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Former Texas detective accused of helping dealers distribute more than 1 ton of pot

A former South Texas detective is accused of helping drug dealers distribute more than one ton of pot.

Rio Grande City Police Chief Noe Castillo said Ramon De La Cruz Jr. was fired Monday after being arrested Friday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

Cruz, the son of Starr County Justice of the Peace Ramon De La Cruz, is believed to have conspired by staging fake drug seizures and letting drug traffickers steal the marijuana they obtained, according to an affidavit obtained by The Monitor.

Cruz, a deputy with the sheriff’s department at the time, is alleged to have provided official documentation to a drug trafficking organization, identified as the Beltran DTO, so it could alter it, The Monitor reports.

He’s also accused of hiding guns believed to have been used in drug-related crimes.

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St. Pete police officer arrested for domestic battery

Curtis Wright booking photo
Curtis Wright booking photo

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrested a St. Petersburg police officer for domestic battery early Monday morning.

The St. Pete Police Department says Officer Curtis Wright was arrested at 12:48 a.m. Monday. Police say an altercation took place between Curtis and his live-in girlfriend at their home on September 17th around 1:30 a.m. He was released on bond around 3 a.m.

Officer Curtis was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal and internal investigations.

Officer Curtis has been a St. Petersburg Police officer since 2010.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A Mississippi police chief shoots himself during an investigation into asset forfeiture funds, a Massachusetts police officer shoots herself during an investigation into thefts from her evidence room, an Ohio cop goes to prison for lying on drug search warrants and stealing big time, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Braintree, Massachusetts, somebody has been stealing from the police evidence room, according to an audit released Wednesday. The audit found that the Braintree Police Department is missing nearly 5,000 pieces of drug evidence, 60 guns, 4,700 pieces of property evidence, and $407,000 in seized cash are missing. Some drug evidence bags were torn open and emptied, while others had the drugs replaced with other substances. Two of the missing guns were found at the home of Officer Susan Zopatti, who was in charge of the evidence room. She killed herself in May after being interviewed as part of the audit. At least six drug cases have been dropped, and more are likely to follow.

In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the police chief shot and killed himself last Thursday after being relieved of duty during an investigation into the department’s handling of asset forfeiture funds. Chief Mike De Nardo was being escorted by two deputies out of the police station when he shot himself in the chest.

In Eugene, Oregon, a former Deschutes County sheriff’s captain was sentenced last Thursday to five years in federal prison for stealing more than $205,000 from drug buy funds and money seized in drug busts. Scott Beard repeatedly stole funds over a two-year period and laundered them using the bank account of his mistress, whom he treated to a lavish lifestyle. He copped to two counts of theft and two counts of money laundering in May, and was taken into custody upon sentencing.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former Reynoldsburg police officer was sentenced last Friday to 33 months in federal prison for falsifying search warrants in drug cases and stealing $150,000 in property and cash. Shane Mauger had worked with Reynoldsburg Detective Tye Downard, who hung himself in his jail cell after being arrested for using his connections to sell drugs, including drugs stolen from the evidence room. Both were members of the Franklin County Drug Task Force, and at least 15 felony drug cases have been dropped because they lied on search warrant applications. Mauger pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to deprive persons of the civil rights and theft.

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Broward deputy accused of shoplifting at WalMart 7 times, once while in uniform, records show

A Broward sheriff’s deputy finds himself suspended without pay and facing a felony charge after being accused of shoplifting everyday household items from two WalMarts in Coral Springs, according to records obtained Friday by the Sun Sentinel.

Surveillance video shows Deputy Dean Korenic, 46, shoplifting on seven occasions, investigators say. He was in uniform one of the times and drove away with his stolen goods in a marked patrol car three other times, records show.

A 14-year veteran of the agency, Korenic was arrested Tuesday and spent a night in jail before posting $3,500 bond on a felony charge of scheme to defraud/obtain property under $20,000, records show.

“In review of the video … the theft was apparent and intentional,” an affidavit said. “The thefts were committed both in and out of BSO uniform.” Sheriff’s officials would not provide the videos to the Sun Sentinel Friday.

Korenic, of Margate, was suspended without pay Tuesday. He makes $72,735. Korenic was initially suspended with pay when he was first advised of the investigation on June 6.

On the deputy’s alleged shopping list: Cool Water cologne, Jergens lotion, papertowels, disposable razors, detergent, syrup, toothpaste, bar soap, a canister of Maxwell House coffee and a carton of eggs.

“It’s discouraging to see and read and hear about,” Sheriff Scott Israel said. “He disgraced the badge, but at this time I choose to focus on the men and women in our public corruption unit whose job it is to investigate deputies who don’t do everything the right way. They got right to it, they investigated it thoroughly. We’re not going to tolerate police misconduct and deputies committing illegal acts.”

Despite four voicemail messages left on Korenic’s home and cellphones, he could not be reached for comment. It was unclear if he had an attorney. The police union generally doesn’t provide lawyers for law enforcement charged with crimes not associated with their jobs.

Although each alleged theft was for minor amounts — $34.13 on May 13, $49.54 on May 27 and $7.27 on June 16 — all totaled the scheme adds up to a 3rd-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The deputy had a system, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest warrant.

He would do his shopping, go to a self-checkout and scan some items but not all. Korenic would slip the unscanned items into his shopping bag and leave the store, the affidavit said.

The first alleged theft was committed May 13 at a WalMart located at 6001 Coral Ridge Drive. When Korenic struck there again on May 23 he was wearing “a BSO patrolman’s green short sleeve Class B uniform,” the affidavit said.

When Korenic returned June 3 he was dressed in “civilian attire” but drove his marked cruiser. His final shoplifting spree at that store was June 18, records show.

Two of the three times Korenic stole from a WalMart at 3801 Turtle Creek Drive he left in his patrol car. He wore street clothes each time — May 27, June 5 and June 16, the affidavit said.

Store security picked up on Korenic on June 3 when he was seen concealing a bottle of cologne in a pair of grey slippers. A loss-prevention officer followed him to the parking lot and saw him get into a patrol car. The officer took down the plate and car numbers, records show.

A loss-prevention manager next performed an audit of the debit card Korenic used and came up with numerous transactions which helped investigators identify Korenic’s other alleged thefts.

“Korenic was readily identified via video, his tattoos and by the use of his personal Chase debit card,” Detective Joshua Web wrote in the affidavit.

The videos could not be released Friday, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said, because the detective working the case had them and would not return to the office until Monday.

Investigators on June 6 picked up Korenic from an off-duty detail at the central terminal for Broward County Transit in downtown Fort Lauderdale and took him to the sheriff’s internal affairs office.

While Korenic was advised of the investigation and suspended with pay, detectives searched the trunk of his patrol car. There they found a pair of gray slippers in a WalMart bag. And in the driver’s door pocket was 2-ounce bottle of Jergens lotion.

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9th Circ. Says Feds Must Drop Mistaken Wiretaps

     According to a 2-1 ruling filed by the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday, though, you might be in luck.
The majority of a three-judge panel ruled that investigators have to stop listening to a phone call as soon as they should reasonably know that the call does not involve their particular investigation.
The underlying case involves a man named Michael Carey, who was identified by federal agents as a speaker during a warranted phone tap as part of their investigation into a drug-smuggling and distribution conspiracy perpetuated by Ignacio Escamilla Estrada, court records show.
Over the course of the week-long surveillance, though, agents realized that Escamilla was not one of the people using the phone. They continued to listen in anyway, believing the speakers might be part of the conspiracy.
Later, using information from the wiretap, they arrested Adrian Madrid at a traffic stop and learned that the two drug conspiracies were unrelated. How one of Carey’s associates got Escamilla’s number is not clear from the case record.
Carey was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine as part of Madrid’s conspiracy and a federal judge rejected his motion to suppress evidence from the wiretap. Carey pleaded guilty with the condition that he be allowed to appeal the denial of his motion.
Judge Ronald Gould, who delivered the Ninth Circuit’s decision, noted the novelty of the question: Is the evidence admissible when a valid wiretap helps catch someone else who happens to be involved in a different crime?
Applying the same reasoning used by the Seventh Circuit, Gould wrote that investigators may use such evidence under the Fourth Amendment’s “plain view” doctrine if they discover it without realizing their mistake. However, once the mistake is discovered, the search has to be discontinued.
What bearing that has on Carey’s case is not yet clear.
“The record does not indicate what evidence was obtained before the agents knew or should have known that they were listening to calls outside of the Escamilla conspiracy,” Gould wrote. “In fact, at some point agents consulted with federal prosecutors about whether they could or should continue to intercept calls on the wiretap.”
The judge continued, “Because the parties staked out polarized positions before the district court—the government arguing for all wiretap evidence, Carey for none of it—and because the district court adopted the government’s position in denying the motion to suppress, the record lacks the findings necessary to determine what evidence was admissible against Carey.”
The Ninth Circuit therefore remanded the case to Southern California Federal Court on an open record.
Judge Alex Kozinski dissented. He agreed that investigators should stop listening to phone calls as soon as they know the conversation is outside the subject of the investigation, but said the case should not be remanded on an open record because Carey did not contradict FBI Special Agent Christopher Melzer’s declaration that the agents believed the conversations could still have something to do with Escamilla.
“Carey was given full discovery and thus had access to the recordings and transcripts of the intercepted phone conversations,” Kozinski wrote. “If he believed that the agents should have known prior to the traffic stop that this was a different conspiracy, he could have pointed this out to the district court.”
Kozinski said he would “affirm the district court’s judgment rather than give Carey a mulligan.”
“This isn’t a case where we’ve announced an unforeseen rule, surprising a defendant who didn’t have the opportunity to argue about its application in the district court,” he wrote. “Carey’s problem is that he failed to demonstrate in the district court that any evidence should be suppressed under the rule he advocated.”
Gould responded to Kozinski’s argument by saying that Carey objected to Melzer’s declaration on the grounds that it was incomplete.
“The district court recognized Carey’s belief that ‘there are things that are not in his declaration that you believe would be relevant facts,’ and the court was aware of Carey’s alternate request to take evidence about Melzer’s level of knowledge regarding the relationship between Escamilla and the phone calls,” Gould wrote in the majority opinion. “But because the district court then applied the wrong legal standard, the district court did not believe that any additional evidence was necessary.”
Knut Sveinbjorn Johnson from San Diego represented Carey, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ko represented the government.
The panel’s decision, Johnson said, is a sign that the government needs to stop listening to people’s conversations when it knows it should not listen anymore.
“I think it’s a good result for people’s privacy interests,” he said.

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Quincy Police Lieutenant Charged with Defrauding his Department

Quincy Police Lieutenant Charged with Defrauding his Department

BOSTON – A Lieutenant with the Quincy Police Department was charged in an indictment unsealed today in connection with collecting double pay while working for the Quincy Police Department in 2015.

Thomas Corliss, 51, was indicted on 12 counts of mail fraud and one count of fraud involving federal funds.  Corliss was released on conditions following an appearance before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal.

As alleged in the indictment, an internal investigation by the Quincy Police Department revealed that Lieutenant Corliss had fraudulently collected double pay for working multiple details and/or police shifts that overlapped on multiple occasions in 2015.  It is also alleged that Corliss collected his regular pay while on vacation in the Bahamas and on Cape Cod in 2015.  In total, Corliss’s defrauded the QPD of more than $10,000.

The charge of mail fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.  The charge of fraud involving federal funds provides for a sentence of no great than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of 250,000.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Ronald G. Gardella, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Office; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dustin Chao and Ryan DiSantis of Ortiz’s Public Corruption Unit.

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Former Alabama sheriff arrested on drug, human trafficking charges

A former west Alabama sheriff removed from office by impeachment is now facing multiple criminal charges.

Sumter County District Attorney Greg Griggers says former Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark has been arrested on eight felony and two misdemeanor charges.

The Tuscaloosa News reports Clark is accused of using his office for personal gain, plus promoting prison contraband, human trafficking and perjury. He’s also charged with conspiring to commit a drug crime.

Clark has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The Alabama Supreme Court removed him from office in July for corruption.

An earlier grand jury report said Clark allowed an inmate to have special privileges while awaiting trial on drug charges. Among other things, the report said the prisoner was allowed to have drugs and sex with female visitors in jail.

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Assistant county attorney charged with attempted sexual battery on minors His wife was also charged

Robert Livingston IV, an Alachua County assistant attorney, was charged Wednesday with attempting to sexually assault two minors.

Livingston

Robert Livingston

Livingston is listed as one of three assistant attorneys employed by the county, according to the county’s website. As of press time, he has been placed on administrative leave with pay, said Mark Sexton, a county spokesman, in a statement issued Thursday.

“As of today, Assistant County Attorney Robert Livingston has been placed on administrative leave with pay,” according to the statement. “Mr. Livingston is at the beginning of a legal process. The County has taken the appropriate step based on the information we have available to us at this time.”

Over a 12-month period in 2012, Livingston, 54, would walk into the room of a then-16-year-old girl as she slept and touch her breasts and genitals underneath her clothes, according to a police report.

This happened five or six times that year, according to the report. When the victim would wake up, Livingston would stop and leave.

The victim moved away from the house. But as time passed and another girl living in the house began to mature, the victim reported Livingston’s abuse to police in an attempt to prevent further abuse, according to the report.

She told Melissa Latham Livingston, Robert’s wife, about the abuse. Melissa, 63, then ordered Robert to install locks inside the rooms of the girl and her younger sister, according to the report.

But the locks lasted a few months before Robert removed them, according to the report.

Sometime in June, the girl, now 17, said someone had entered her room as she slept and began to touch her genitals underneath her clothes, according to the report.

At the time, the girl said, she thought she was dreaming but soon realized the incident was “too real to be fake,” according to the report.

When the girl stirred, the person stopped, and although the girl said she was too scared to open her eyes, she said she believed Livingston was the one who touched her, according to the report.

Afterward, the girl left her room to find Livingston standing in the kitchen with his wife, according to the report. The only other person inside the house was the girl’s younger sister, who was asleep on a couch.

Fearing for her safety, the girl then tried to leave the house. When she did, however, Melissa bear hugged her in the home’s garage and called for her husband, according to the report.

She broke free and ran to the door, but Robert slammed it closed and pushed her to the ground, according to the report.

When she ran back to the garage, the couple cornered her. Melissa grabbed her around the neck and pushed her against a washing machine, according to the report. After the girl broke free once again, Robert pinned her to the ground, but the girl’s younger sister distracted him, giving her time to run to a neighbor’s house, where she could call police.

The altercation left the girl with bruises on her elbow and forearm, rug burns on her knees and scratches on her neck, according to the report.

Police arrested Robert Livingston and charged him with two counts of attempted sexual battery on a victim 12 years old or greater and child abuse without great bodily harm. Melissa was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse without great bodily harm.

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Hinds County deputy arrested on drug charges

Arrest

HINDS COUNTY, Miss. —Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason arrested one of his deputies on drug charges Wednesday.

Douglas Nelson is charged with possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy.

Nelson was on duty in Byram when he was arrested. Officials said he is no longer with the sheriff’s office.

“It’s very disappointing. You pay these guys to get the crooks off the streets. You don’t pay them to be the crooks on the street. It upsets you pretty good. If you go deeper, if you think about it, he knows how we work,” Mason said.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina detective had a thing for “nudish fetish catfights,” a Pennsylvania state trooper had a snitch scoring coke for him, an Oregon crime lab tech had a bad case of sticky fingers, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, a former Horry County police detective was accused Monday of sexually abusing drug-using women in a civil suit. Three other women have already filed similar suits against Detective Allen Large. In the case of Jane Doe #4, Large is accused of calling a woman and telling her he knew she used drugs, visiting her home and forcing her into a non-consensual sex act, then later providing her with drugs, and continuing “to contact (her) on a daily basis to demand that she engage in nude fetish catfights,” the lawsuit said. He gave up on the woman after she entered drug treatment in 2015. The lawsuit doesn’t name Large; instead it accuses his supervisors, including the police chief, of knowing what Large was up to and failing to do anything about it.

In Avondale, Pennsylvania, a state trooper was arrested last Friday after he was caught buying cocaine from a confidential informant. Trooper Jose Lebron allegedly gave the informant cash to buy drugs over a period of months and was repeatedly seen snorting cocaine by the informant. Lebron also began paying the informant with cocaine, saying it was too expensive to keep paying with cash. Lebron went down in a controlled buy at a local McDonald’s. He is charged with one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is free on $5,000 bail.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a jail guard at the Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility was arrested last Friday after he got caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Mark Wooten went down after consenting to a search in which officials found 200 suboxone strips. He is charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled substance with an inmate and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

In Portsmouth, Virginia, a former Portsmouth police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he went rogue in trying to bust a drug dealer. Mark Anthony Deluca, Jr. is accused of lying to a judge to obtain a search warrant to raid a home where heroin was found. Deluca gave conflicting accounts of what happened, and the charges were dropped against the homeowner. Now, Deluca faces one count of forgery, one count of uttering a forged public instrument, and three counts of perjury.

In Gadsden, Alabama, a former Etowah County sheriff’s deputy was arrested Monday on charges he smuggled drugs into the county jail. Detention Deputy Erick Bullock, 33, went down after his name came up in an internal investigation into contraband at the jail and meth, salvia, suboxone, tobacco, and a cell phone were found in his bag. He is charged with one count of first-degree promoting prison contraband, one count of second-degree promoting prison contraband, two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, one count of salvia possession and one count of third-degree promoting prison contraband. He is now residing at his former workplace until he comes up with a $9,500 bond.

In Portland, Oregon, an Oregon State Crime lab forensic scientist pleaded guilty Monday to stealing as many as 700 pills from more than 50 separate evidence specimens submitted to the labs. Nika Elise Larsen, 36, copped to two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, and deception. She admitted stealing meth, morphine, hydrodocone, morphine, and methadone while overseeing cases. She’s looking at up to three years in prison, according to her plea bargain agreement. She could have been looking at up to eight years.

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