Longest Drug Tunnel Found

 

481-foot illicit drug tunnel found in Nogales

NOGALES – A 481-foot drug tunnel has been found in Nogales, Arizona. It’s the longest tunnel ever discovered in the border city. The bust followed a multi-agency investigation by the Nogales Tunnel Task Force.

According to a news release, the task force also arrested three men and seized more than 640 pounds of marijuana and a half pound of heroin during the takedown.

Jose Solorzano-Flores, 41, and Jose Mario Armenta-Valdez, 41, both of Mexico, and Jesus Alberto Ramirez-Valencia, 22, of Nogales, Ariz., were charged with drug conspiracy charges in a federal complaint.

The men made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tucson Tuesday afternoon.

The tunnel runs between two private residences in Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. It’s accessed by shafts at each end.

The tunnel stretches 411 feet from the U.S entrance to the international border and extends for another 70 feet into Mexico. The passageway is roughly two feet wide by three feet tall, and contains wood shoring, electric lighting and fans to circulate air inside.

The tunnel was discovered after task force members developed information that drug smuggling activity was occurring at a private residence in Nogales. While conducting surveillance on the house Monday night, task force members observed a vehicle, driven by Ramirez-Valencia, leave the residence. After following the vehicle to a second house, task force members and Nogales police approached Ramirez-Valencia, who consented to having the vehicle searched. Inside the truck, authorities found 24 bales of marijuana weighing 590 pounds. They also encountered Solorzano-Flores outside the house.

Later that night, the HSI Special Response Team served a federal search warrant on the first house and discovered Armenta-Valdez inside. Authorities subsequently found the tunnel entrance on the lower level of the house. A half pound of heroin was found inside the house and two bundles of marijuana weighing 46 pounds were found inside the tunnel.

“This was one of the more complex and exhausting tunnels to investigate in recent Nogales tunnel history,” said Kevin Hecht, deputy patrol agent in charge of Nogales Station Border Patrol. “The investigation would not have been completed without the cooperation of DEA, HSI, Nogales Border Patrol and Mexican authorities.”

Posted in Mexican Cartel | Leave a comment

A Mexican drug cartel’s rise to dominance The Sinaloa cartel is now the world’s biggest supplier of illegal narcotics. How did it become so powerful?

A tunnel used by cartels to transport drugs from Mexico to the United States.
A tunnel used by cartels to transport drugs from Mexico to the United States. (AP Photo/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
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hat is the Sinaloa cartel?
The Mexican crime syndicate is the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, and the biggest supplier of illegal narcotics in the U.S. About half of the estimated $65 billion worth of cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs that American users buy each year enters the U.S. via Mexico. Sinaloa — which is named after its home state in western Mexico — controls more than half of that cross-border trade, from which it earns at least $3 billion a year. U.S. law–enforcement officials say the group has a presence in all major American cities, and a near monopoly on the wholesale distribution of heroin and cocaine in Chicago. The city’s Crime Commission has branded Sinaloa’s elusive leader, Joaquín Guzmán, also known as El Chapo (or Shorty), Public Enemy No. 1 — a title last held by Al Capone. “What Al Capone was to beer and whiskey,” said commission member Arthur Bilek, “Guzmán is to narcotics.”

How did the cartel get started?
Mexican smugglers have long trafficked homegrown heroin and marijuana to the U.S. But in the 1980s, Mexico also became the primary route for Colombian cocaine bound for the U.S. At the time, U.S. law enforcement was cracking down on the Colombian drug producers’ attempts to ship the lucrative drug into Florida by boats and planes. So the Colombians hired Mexico’s Guadalajara cartel to smuggle drugs across the border, and paid them in cocaine, which allowed the Mexicans to build their own drug networks in the U.S. Before long, the Mexicans were the senior partners in the relationship. When Guadalajara’s leader was arrested in 1989, the group’s remaining capos, including a young Guzmán, divided up its trafficking routes, creating the Sinaloa, Juárez, and Tijuana cartels. These gangs soon became locked in a series of turf wars that have killed more than 60,000 people. But throughout the bloodshed, El Chapo’s organization has continued to grow.

Why has Sinaloa succeeded?
The 5-foot-6 Guzmán may be a grade school dropout, but he’s also “a logistical genius,” said Jack Riley, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago division. He’s trafficked cocaine from Colombia to Mexico in small private planes, in the luggage of airline passengers, and on the cartel’s own 747s. Sinaloa has also moved cocaine on custom-built $1 million submarines. El Chapo, 56, has shown similar ingenuity moving drugs from Mexico to the U.S. He’s built scores of tunnels under the border, some of which are air-conditioned and boast half-mile-long trolley lines. He’s sent drugs through U.S. checkpoints in hidden car compartments, in cans of jalapeños, and in the bellies of frozen shark carcasses. Once in the U.S., the drugs are ferried to warehouses in Chicago — which Guzmán has called his “home port” — before being divided up and distributed across the nation.

Why Chicago?
It’s the transportation hub of America. The city is located within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the nation’s population, and is crisscrossed by major interstate highways and railway lines. Chicago is also a huge drug market in its own right. Some 86 percent of people arrested in Cook County in 2012 tested positive for at least one illegal narcotic — the highest percentage of any big U.S. city. With his monopoly in the city, Guzmán doubled wholesale heroin prices, thus cutting profit margins for street dealers. That fueled greater competition for turf and exacerbated Chicago’s epidemic of gang violence. “It used to be honor among thieves,” said Harold Ward, a former gang member turned anti-violence campaigner. “Now, it’s by any means necessary.”

How violent is the cartel?
Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal — it left 14 severed heads in iceboxes outside a mayor’s office in the northern Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo in 2012. But compared with other cartel leaders, El Chapo is a practical businessman who prefers “bribe over bullet.” He invests millions in corrupting police and government officials in Mexico rather than intimidating them with violence. “There is a level-headedness about [Sinaloa's] leadership that the other groups lack,” said Malcolm Beith, author of a book on Guzmán titled The Last Narco. Some observers claim that this fact has led both Mexican and U.S. authorities to go easy on Sinaloa.

Is that allegation true?
A 2010 National Public Radio investigation of Mexican arrest records noted that Sinaloa had suffered notably fewer arrests than other cartels. U.S. court documents also show that top Sinaloa officials regularly met with DEA agents between 2006 and 2012 and fed them intelligence about rival cartels, helping law enforcement crush their competitors. U.S. and Mexican officials have denied showing any favoritism toward Sinaloa, and the DEA has arrested several high-ranking cartel members in recent years, including Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of the organization’s No. 2 leader, Ismael Zambada. In a rare 2010 interview, the senior Zambada said that such arrests had no effect on the cartel, and that its drugs would keep flowing north even if El Chapo were brought down. “When it comes to the capos, jailed, dead, or extradited,” he said, “their replacements are ready.”

El Chapo’s great escape
In 1993, Guzmán was captured and sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy, bribery, and drug trafficking. But even after he was sent to Mexico’s maximum security Puente Grande prison, he continued to run his empire and live a life of luxury. With most of the prison officials on his payroll, he ordered meals from a menu, organized drug deals on cellphones, and had prostitutes, his wife, and several lovers brought in on prison trucks, as well as a supply of Viagra. Then in January 2001, El Chapo tired of being locked up, and was reportedly wheeled out of the prison inside a laundry cart. Many Mexicans believe prison officials in fact let the drug lord walk out. What actually happened may never be known, as security camera footage from that night disappeared, and records of vehicles entering and leaving the jail were erased.

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Police officer, 32, admits to being a pimp for his teenage wife who called him ‘master’

A former police officer has pleaded guilty to being a pimp for his 19-year-old wife, who agreed to call him ‘master’ and handed over all of her earnings.

Lamin Manneh, 32, a former Baltimore cop, entered his plea in federal court on Wednesday, admitting that he had advertized the services of his teen wife and another woman online.

Between February and May 2013, his prostitution business served more than 300 customers who met the women for sex at hotel rooms and homes, according to an FBI investigation.

Manneh drove the women to the meetings and waited outside. He carried his service weapon and agreed to intervene if the clients became aggressive, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Guilty: Former cop Lamin Manneh, 32, has pleaded guilty to being a pimp for his wife and another woman

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Guilty: Former cop Lamin Manneh, 32, has pleaded guilty to being a pimp for his wife and another woman

He would rent hotel rooms and an apartment to allow ‘in-calls’ or drive the women – both of whom lived with him – to locations chosen by their clients, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Manneh kept all his wife’s prostitution earnings and a percentage of the other woman’s.

He was arrested in May after an undercover police officer on a child-sex trafficking task force responded to one of his online ads and set up a meeting. 

The undercover officer met with the wife, Marissa Manneh, in a hotel room near to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport as Manneh waited in the parking lot.

His wife was arrested when she told the officer: ‘You give me the $100 and then you can [have sex] with me.’

After her arrest, she said her husband ‘posts the ads and uses his credit cards to do so. He drives her from date to date since she cannot drive,’ according to the arrest report.

Together: Manneh's wife, Marissa, left, entered into a 'contract of slavery' and said he was her 'master'

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Together: Manneh’s wife, Marissa, left, entered into a ‘contract of slavery’ and said he was her ‘master’

 

Marissa

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Marissa

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Business: 19-year-old Marissa posted images of her ‘working’ to her Facebook page. She was initially charged with prostitution but this was later dropped. Her husband took all of her earnings, prosecutors said

 

She was arrested on a prostitution charge but it was dropped in September.

Prosecutors said Mrs Manneh had entered into a ‘contract of slavery’ with him and agreed he was her ‘master’. In images posted on Facebook, she tags herself ‘slave’ and Manneh ‘master’.

Manneh could get up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on May 8.

Manneh’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

After his arrest in May, Baltimore City Police Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez called the allegation ‘a disgrace and embarrassment to every member’ of the police force.

‘We expect every member of this department to hold themselves to the highest of professional standards,’ he said in a statement. ‘Our colleagues and our community deserve nothing less.’

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D.C. Police Facing Scrutiny Over Arrested Officers

 

 

Police officials in the nation’s capital have been facing recent questions about headline-making arrests – not of hardened street criminals but of their own officers.

In a single month, one District of Columbia police officer was accused of taking semi-nude pictures of a 15-year-old runaway and another was charged with running a prostitution operation involving teenage girls. A third was indicted on an attempted murder charge, accused of striking his wife in the head with a light fixture.

Police say the arrests aren’t representative of the entire department, which includes about 4,500 officers and civilian employees. Still, more than 100 officers in the last five years have been arrested on charges ranging from traffic offenses to murder to money laundering, and the latest instances have increased concerns about training, supervision and accountability. The D.C. Council has set a hearing to discuss the problem and Police Chief Cathy Lanier has met with residents to assuage fears of a misbehaving department.

“We don’t think we have a department out of control, and I think that oftentimes is the image that is portrayed,” she said in an interview, noting that the majority of arrests are not for on-duty corruption but instead involve off-duty misconduct that is harder to police.

The hearing Friday will focus on how applicants are screened and what services are available to prevent alcohol abuse and domestic violence, two prevalent problems, said Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the public safety committee.

“I think it’s extremely important that the public have confidence in our police force and we’ve had three high-profile cases of serious police misconduct, albeit generally off-duty,” Wells said.

Police department figures show the arrests of about 110 police officers, for both on- and off-duty conduct, since 2009. Many of the arrests involved traffic violations or involved cases that were dropped or ended in acquittal.

Among the most serious cases was Richmond Phillips, who received life without parole last year for the slayings of his mistress and baby daughter. Wendel Palmer was convicted last year of sexually abusing a girl who participated in his church choir, while Kenneth Furr received a 14-month sentence for an armed altercation that began after prosecutors say he solicited sex from a transgender prostitute.

Lanier has said many of the arrested officers were brought onto the force during a time of lax hiring standards and wouldn’t be qualified to serve today. She said that in some cases the arbitration process has required the department to rehire officers it fired. She said the department has dramatically tightened its recruitment practices to mandate polygraph exams and that only one of about 25 applicants is now hired.

The department also tracks warning signs like missed commitments and abuse of sick leave. And it requires officers to report off-duty arrests, which Lanier contends can make the numbers look worse than in cities that lack that requirement.

“I feel comfortable that our recruiting process, the background screening we do, is as tight as we can get,” Lanier said at the meeting. “But I also realize that there are people that are on the police department that came through at a time when there was not that strict background (check), and those are the people that we want to make sure that if they are involved in misconduct, that we weed those people out.”

But resident Khadijah Tribble, 42, told the chief she was unconvinced the misconduct was isolated.

“Aren’t these trends troubling and isn’t it worth our due diligence to do a thorough, independent investigation of this trend?” Tribble said in an interview.

Robert Kane, the director of the Drexel University criminal justice program who has studied police misconduct, said the number of arrests wasn’t necessarily shocking for a big-city police department.

At least 43 New York City police officers are known to have been arrested between 2011 and 2013 on charges including gun-running, drunken driving, perjury, a ticket-fixing scam and a cannibalism plot. A Los Angeles police officer was charged with stomping a handcuffed woman who later lost consciousness and died. Dozens of Memphis, Tenn., officers have been arrested in recent years.

Kane said that on-duty police misconduct can be reliably defined, off-duty misbehavior by officers is studied less often.

“We know what factors explain police misconduct, when police officers stop people and extort money from them,” he said. “What do we know about officers who walk into a liquor store when off-duty and rob it at gunpoint for some beer?”

In D.C., the first of the recent arrests was on December 2 when officer Marc Washington was charged with taking semi-nude pictures while on-duty of a teenage runaway who had just returned home. Authorities say after responding to the girl’s apartment, he directed her into her bedroom and told her to undress so he could photograph injuries. He was arrested after the girl alerted her mother, who contacted police. Soon after being released from jail, Washington was dead from an apparent suicide.

The following week brought the off-duty arrest of Linwood Barnhill Jr., a 24-year-veteran who was charged after police came to his apartment and found a 16-year-old girl who had been reported missing. The girl told police Barnhill had photographed her and offered to pay her to have sex with other men, allegations also made by a second teenager. His lawyer says Barnhill never threatened anyone.

Lanier acknowledged the arrests, especially for on-duty conduct, have shaken the department. But she said she hopes the sight of handcuffed officers sends a message to other officers who would break the law.

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Stretton man cleared of drugs cartel involvement

A STRETTON on Dunsmore man has been cleared of any involvement in a drugs cartel which imported tonnes of cannabis from Spain and Holland and distributed it across the UK.

Darren Holmes, of Frankton Lane, was found not guilty after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court of conspiracy to supply cannabis.

The 47-year-old was among of several people arrested following a six-year investigation conducted by Warwickshire Police.

It centred on the group’s leader, 39-year-old Terry Conlon from Bishops Tachbrook near Leamington, and his partner in crime Troy Stanton, who was responsible for operations in Spain.

A number of large seizures were made in 2008 including more than three tonnes of cannabis resin at a farm in Wolvey and 82kg of resin at a pub car park in Coventry,

After conversations with Spanish authorities, detectives were able to prove a link and arrested the men in June last year.

Conlon pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison. Stanton – who also pleaded guilty to all charges – will be sentenced on January 30.

Det Ch Insp Ally Wright, head of SOCU, said: “This has been one of the longest and the largest ever proactive investigation ever undertaken by Warwickshire Police and we are pleased we have steadily dismantled a high-level organised crime group.

“The sentences mean that over the last six years we have convicted 32 people of drug trafficking, drug dealing or related offences. We have taken off the streets tonnes of cannabis, 200kg of amphetamines and importantly five illegal firearms. We also seized £130,000 in cash.

“The criminal enterprise headed by Conlon was a multi-million pound business. Those involved had amassed the trappings of wealth, for example high-value cars and expensive properties in England and Spain, and yet none of them had a job or paid any tax.”

Others arrested were Bryn Clinton, 45, of Banbury Road, Bishops Tachbrook, who was sentenced to five years four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis; and Harry Card, 31, of Hadlow Road, Tonbridge, Kent, who got four years four months after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis. He was found not guilty of two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine.

Michael Wheaton, 31, of Golding Gardens, East Peckham, Tonbridge, Kent, was sentenced to three years after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis. He pleaded not guilt to conspiracy to import cocaine, but the jury were unable to reach a verdict and the charge will now be dropped.

Sean Walsh, 45, of Mount Pleasant Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was sentenced to eight years years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and being found guilty of one charge of conspiracy to import cocaine. He was found not guilty of a second charge of conspiracy to import cocaine; and Paul James, 36, of New Street, Bulkington, was sentenced to six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to import cannabis.

Jovan Tumara, 43, of Wordsworth Avenue, Stratford Upon Avon, was sentenced to three years nine months after he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis.

The jury were unable to reach a verdict on a charge for conspiracy to import cocaine against David Card, 51, of Oakmead Road, Tonbridge, Kent, which was formally dropped.

 

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Former Clayton County Police Officer Assigned to U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking

ATLANTA—Dwayne Penn, formerly a police officer with the Clayton County Police Department assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine.

“This office is committed to protecting the public’s trust in law enforcement,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Penn was a drug dealer with a badge. He used his official position to traffic drugs and now faces a significant sentence for his betrayal of trust.”

Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “Today’s guilty plea brings to an end one man’s law enforcement career while providing an opportunity for those many others working within the criminal justice system to re-examine their own oaths and re-dedicate themselves to those oaths. The FBI will continue to make public corruption matters, in particular those involving law enforcement officers, a priority investigative matter.”

Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, stated, “This case is a reminder that law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard and are not above the law. This officer is not representative of the honest and hard-working men and women in law enforcement who do not violate their oaths but faithfully protect and serve the public daily.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court, in August 2013, Penn, who was employed with the Clayton County Police Department at the time, conspired with Adrian Austin, an Atlanta-based drug dealer, to use Penn’s official position as a police officer to stage a fake traffic stop of a car that he and Austin believed would contain six kilograms of cocaine, conduct a fake arrest of the car’s occupant, seize the cocaine for themselves, and then sell the cocaine, sharing their ill-gotten gains. Fortunately, the person whom Penn and Austin sought to recruit for this corrupt endeavor was cooperating with federal law enforcement and agreed to record his/her meetings with Penn and Austin.

In the lead-up to the fake arrest and seizure, Penn and Austin met face-to-face with the confidential informant on two separate occasions to plan their operation. Penn drove his police car to the planning meetings. While together, Penn, Austin, and the confidential informant discussed the confidential informant obtaining cocaine from his/her drug source of supply. Penn would then conduct a fake traffic stop and arrest of the confidential informant in front of the source, using Penn’s police vehicle and lights, and seize the cocaine, leading the source to mistakenly believe the drugs had been seized by law enforcement. They would divide up the seized cocaine among themselves according to the plan. As part of the charade, Penn agreed to handcuff the confidential informant, put the drugs in the trunk of his police car, and drive the confidential informant to a second location. During one of the meetings, Penn even drove Austin and the confidential informant around the parking lot, scouting out possible spots for various events the next day. Penn reassured the confidential informant that they could cover his/her tracks with the source of supply to deflect suspicion.

As planned, on the morning of August 28, 2013, Penn and Austin arrived at the appointed Decatur parking lot. Penn drove his police car and parked it in view of where the drug deal was to occur. While waiting, Penn ran the tags of a number of vehicles in the area through law enforcement databases. Penn also called task force officers with the DeKalb County Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and asked if DeKalb County had any surveillance vehicles that fit the description of vehicles Penn saw in the parking lot that morning. Penn rebuffed offers of assistance from his fellow officers, claiming he was just doing surveillance.

Before the deal’s consummation, the confidential informant met with Austin in Austin’s car in the parking lot. Austin relayed information between the confidential informant and Penn over his cellphone. The confidential informant and Austin discussed the imminent deal, with the confidential informant’s describing where s/he would put the drugs after receiving them.

The confidential informant exited Austin’s car and shortly thereafter met with the supposed drug dealer (also a law enforcement source) in the parking lot in view of Penn. The confidential informant received a shopping bag containing six kilogram-size bricks of fake cocaine, walked back to his/her vehicle, and placed the bag inside, placing two kilogram bricks in the back seat and leaving the remaining four kilogram bricks in the shopping bag in the front seat.

After the confidential informant emerged from his/her vehicle, Penn sped over in his police car with the lights on and blocked the confidential informant from leaving. Penn jumped out of his car with his firearm drawn and pointed it at the confidential informant. Penn was wearing a bulletproof vest, which read “Police,” and a black baseball hat. Penn ordered the confidential informant to get on the ground and to keep his/her “hands behind your back,” which the confidential informant did. Penn holstered his firearm, picked up the confidential informant from the ground, and patted him/her down. Penn then ushered the confidential informant into Penn’s police car. The confidential informant told Penn that s/he had already taken his/her two and that there were four in the bag. Penn walked over to the confidential informant’s vehicle and removed the shopping bag with the four kilogram bricks from the front seat, leaving the confidential informant’s share (two kilograms) in the car. Penn placed the shopping bag in the trunk of his police car, told the confidential informant to “get out of here,” and drove away with the cocaine-like substance, leaving the confidential informant and the two kilogram bricks behind at the parking lot.

Penn and Austin were arrested shortly afterward in the vicinity of the Decatur parking lot. Each had a loaded firearm with a round in the chamber. The shopping bag with substituted cocaine was recovered from Penn’s vehicle.

On August 28, 2013, Penn was terminated from the Clayton County Police Department and the Marshals Service Task Force. His co-defendant, Adrian Austin, pleaded guilty to the same charge on January 14, 2014.

Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreements into which Penn and Austin entered, they each have agreed to a binding 10-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Sentencing for Penn is scheduled for February 21, 2014, at 2:00 p.m., before United States District Judge Amy Totenberg. Sentencing for Austin is scheduled for April 10, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. also before United States District Judge Totenberg.

The case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Assistant United States Attorney Scott Ferber is prosecuting the case.

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Former East Haven Police Officer Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Criminal Civil Rights Violations

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that former East Haven Police Officer Dennis Spaulding, 30, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to 60 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for violating the civil rights of members of the East Haven community.

“Dennis Spaulding repeatedly violated the civil rights of Latino members of the East Haven community,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly. “He arrested people for no good reason, used cruel and excessive force causing physical injuries, and executed illegal searches. His actions assaulted, intimidated, demeaned, and humiliated decent and hardworking people who came to fear their own police department. Today’s sentence properly reflects that this defendant abused vulnerable victims, undermined the legitimacy of the East Haven Police Department, and damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement. This is a difficult day, but we are reminded that every day the vast majority of officers in East Haven and throughout this country serve their communities bravely and honorably. As this case nears the end, we remain hopeful that the East Haven community will continue to heal and their police department will continue to rebuild.”

“Spaulding’s efforts to harass, intimidate, and humiliate members of the East Haven community violated the rights afforded to them by our Constitution,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos. “Furthermore, his unethical behavior and illegal conduct threatened the character of a law enforcement community whose members take an oath to protect and serve with honor and integrity. Today’s sentencing is a step forward in restoring the public’s trust and a reminder that this type of dishonorable behavior will not go unpunished.”

This matter stems from a criminal investigation into members of the East Haven Police Department using excessive force during arrests, conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures, and filing false police reports. As a result of the investigation, Spaulding, Sergeant John Miller and Officers Jason Zullo and David Cari were charged with various civil rights offenses.

According to the evidence presented during the trial of Spaulding and David Cari, from approximately 2007 through 2011, Spaulding conspired to injure, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community in violation of their Constitutional rights. Spaulding and other members of the East Haven Police Department maintained and perpetuated an environment where the use of unreasonable force and unreasonable searches and seizures was tolerated and encouraged. Spaulding engaged in unlawful arrests and searches, including the baseless arrests of a Catholic priest and several Latinos who lived or worked in the community. Additionally, Spaulding used excessive force during an arrest when the victim was unarmed, neither resisting nor interfering with the police. Certain victims were particularly vulnerable because they were undocumented aliens and thus unlikely to raise objection to the abuse.

The evidence at trial further revealed that Spaulding intimidated, harassed, and humiliated members of the Latino community and their advocates and conducted unreasonable and illegal searches at Latino-owned businesses. Trial testimony established that in November 2008, Spaulding used excessive force against an individual in the parking lot of a Latino-owned restaurant and bar. Spaulding then arrested the individual under false pretenses to cover-up the assault and prepared a false report to justify the false arrest. Later, in January 2009 in the same parking lot, Spaulding and another officer arrested three individuals under false pretenses. Spaulding also prepared a false report to justify these arrests.

In February 2009, Spaulding and David Cari illegally searched a vehicle parked outside of a Latino-owned grocery store. Inside the store, David Cari then arrested a Catholic priest, who is also an advocate for Latinos, on false pretenses. The officers then conducted an illegal search of the back room of the store in an effort to unlawfully seize the store’s video recording equipment. In the days following the arrest, Cari drafted various false versions of an arrest report to cover up the false arrest of the religious leader.

On October 21, 2013, Spaulding was found guilty of one count of conspiracy against rights, one count of use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer, two counts of deprivation of rights for making arrests without probable cause, and two counts of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing false reports to justify the false arrests.

Spaulding, who has been released on a $300,000 bond since his arrest on January 24, 2012, was ordered to report to prison on March 4.

Cari was found guilty of one count of conspiracy against rights, one count of deprivation of rights for making an arrest without probable cause, and one count of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing a false report. On January 21, 2014, he was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment.

On October 23, 2012, Jason Zullo pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction stemming from his filing of a false police report in order to prevent a possible excessive force investigation. On December 16, 2013, he was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment.

On September 21, 2012, John Miller pleaded guilty to one count of violating an individual’s civil rights by using unreasonable force during the course of an arrest. He awaits sentencing.

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Ex-prison official makes court appearance on meth charges

ASHEVILLE — A judge agreed today to allow a former state prison supervisor who authorities say was part of a major methamphetamine trafficking ring to leave jail to attend an inpatient drug treatment program.

Gregory Ray DeHart is among a dozen defendants charged last month following an investigation by federal, state and local authorities. A grand jury indictment alleges they carried out the drug conspiracy primarily in Buncombe, McDowell and Cleveland counties.

Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Asheville approved a motion by DeHart’s attorney to release him from jail on a $25,000 unsecured bond so that he can go to a residential substance abuse treatment facility in Polk County.

DeHart, 44, was released to the custody of his father-in-law, who was directed to take him directly to the facility and return him to court officials once the program is over in six to 12 weeks

“I wish you luck in the treatment program,” Howell told DeHart.

DeHart was a lieutenant at Marion Correctional Institution until he left in September, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety. He joined the department in 1994 as a correction officer and was making $37,471 when he left the job.

The drug arrests were the result of a multi-agency investigation targeting meth trafficking in Western North Carolina, according to U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement were involved in the probe.

The indictment states the defendants conspired to distribute meth from about June 2011 to July 2013. All 12 are charged with engaging in a narcotics conspiracy, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.

DeHart also is charged with nine counts of distributing meth and four counts of possession with intent to distribute meth.

Eight of DeHart’s codefendants remain in custody, while the remaining three are fugitives, according to court records.

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Correctional officer, inmate sentenced in drug-smuggling conspiracy in Baltimore jail

BALTIMORE — A correctional officer and an inmate have been sentenced for their roles in a vast drug-smuggling operation at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Twenty-three-year-old Taryn Kirkland of Baltimore, a correctional officer, was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Twenty-four-year-old Steven Loney, the inmate, was sentenced to nine years in prison. The two were sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Baltimore. They both had pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

According to their plea agreements, Kirkland frequently smuggled contraband, including marijuana and prescription pills, into BCDC on Loney’s behalf.

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Former Yoakum Co. deputy gets four years for drug conspiracy

A former Yoakum County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to four years in federal prison for his role in a cocaine distribution conspiracy.

Inoe Valdez, 43, pleaded guilty in October to unlawful use of a communications facility related to the use of a cellphone for drug deals in 2009 and 2010. According to federal court documents, Valdez stopped selling cocaine because he discovered he was under investigation, and then resigned as a deputy.

Valdez has been ordered to begin serving his sentence on Feb. 14.
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