped by a less efficient officer. Similarly, if a driver is stopped by an officer with access to technology that can shorten a records check, then he will be entitled to be released from the stop after a shorter period of time than an individual stopped by an officer without access to such technology. . .

Under its reasoning, a traffic stop made by a rookie could be executed in a reasonable manner, whereas the same traffic stop made by a knowledgeable, veteran officer in precisely the same circumstances might not, if in fact his knowledge and experience made him capable of completing the stop faster.

That may be right, although it depends in part on how you measure how much time is “reasonable” to complete “tasks tied to the traffic infraction.” This raises the classic question of how you measure reasonableness: Is a reasonable time period for a particular stop measured in the abstract, independent of the characteristics of the individual officer, or is it measured for a particular officer with particular experience and access to specific technology? How much do you take into account the officer’s specific training, experience, and speed?

(4) Rodriguez is more important for its impact on police asking questions than use of drug-sniffing dogs. Drug-sniffing dogs are brought around on occasion, but officers ask questions outside the scope of the traffic stop all the time. (An aside: Is the remedy for the second kind of Rodriguezviolation — that is, a claim that a stop went on for too long because the officer was dilly-dallying — suppression of evidence from the entire stop, or only suppression of what occurred after the stop should have ended? I would think the latter. If that’s right, the officer’s incentive is to ask incriminating questions, request consent, etc., early on in the stop to avoid getting close to the line. At the end of the stop, when the officer is handing back the driver’s license and maybe writing a ticket or a warning, the officer still can ask questions unrelated to the stop. But at that point officer is going to be vulnerable to a Rodriguez challenge that the officer improperly delayed the stop to ask unrelated questions.)

(5) Justice Thomas’s dissent begins with some plausible points, although I think he hits some off notes in Part II.C. starting at the bottom of Page 7. There, Justice Thomas criticizes the majority for missing the fundamental distinction between probable cause and reasonable suspicion. If I understand Justice Thomas correctly, he is arguing that because Terry allows all sorts of things based on reasonable suspicion, then it must be that the law should allow more when the government has probable cause.

But I think it’s Justice Thomas who is missing the fundamental distinction, between crimes and civil offenses. Terry stops are only allowed when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. In contrast, traffic stops are allowed when there is probable cause even of just a civil traffic violation. That’s a notable difference. The powers an officer has to investigate civil traffic violations are less than the powers an officer has to investigate criminal activity. For example, an officer can arrest someone based on probable cause to believe that he committed a crime, but the officer doesn’t have powers to arrest someone based on probable cause that he committed a civil traffic offense. As I’ve blogged before, it doesn’t work to speak of “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” in the abstract. The issue is always, “probable cause of what?”

Looking at Nebraska’s traffic offense caselaw, there appears to be some uncertainty about whether basic traffic offenses count as civil or criminal for Fourth Amendment purposes. See State v. Knoles, 199 Neb. 211 (Neb. 1977). I haven’t looked closely enough at the Nebraska statutory scheme to be sure one way or the other. But if Nebraska’s traffic violations are only civil violations, then that explains the different treatment. On the other hand, if Nebraska’s traffic violations are criminal offenses, then that raises a different possible argument the state could have raised — but didn’t — to justify the stop. That is, the state could have invoked Terry to justify the detention instead of the Whren/Prouse traffic violation line of cases.

Post-Rodriguez, I think it remains uncertain whether the allowed duration of a traffic stop for a violation in a traffic-violations-are-crimes jurisdiction is any different from the allowed duration of a traffic stop for a violation in a traffic-violations-are-civil-offenses jurisdiction. Maybe criminalization of the traffic code gives the police more time, in exchange for added protections to the defendant such as the proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. We’ll see what lower courts do with that. But that was an issue not raised in Rodriguez, which appears to have been litigated on the assumption that the initial stop was a routine traffic stop for a non-criminal traffic violation.

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Rio Grande City investigator accused in drug smuggling conspiracy


A Rio Grande City police investigator who until Saturday was assigned to a Starr County drug task force has been charged in a drug conspiracy, according to federal prosecutors.

Homeland Security Investigations agents on Saturday arrested Noel Pena on a charge of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute about 10 kilograms of cocaine, court records show. As of Saturday, Pena is no longer with Rio Grande City police.

Pena had been with the Rio Grande City Police Department for seven years and assigned to the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force for the past four years.

A second man, Hector Salinas, is also accused of being involved in the drug conspiracy.

“This is what happens when somebody takes a wrong turn,” Rio Grande City Police ChiefNoe Castillo said. “We are held to a higher standard, but this should not reflect on all the law enforcement officers.”

Pena and Salinas are accused of conspiring with someone they thought was a cocaine trafficker but who was actually an undercover officer. The undercover agent claimed to need help stealing most of a 10-kilogram load he was holding for a Mexican drug cartel.

Earlier this month, Pena and Salinas met with the undercover officer and allegedly agreed to provide a fake police report to make it appear the 10 kilograms of cocaine had been seized by law enforcement, according to the criminal complaint. In return for their help, the undercover agent would pay them $10,000, according to court documents.

The scheme allegedly involved Pena being tipped off to the location of the cocaine, then staging the drug seizure.

In addition to HSI agents, investigators with the Drug Enforcement AdministrationTexas Department of Public Safety, FBI and Texas Rangers were involved in the investigation.

“While we take no pleasure in arresting a fellow law enforcement officer, HSI, along with our law enforcement partners, are committed to keeping our communities safe by conducting robust joint investigations and following those investigations wherever they lead,” said Mark Dawson, deputy special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations.

Posted in Drug Bust, Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Valley Narcotics Officer Arrested On Drug Charges

A Valley drug cop remains in federal custody — accused of working for the wrong side. Noel Pena, a narcotics officer with the Rio Grande City Police Department, was arrested Saturday, and charged with conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine.

The 29-year-old Pena was nabbed in a sting operation in which court documents say he agreed to help a drug trafficker steal a load of cocaine he was holding for a Mexican drug cartel. Authorities say in exchange for 10-thousand dollars, Pena generated a fake police report describing a seizure of cocaine by the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. The trafficker turned out to be a federal undercover agent.

Pena was arrested Saturday and immediately fired from the Rio Grande City P-D after seven years on the force. He made his initial appearance in McAllen federal court today and was ordered held until a formal detention hearing Thursday.

Posted in Drug Bust, Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Mayor defends, critics denounce police use of secret cellphone surveillance tool

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Friday defended the widespread use of a cellphone surveillance device that sweeps up phone signals, echoing the Baltimore Police Department‘s stance that it’s used to track criminals and limited in the type of data it collects.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor was aware of the program and supports it as an “effective tool” that has proved useful for police departments across the country. Nonetheless, Harris said, the mayor is open to discussing ways to make the program more transparent.

“If there is a way to bring more transparency into this program without undermining it, she would work with any interested party to do that,” Harris said.

The extent of Baltimore police’s use of the so-called stingray device was largely secret until this week, when a detective testified in court that the department has used it 4,300 times since 2007 and that a 2011 nondisclosure agreement with the FBI prevented police from discussing details about it.

Sheryl Goldstein, who at that time was director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, was listed as a recipient on that agreement that required parties to keep quiet about the program. As part of the agreement, the FBI retains the right to ask local police departments and prosecutors to drop cases against criminals before revealing information about stingray programs.

The stingray has come under scathing criticism from privacy advocates. Christopher Soghoian, a technology expert with the American Civil Liberties Union, said focusing on ways the stingray aids police investigations disregards the indiscriminate collection of phone signals and the device’s ability to jam phone service in areas where police use it.

Soghoian said the shroud of secrecy surrounding stingrays leaves judges in the dark about the type of police operations they are allowing and law-abiding citizens unaware of their vulnerabilities to such technology. He also noted that enough information is already publicly available for criminals to create their own stingray-like tools.

“This is a clear and troubling example of the government prioritizing its own intelligence needs over the security and privacy of everyday citizens,” he said.

Other city leaders said they had been informed about the use of the stingray.

City Councilman Brandon Scott said he understands why police did not disclose its widespread use until recently. “We all know if they make an agreement with the federal government, they need to honor that agreement,” he said.

Still, Scott said he wants assurances that police are not tracking the phones of individuals not involved in criminality.

“They’re going to have to figure out a way to be transparent and show they’re not tracking the cellphones of everyday citizens who are not involved in crime,” he said. “They have to make sure they are not violating the rights of people they’re not investigating. I don’t want it to turn into a Big Brother situation.”

Such devices act as mobile cellphone towers, forcing phones within a certain radius to connect to them and share their unique identifying information. That information allows police to track the location of a targeted phone.

The technology has increasingly been used in local law enforcement cases and at the national level by the U.S. Marshals Service on surveillance planes. Members of Congress and the ACLU have been pressing for more information about the devices and asked the Federal Communications Commission to look into their use.

Police have said their operations are careful and that they obtain court orders before using the device. Capt. Eric Kowalcyzk, spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said this week that officers “will use every resource available to reduce violent crime and arrest people responsible for those violent crimes.”

Police in Baltimore County have used a similar device more than 600 times since 2010, according to officials. Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger has defended stingray use there, saying it is done “lawfully” and provides information that helps to secure convictions.

Harris said the mayor’s support for the program came only after she learned of the limitations placed on the technology to protect individuals’ privacy. He emphasized points made by police this week that the technology does not allow police to record calls, read texts or emails, or store any information.

“If there were not checks and balances in place, this is not something the mayor would have been OK with,” Harris said. “She was comfortable that there was checks and balances in place.”

Soghoian said police and other officials mislead the public when they focus on what the devices can’t do, rather than what they can.

“This device is a dragnet search, collecting information on hundreds of people,” Soghoian said. “All of the statements by law enforcement have overlooked that part because they know it’s inexcusable.”

Depending on the device, stingrays can sometimes jam all local incoming and outgoing calls and texts on certain cellphone networks while in use, Soghoian said.

The device used by Baltimore police, known as Hailstorm, is manufactured by the Florida-based Harris Corporation. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Critics have called on Congress to address the issue and force law enforcement agencies to disclose more information.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, said this week that he has asked the FBI for “greater clarification” about how the device is deployed. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there should be reporting on how often the technology is used, under which legal authorities, and what independent audit controls are in place to prevent abuse.

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, called on the FCC last year to address the nation’s cellphone network vulnerabilities to the stingray in a letter to Chairman Tom Wheeler, writing that “hackers and hobbyists” could easily make the devices at home.

Wheeler responded that “private, non-U.S. law enforcement entities or foreign governments” using such devices to spy on “law-abiding American citizens” was of “grave concern” to him.

He said the FCC has established a task force to “develop concrete solutions to protect the cellular network systemically from similar unlawful intrusions and interceptions.”

Posted in Drug Bust | Leave a comment

Off-duty cop who was spotted ‘acting suspiciously’ is arrested after he was allegedly found with crack cocaine and a hypodermic syringe

Off-duty cop who was spotted ‘acting suspiciously’ is arrested after he was allegedly found with crack cocaine and a hypodermic syringe

  • New Milford, New Jersey, police officer Daniel DeMarco was arrested Friday
  • He was spotted in an Elmwood Park car lot and was in possession of  one bag of crack cocaine, a hypodermic syringe and drug paraphernalia
  • He was also charged with being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance and DWI
  • New Milford Police confirmed on Monday that he’s still employed by the force

An off-duty New Jersey police officer was arrested over the weekend for being in possession of crack cocaine.

New Milford officer Daniel DeMarco, of Lodi, was arrested in an Elmwood Park car lot at 2.45pm on Friday for possession of one bag of crack cocaine, a hypodermic syringe and drug paraphernalia, Elmwood Park Police said.

Police on scene believed DeMarco, 28, looked suspicious as they were patrolling the area for narcotics travel, Elmwood Police Chief Michael Foligno said.

Daniel DeMarco was arrested on Friday at 2.45pm in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, after police approached him because he 'looked suspicious' and found him in possession of a bag of crack cocaine, a hypodermic syringe and drug paraphernalia

Daniel DeMarco was arrested on Friday at 2.45pm in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, after police approached him because he ‘looked suspicious’ and found him in possession of a bag of crack cocaine, a hypodermic syringe and drug paraphernalia

DeMarco, pictured here with an unidentified woman, is employed as an officer for the New Milford, New Jersey, police department. They have not said if he will face suspension

DeMarco, pictured here with an unidentified woman, is employed as an officer for the New Milford, New Jersey, police department. They have not said if he will face suspension

In addition to the possession charges, DeMarco was charged with being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance and DWI, according to

DeMarco was sworn in as a police officer in December of 2013 was released to a family member following his arrest.

‘We treat everyone the same,’ Foligno said about DeMarco being a cop. ‘It doesn’t matter what you do for a living.’

New Milford Police confirmed that DeMarco was still employed by the force but did not say if he would face suspension.


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N.J. trooper offered to toss arrest warrant for sex, but wasn’t charged, internal report reveals

N.J. trooper offered to toss arrest warrant for sex, but wasn’t charged, internal report reveals

Rick Fuentes
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes at an anti-violence strategy announcement in Newark last year. (John O’Boyle |N.J. STATE POLICE

TRENTON – A State Police trooper offered to get rid of an arrest warrant in exchange for sex from the person being sought, but was allowed to resign without being criminally charged, according to a new misconduct report.

The trooper, who was not identified, also failed to make an arrest in the case. Other offenses noted in an internal report that highlights 16 incidents in 2013, include pepper spraying a suspect without cause, harassment, drunken driving, moonlighting without permission and getting into fights.

In the court-ordered arrest warrant case, the trooper was suspended without pay for 499 days before resigning, the report said. A spokesman for State Police, Capt. Stephen Jones, said the trooper was in the process of being fired and was not eligible for a pension.

He declined to provide more details about the incident or the trooper’s tenure.

A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, Peter Aseltine, defended the decision not to file criminal charges.

“This was thoroughly investigated by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the (State Police) Office of Professional Standards, and the county prosecutor made a legal determination there was insufficient evidence to charge,” Aseltine said.

The prosecutor’s office declined comment.

Six troopers in 2013 were disciplined for less severe offenses, the report said, such as failing to collect information at an accident scene, misusing a computer database, inappropriate comments, failing to report an alcohol violation and making threats.

The annual misconduct report, put in place as part of previous federal oversight of the State Police, also included discipline handed out as part of unauthorized high-speed escorts of luxury sports cars in 2010 and 2012 that were first disclosed by The Star-Ledger.

Another 68 written reprimands were issued for minor offenses.

In total, the internal affairs unit opened 197 cases involving 265 troopers, or about 11 percent of the force, in 2013. While that was the fewest number of new cases since at least 2009, the size of the force during the same period decreased by about 500.

Aside from the arrest warrant case, here are the five most serious penalties from 2013:

1. Suspended 637 days and reduced in rank: Trooper pleaded guilty to using his position to secure unwarranted privileges, disobeying a written order, misusing an assigned troop car and moonlighting without permission. The trooper had a personal/sexual relationship with a subordinate civilian employee, failed to report the relationship as required and counseled another trooper without justification when the trooper questioned the whereabouts of a civilian employee.

2. Suspended 240 days: Trooper pleaded guilty to being under the influence of an intoxicant and drinking alcohol while on-duty.

3. Suspended 211 days: Trooper violated a municipal ordinance by being involved in physical altercations on two separate occasions resulting in a police response.

4. Suspended 180 days: Trooper used pepper spray on a suspect without justification and then submitted a false report about it.

5. Suspended 180 days: Trooper pleaded guilty in municipal court to driving while intoxicated.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

Holy cow! Pull up a seat — this week’s corrupt cops rogues’ gallery is going to take awhile to get through. We’ve got jail guards, FBI agents, deputies, internal affairs officers, a deputy police chief, even a judge. Let’s get to it:

In Fresno, California, the Fresno deputy police chief was arrested last Thursday as part of a federal drug conspiracy investigation. Deputy Chief Keith Foster, 51, went down after a year-long undercover investigation by the FBI and BATF. Few details are known except for the charges: possession and distribution of heroin, oxycodone, and marijuana. He has been placed on administrative leave.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a Catoosa County sheriff’s deputy was arrested last Thursday after an acquaintance called police to say he had stolen prescription drugs from him. Deputy Joshua Wilson is charged with possession of hydrocodone and tramadol, unauthorized distribution of a controlled substance, and violating the oath of an officer. He had the drugs in his vehicle when he was pulled over in a traffic stop.

In Prescott Valley, Arizona, a former Prescott Valley Police commander was arrested last Thursday on charges he was stealing drugs discarded by the public as part of a drug take-back program. Commander Arthur Eskew, a 20-year veteran, resigned in January after a motion-activated still camera and hidden video camera in the evidence room caught him pocketing pills. Now he faces criminal charges, although those haven’t been specified.

In North Haverhill, New Hampshire, a former Grafton County jail guard was arrested last Thursday on charges he delivered heroin to prisoners. Michael Baraa, 29, faces two charges, but they weren’t specified.

In Huntsville, Tennessee, a former Scott County sheriff’s deputy was arrested Tuesday for allegedly breaking into the evidence room and stealing drugs. Cody Scott Yancy, 25, is charged with three counts of burglary, theft under $500, possession of burglary tools, official misconduct, tampering with evidence, and two counts of vandalism under $500. He was fired after an investigation into the thefts last fall.

In Miami, a former NYPD officer pleaded guilty last Friday to traveling to Florida and providing security for a $200,000 cocaine deal that turned out to be a federal drug sting. Phillip LeRoy, 28, copped to one count of drug trafficking conspiracy. He’s looking at 10 years to life in federal prison.

In Washington, Pennsylvania, a former state court judge pleaded guilty last Friday to stealing cocaine that he had ordered police to keep in his chambers instead of the evidence room. Former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky copped to theft by unlawful taking, obstruction of the administration of law, and misapplication of entrusted property. In return, prosecutors dropped one felony and one misdemeanor count. Pozonsky supposedly took the drug for his own use. He’s looking at up to two years in jail when sentenced in July.

In Washington, DC, a former FBI agent pleaded guilty Monday to charges related to stealing heroin from evidence bags. Matthew Lowry, 33, admitted stealing the smack and using it himself, as well as trying to replace it with other substances and falsifying records to hide his misdeeds. He said he had been strung out on pain pills. He copped to 38 counts of obstruction of justice, 13 counts of conversion of property, and 13 counts of heroin possession. Because of Lowy’s hand in the cookie jar, prosecutors have had to throw out dozens of drug cases.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, a former Dona Ana County jail guard pleaded guilty Tuesday to plotting to distribute heroin, cocaine, and meth within the jail. Francisco Balderrama, 27, copped to conspiracy to distribute narcotics and providing contraband in a prison facility. He’s now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Miami, a former Miami-Dade police internal affairs lieutenant pleaded guilty Tuesday to working with cocaine smugglers to smuggle guns through airport security. Ralph Mata worked in the department’s internal affairs division, but helped cocaine smugglers get guns through Miami International Airport, helped plot the execution of two rival drug dealers, provided secret intelligence to the group, and suggested ways to better smuggle dope through the city. He copped to three counts, including aiding and abetting a narcotics conspiracy. He’s looking at 10 years to life in federal prison.

In Birmingham, Alabama, a former Winston County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced last Friday to nearly four years in federal prison for threatening a woman with an arrest warrant unless she agreed to cook meth for him. Grady Concord, 42, also supplied the woman with the precursor ingredient pseudoephedrine, which he stole from the department evidence room. He copped to one count of manufacturing meth on a premise where children were present.

In Bridgeton, New Jersey, a former Bayside State Prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in state prison for selling drugs to inmates. Nazir Bey, 30, was found guilty by a jury of second-degree official misconduct for selling heroin to an inmate at the prison.

In Titusville, Florida, a former Titusville police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for arranging drug deals. Richard Irizarry, a five-year veteran of the force admitted to giving out information on his department’s drug investigations to traffickers in return for cash. He was convicted in January of attempting to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine, possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug distribution and using a telephone to facilitate drug distribution.

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