Hollywood police lieutenant spends night in jail on domestic battery charge, faces inquiry


Hollywood police Lt. Michael McKinney

A veteran Hollywood police lieutenant spent a night in jail after he was arrested on a domestic battery charge when his wife accused him of hitting and kicking her, the agency announced Thursday.

Lt. Michael McKinney, 49, had scratches and a cut on his upper lip when police came to his Hollywood home at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a police report.

McKinney’s wife of a year told officers the couple’s argument turned physical when her husband hit her twice in the head and kicked her in the ribs. She had a swollen forehead, redness and swelling near her ribs and a bruise on her arm, the report said. The Sun Sentinel does not name victims of domestic violence.

“Lt. McKinney faces one charge of misdemeanor domestic violence related battery,” said Miranda Grossman, a spokesman for the police department. “He has been relieved of duties pending an ongoing internal investigation.”

The first-degree misdemeanor charge carries a maximum punishment of up to a year in county jail.

McKinney spent a night in the Broward Main Jail before facing a judge Wednesday. He was released on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to post bond. McKinney also was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to stay away from his wife. Broward County Court Judge Michael Davis also restricted McKinney from possessing weapons or ammunition.

As of late Thursday afternoon McKinney had not yet hired a lawyer, said Jeff Marano, vice president of the Police Benevolent Association.

“A couple had a dispute and it got physical; and it’s no more or no less than that,” Marano said. “He’s a 23-year veteran with an unblemished record.”

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Homeland Security agents took $15M in bribes, closed their eyes

Court records and internal agency documents showed that over the last 10 years almost 200 employees and contract workers of the Department of Homeland Security have taken nearly $15 million in bribes while being paid to protect the nation’s borders and enforce immigration laws.

By Ron Nixon

WASHINGTON — In 2012, Joohoon David Lee, a federal Homeland Security agent in Los Angeles, was assigned to investigate the case of a Korean businessman accused of sex trafficking.

Instead of carrying out a thorough inquiry, Lee solicited and received about $13,000 in bribes and other gifts from the businessman and his relatives in return for making the “immigration issue go away,” court records show.
Lee, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed a report saying: “Subject was suspected of human trafficking. No evidence found and victim statement contradicts. Case closed. No further action required.”

But after another agent alerted internal investigators about Lee’s interference in a different case, his record was examined and he was charged with bribery. He pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Homeland Security agents took $15M in bribes, closed their eyes
It was not an isolated case. A review by The New York Times of thousands of court records and internal agency documents showed that over the last 10 years almost 200 employees and contract workers of the Department of Homeland Security have taken nearly $15 million in bribes while being paid to protect the nation’s borders and enforce immigration laws.

These employees have looked the other way as tons of drugs and thousands of unauthorized immigrants were smuggled into the United States, the records show. They have illegally sold green cards and other immigration documents, have entered law-enforcement databases and given sensitive information to drug cartels. In one case, the information was used to arrange the attempted murder of an informant.

The Times’ findings most likely undercount the amount of bribes because in many cases court records do not give a tally.

The findings also do not include gifts, trips or money stolen by Homeland Security employees.

Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump said border security would be one of his highest priorities. As he prepares to take office, he will find many of the problems seem to come from within.

“It does absolutely no good to talk about the building of walls or tougher enforcement if you can’t secure the integrity of the immigration system, when you have fraud and corruption with your own employees,” said an internal-affairs official at the Department of Homeland Security who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Although Homeland Security employees who have been caught taking bribes represent less than 1 percent of the more than 250,000 people who work at the department, investigators say the bribes and small numbers of people arrested and charged with bribery obscure the impact corruption can have on border security and immigration enforcement.

“Any amount is bad, and one person alone can do a lot of damage,” said John Roth, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security.

Law-enforcement experts say the bribing of border and immigration agents is not surprising. As security along the border has tightened with the addition of fences, drones and sensors, drug cartels and human smugglers have found it more difficult to operate.

Homeland Security officials, acknowledging that internal corruption is a problem, have hired more internal affairs investigators, provided ethics training and started to administer polygraph tests to new applicants, along with countersurveillance training to employees so they can recognize when they are being targeted by criminal organizations.

Customs and Border Protection, which has had dozens of its officers arrested and charged with bribery, said it had made additional changes to combat corruption.

Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, in 2014 gave authority to the agency’s internal-affairs office to conduct criminal investigations for the first time.
And Mark Morgan, a former FBI agent who had investigated corruption on the border, was put in charge of the Border Patrol.

“Polygraphs have made it so we don’t hire people with significant problems,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of the customs agency. “The bigger problem is what happens to people who are already on board. These changes address that.”

Records show the bribing of Homeland Security employees persists. In 2016, 15 have been arrested on, convicted of or sentenced on charges of bribery.

In February, Johnny Acosta, a Customs and Border Protection officer in Douglas, Ariz., was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery and drug smuggling.

Acosta, who was arrested as he tried to flee to Mexico, took more than $70,000 in bribes and helped smuggle more than a ton of marijuana into the United States.

Last month, Eduardo Bazan, a Border Patrol agent in McAllen, Texas, was arrested and accused of helping a drug-trafficking organization smuggle cocaine. According to court records, Bazan admitted to receiving $8,000 for his help.
José Cruz-López, a Transportation Security Administration screener at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was arrested around the same time and accused of taking $215,000 in bribes to help smuggle drugs.

Corruption investigators said the case of former Border Patrol agent Ivhan Herrera-Chiang illustrates the damage a single compromised agent can cause. In 2013, he was sentenced to 15 years for providing sensitive law-enforcement information to drug cartels.

Herrera-Chiang, who was assigned to a special undercover unit targeting the cartels in Yuma, Ariz., provided maps of hidden underground sensors, lock combinations to gates along the U.S.-Mexico border and the locations of Border Patrol traffic checkpoints to an individual who provided them to the cartels.

The cartels used the information to bypass Border Patrol agents and transport methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana into the U.S., according to court records.

Herrera-Chiang also entered law-enforcement databases on his work computer to run drug-seizure checks and even provided information on confidential informants in Mexico. That information included one informant whom federal law- enforcement officers were able to locate before he could be killed, court records said.

Herrera-Chiang admitted to receiving about $4,500 in bribes for his efforts, but his co-conspirator put the amount between $60,000 and $70,000.
“Corrupt C.B.P. law enforcement personnel pose a national security threat,” a Department of Homeland Security report released in May concluded.

The report also revealed numerous problems with efforts to root out corruption among Border Patrol and customs agents. The report said the “true levels of corruption within C.B.P. are not known.”

Convicted former border and immigration agents give different reasons for taking bribes, from financial troubles to drug use. But for many, it was simple greed.

Records show Border Patrol officers and customs agents, who protect more than 7,000 miles of the border and deal most directly with drug cartels and smugglers, have taken the most in bribes, about $11 million.

But the issue of bribery extends well beyond front-line agents at the border. Department of Homeland Security employees who enforce immigration and customs laws and provide citizenship benefits and aviation security have also been arrested or indicted on and convicted of charges of taking bribes.

Last month, Daniel Espejo Amos, a former immigration service officer at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to taking $53,000 in bribes from immigration lawyers on behalf of 60 immigrants who were not eligible to become naturalized citizens of the U.S.
Amos certified the immigrants met the requirements for citizenship, even though one person’s English-language skills were so poor that copies of test answers were given to him so he could memorize them for a naturalization interview.

Transportation security officers and screeners with access to secure areas of airports that could be used to smuggle weapons and even carry bombs onto planes have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes as well, records show.


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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A Maryland police drug lab director gets caught with her hand in the cookie jar, a Texas border town cop gets nailed for ripping off cocaine, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Millersville, Maryland, the head of the Anne Arundel County Police drug lab was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly stealing prescription opioids and other drugs from drug drop-off boxes. Annette Box, 48, went down after she got into a traffic accident and investigators found pills in her car that were not prescribed to her. She had 29 Atropine tablets, 31 Diazepam tablets, 29 Tramadol pills, 50 hydromorphone pills, one Alprazolam pill, and one hydrocodone pill. She faces one count of possession of a controlled substance for each kind of pill.

In Columbus, Indiana, the former Columbus Police narcotics division supervisor was sentenced last Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to stealing drugs from the department. Jeremy Coomes, 39, admitted taking drugs from the evidence room, but he won’t have to do any jail time if he keeps his nose clean. He was sentenced to nine years, but will serve the first year under house arrest and the next five years on probation.

In McAllen, Texas, a former Mission police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to 25 years in prison for stealing cocaine and then arranging a fake bust to cover up the theft. Hector Mendez, 46, a former DEA task force member, was convicted of stealing nearly 15 kilograms of cocaine from a Mission home, diluting the cocaine, and then letting some of the cut dope be seized during a fake drug bust. He was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A Homeland Security agent was living large on stolen dope money, a New York state cop was slinging coke and weed, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Niagara Falls, New York, a former Niagara Falls police officer was arrested last Tuesday on charges she sold cocaine to undercover cops. Stephanie Costanza, 28, her boyfriend, and another woman were all arrested on cocaine and marijuana sales charges. She had been on leave since an initial arrest last month, but has now resigned from the force.

In San Diego, a former US Homeland Security Investigations agent was indicted last Wednesday on charges he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from drug money couriers and tried to hide the money via real estate transactions in American and Croatian banks. Former agent Tyrone Cedric Duren, 46, worked on Homeland Security’s Bulk Cash Smuggling Taskforce, which targeted Mexican drug trafficking organizations and participated in at least 20 major cash seizures, but is accused of conducting searches and seizures without reporting them. Duren and his wife made at least $1.2 million in cash deposits over a four-year period. He faces money laundering, bank fraud conspiracy, false statements, and structuring financial transaction charges. He’s out on bail.

In Houston, a Jefferson County jail supervisor was convicted last Thursday of taking bribes from a jailed Mexican cartel leader. Donald Roy Kelly was found to have initiated contact with Gulf Cartel leader Francisco Saenz-Tamez, who was there pending trial on federal drug trafficking charges, offering him a cell phone in return for a cash payment. Kelly provided a cell phone, as well as fast food, to Saenz-Tamez. Kelly went down when prison authorities found the phone weeks later and traced it back to him. He was found guilty of providing a prison inmate with a prohibited object and bribery of a public official. He’s looking at up to 15 years in federal prison.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a former Warren County jail guard was sentenced last Thursday to nine months in prison for taking money to smuggle drugs to inmates. Travis Caudill, 36, went down when he was caught bringing a package of marijuana wrapped in duct tape to work with him. He then confessed that he was taking bribes to do so. He pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of conveying prohibited items into a detention facility.

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Black Males 3 Times More Likely to Be Killed by Police

A new study finds that black and Hispanic males face a greater possibility of deadly law enforcement action than their white counterparts.

Black Males 3 Times More Likely to Be Killed by Police
Baltimore police officers arrest a man near Mowdamin Mall on April 27, 2015.

Baltimore police officers arrest a man in April 2015.

Black males are nearly three times more likely than white males to be killed when law enforcement officers use force, according to a new study.

Black males aged 10 years or older died at a rate 2.8 times higher in so-called legal intervention deaths in the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, the study says. Hispanic males, meanwhile, died at a rate 1.7 times higher than that of whites. About 96 percent of the deaths overall resulted from shootings.

The study, led by Dr. James Buehler, a professor at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, was published this week in the American Journal of Public Health. It examined information on 2,285 fatal encounters with police between 2010 and 2014, as recorded in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database. Ninety-six percent of those killed were male.

Buehler says the study was launched in part as a response to an earlier and much-publicized analysis from July, which found that while blacks and Hispanics are more likely to encounter non-lethal force from police, they’re no more statistically likelythan whites to be fatally shot by an officer.

That earlier effort drew heavily on data from Houston, focusing on the kinds of interactions in which deadly use of force might be expected, from a person assaulting an officer to resisting arrest. Buehler’s study used broader data to present a wider picture of disparities in law enforcement.

“What you see, looking at the data, is that there are very substantial disparities in the overall rate of those deaths across different race and ethnic groups, with the rate for black men being nearly three times the rate for white men,” Buehler says. “The disparities in the legal intervention reflect broader disparities in health and mortality rates that we see in this country across race and ethnic groups.”

The findings were “not a surprise,” he adds. They corroborate previous studies that found similar discrepancies between whites and blacks in encounters with police.

The study was also published three months after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated that, in light of disproportionate stops of black men by police in Boston, they may have a legitimate and innocent reason to flee from officers.

“Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity,” an opinion from the court said.

Buehler normally studies public health systems, not police violence or criminology. And while he has expertise in analyzing population health trends, as he did in his new paper, he says he doesn’t plan a follow-up analysis.

“My hope is that by providing this reminder, it will continue to encourage others who have deeper expertise than me to look into these questions further,” Buehler says.

His study “doesn’t really answer the ‘why,’” he notes. “But clearly a number of other studies have shown that there are disparities in the likelihood of being stopped or arrested across racial or ethnic groups, and that very likely is one of the contributors to whether or not force is used, and whether or not that leads to injury or mortality.”

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4 bodies found at home of ex-Briarcliff Manor cop Nick Tartaglione

Nicholas Tartaglione faces federal charges.


Four bodies believed to be the missing men allegedly killed by retired Briarcliff Manor cop Nicholas Tartaglione during a busted drug deal in April were recovered Tuesday on property he rented in Orange County.

Chester police Chief Peter Graziano confirmed the recovery and said the bodies were being taken to the county medical examiner’s office for positive identification.

Tartaglione, 49, was arrested Monday on drug conspiracy charges accusing him of killing the four in April. On Tuesday, state police and the FBI converged on the property on Old Mountain Road in Otisville to search for their remains.

Tartaglione is charged in a five-count indictment for a conspiracy to distribute at least 5 kilograms of cocaine and “the senseless murder” of the four men, which was part of that conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. The former cop pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment Monday.

“While all murders tear at the fabric of our communities, when the alleged perpetrator of a gangland-style, quadruple homicide is a former police officer, that strikes at the heart of civilized society,” Bharara said.

PAST CONTROVERSY: Tartaglione accused of beating gadfly Clay Tiffany

Tartaglione and others had allegedly conspired to sell cocaine from June 2015 to April 2016, prosecutors said.

Martin Luna, Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna and Hector Gutierrez were killed in and around a bar called the Likquid Lounge in Chester as part of that drug activity, officials said. Some of them were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, officials said.

The bar is run by Tartaglione’s brother, Graziano said.

“These four men had not been seen or heard from since the day of their alleged murder,” Bharara said. “We hope that today’s arrest brings some measure of comfort to the victims’ families and loved ones.”

All four men were last seen in a 2010 Chevrolet Equinox that was believed to have been parked in the Chester Diner parking lot between 2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on April 11, Middletown police said in the spring. A relative of Miguel Luna spoke with him by telephone at about 5 p.m. that day but there was no communication with any of the four men after that, police said.


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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Ohio sheriff goes to prison for stealing pills, a former New Mexico cop is in trouble for buying sex with meth, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, a former Las Cruces police officer was arrested last Wednesday after being accused of trading drugs for sex. Alex Smith, 32, a seven-year veteran of the force, was originally suspended after being accused of giving methamphetamine to a woman while in his police uniform and wearing his badge, but he’s now been charged with trafficking meth by distribution and conspiracy to commit trafficking. The woman described Smith as her drug “connect” and boasted that she had performed sexual favors for him in return for drugs. He met the woman in his official capacity when responding to a domestic violence report several years ago.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Edcouch police officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to working with Mexican drug traffickers. Vicente Salinas copped to one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. He admitted staging fake drug busts in a scheme to steal and re-sell the drugs. He’s looking at up to 40 years in federal prison.

In Fremont, Ohio, the former Sandusky County sheriff was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for stealing prescription drugs and misusing office funds. Kyle Overmyer also has to pay $25,000 in restitution. A special prosecutor accused him of stealing pills from drug disposal boxes and deceiving multiple doctors into giving him pain pills. He pleaded guilty last month to 13 felony counts of theft of dangerous drugs and theft in office.

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Former deputy arrested in murder for hire plot

SIERRA VISTA — A former Cochise County Sheriff’s Deputy has been arrested following an undercover investigation into conspiracy to commit murder.

Sierra Vista Police Police Department detective Sgt. Sean Brownson said the investigation into Israel Burkholder came to a head on Sunday when they learned he was coming close to achieving his goal of having another Sierra Vista man killed.

“As it progressed and was getting close to being a possibility, we decided today, for the safety of the public, that he had to be taken into custody,” Brownson said Sunday evening.

After several days of electronic and physical surveillance, investigators learned that Burkholder had arranged to meet with someone to arrange the murder at the Circle K on Buffalo Soldier Trail. As Burkholder was preparing to leave the area, the department’s Special Response Team took him into custody at gunpoint.

Burkholder was not armed at the time of his arrest, but police are looking into any “weapon systems” he may own, Brownson said.

The investigation began when the sheriff’s office was made aware of possible criminal activity on Burkholder’s part during his time as a deputy revolving around prescription drugs.

“Cochise County turned over information that was deemed to be critical, regarding corrupt activities involving Burkholder as a deputy involving drugs and their procurement,” Brownson said.

Burkholder, a deputy with the sheriff’s office for over a decade, resigned on March 5, 2015, following an incident in which he accepted prescription painkillers from another deputy, Evan Walker. Walker resigned later that same month, and his peace officer certification was suspended for two years by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board because of the incident.

Due to potential conflicts of interest, the sheriff’s office turned the investigation over to the police department to investigate the possible illegal activity.

It was during this investigation that police investigators uncovered the murder for hire plot.

“The matter is still under investigation, but for the public’s safety, Burkholder needed to be taken into custody today,” the detective said.

The man Burkholder was plotting to have killed, a Sierra Vista resident, was someone the former detective had a grudge against “for drug-related and personal reasons,” Brownson said.

As of Sunday evening, no one else has been charged in connection with the murder for hire plot, but the investigation is ongoing.

Burkholder has been charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder and is being held in the Cochise County Jail.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Texas DA partied a little to hearty, cops in New York and California get nailed for dirty dealing, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Litchfield, Minnesota, a former Meeker County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty October 14 to stealing drugs from a secured prescription drug drop-off box and toys that had been collected to give to children. Travis Hal Sebring, 34, entered guilty pleas to a felony charge of fifth-degree possession of drugs, a felony charge of theft, and a gross misdemeanor charge of theft. He had been arrested in January after he was caught pilfering the goodies on a surveillance camera. A search of his residence turned up more than a hundred prescription medications, toys, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 

In New York City, a former NYPD officer was convicted Mondayof delivering about 88 pounds of cocaine to drug dealers in the Bronx between 2010 and 2014. Merlin Alston, 33, was convicted of drug conspiracy and weapons charges and is looking at a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence. He will be sentenced February 2.

In Fresno, California, a former Bakersfield police detective was sentenced last Monday to five years in federal prison for conspiring with another cop to steal drugs and marijuana during “drug busts” and sell them to third parties for a profit. Patrick Mara, 36, admitted stealing at least 20 pound of methamphetamine that should have been booked into evidence. Mara’s partner in crime, Damacio Diaz, got five years earlier last month.

In Longview, Texas, a former Gregg County DA was sentenced last Friday to 10 years’ probation after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. Former DA Rob Foster, 71, was arrested in February 2015 when police found him spinning the wheels of his truck on an icy median and he exited the vehicle holding a glass of scotch. A search of the vehicle then came up with several grams of cocaine and a gun. He was granted deferred adjudication, meaning that if he successfully completes his probation, his record will be cleared. Foster said he was suffering from addiction issues.

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NYPD officer convicted in drug conspiracy

NEW YORK (AP) – A New York City Police officer has been convicted in a drug conspiracy of charges that carry a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence.

Merlin Alston was convicted Monday by a Manhattan federal court jury. His lawyer, Jeff Greco, says he doesn’t know if his client will appeal.

The 33-year-old Alston was convicted of narcotics and weapons charges by a jury that deliberated for two days.

Prosecutors said Alston personally delivered about 88 pounds of cocaine from 2010 to 2014 and gave Bronx drug dealers secrets about law enforcement operations, including arrests and surveillance.

He could face up to life in prison at a Feb. 2 sentencing.

Greco said his client was in shock over the verdict, which came after a two-week trial.

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