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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NC judge convicted of trying to bribe federal agent with Bud Light

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2 former DEA agents charged with drug conspiracy, weapons offenses

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it unsealed the superseding indictments of two former Drug Enforcement Administration officers charged with drug conspiracy, weapons offenses, robbery, obstruction of justice and falsification of records.

Karl Emmett Newman, 49, of Kentwood, Louisiana, and Johnny Jacob Domingue, 27, of Maurepas, Louisiana, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 7 in the U.S District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Authorities charged Newman with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone, one count of interference with commerce by robbery, one count of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, one count of possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, two counts of unlawful conversion of property by a government officer or employee, two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation and one count of obstruction of justice.

Court documents show Newman tampered with department records involving a Ford F-150 and $4,300 in cash. He also seized cocaine, oxycodone and an unspecified amount of cash greater than $1,000.

Domingue, meanwhile, is charged with one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation. Court documents state he admitted lying about an undercover drug transaction to federal agents in January.

The men, who both served as deputies in the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, were arrested in May and are currently in federal custody awaiting trial, scheduled for February, according to court documents.

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A federal judge who ruled on some of Mexico’s highest profile criminal cases was gunned down in broad daylight

The jogger trots down a narrow sidewalk, apparently oblivious to the slim man in black trailing a few yards behind. Early morning traffic passes as usual. Nothing seems amiss.

As the jogger crosses a street, his pursuer accelerates and raises his right hand to the jogger’s head.

The jogger collapses, coils into a fetal position, then rolls onto his back with arms and legs extended. Blood seeping from his head flows into the street.

A gun comes into view as the assailant turns and sprints away, startling a pedestrian and a cyclist.

The video, captured by a security camera Monday in the upscale Mexico City exurb of Metepec and leaked to the media, has caused a sensation here.

The victim was Vicente Antonio Bermudez Zacarias,  a 37-year-old federal judge based in the state of Mexico, just outside Mexico City. Transported to the hospital, he was pronounced dead of a single gunshot to the head.

Even in a country that has become synonymous with violence, the shooting of a federal judge in daylight is a stunning occurrence. The assault drew broad condemnation and official vows to find whoever was responsible.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he had ordered the attorney general to investigate the “very lamentable act.”

Authorities have offered no motive. The video would seem to suggest a professional hit by someone familiar with the judge’s routines. It was not clear whether Bermudez had received threats before his slaying.

His extensive caseload included some of Mexico’s highest profile criminal cases.

He was involved in legal rulings regarding the 43 college students who disappeared in the state of Guerrero two years ago and are presumed to have been killed. They were last seen in the custody of local police.

This month, the judge blocked a request from Gildardo Lopez, suspected of being a hit man for a Guerrero-based drug gang — to be transferred from the high-security Altiplano prison outside Mexico City.

Among the suspects Bermudez has jailed are an operative of the ultra-violent Zetas gang and a boss in the so-called Jalisco New Generation cartel, a leading drug trafficking organization.

His judicial district issued an order last year stalling the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most notorious trafficker, to the United States, where he faces charges of murder and other crimes. Mexican officials say they expect the extradition to occur by February.

One of Guzman’s lawyers, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, denounced as “yellow journalism” any effort to link his client to the judge’s assassination. “I have heard that he was … very honest, impeccable, and that he was widely respected,” he told the Televisa network. “There is no basis to see Joaquin Guzman behind this act.”

Whoever the killer, the assassination has quickly become a testament to what many Mexicans view as culture of impunity.

The judiciary “lives under a constant siege of criminal interests that look to twist institutional rulings through the classic method of filling the judge with money or lead,” columnist Julio Hernandez Lopez wrote in the newspaper La Jornada. “To a large extent, the mechanisms of judicial decision-making have been compromised by this mafioso threat that in no way has been confronted and exterminated.”

The day before the judge was killed, the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico warned publicly that the country was “in flames” because of unchecked violence, with proliferating numbers of kidnappings, extortion threats and assaults on streets and in buses and trains.

“In certain zones of the country, violence is escalating and appears uncontainable,” the church declared in its weekly newsletter From the Faith.

At times the country feels at war with itself. Five Mexican soldiers were killed last month in an ambush on a military convoy in northern Mexico,  suspected of being orchestrated by sons of Guzman.

The church itself has suffered, with more than a dozen priests killed across the country in the last four years, including two last month in the state of Veracruz. In that case, police announced the arrest of a suspect this week.

Veracruz has been an epicenter of violence, including the killings of journalists and others who were critical of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Disgust over the killings contributed to the party’s defeat in June in the election for governor there.

On Tuesday, the Mexican media reported that an arrest warrant for “organized crime” and “illegal enrichment” had been issued against Javier Duarte, who stepped down from the governorship last week with six weeks remaining in his term amid widespread allegations that he was corrupt and implicated in violence.

Human rights groups say that during Duarte’s six years in office hundreds of people “disappeared” and were killed in Veracruz, where rival cartels battle it out for access to lucrative drug- and people-smuggling routes to the United States. Many victims remain missing.

In a recent case, four university students went missing Sept. 29 and their mutilated corpses were found several days later. As is often the case, it remains unclear why they were targeted.

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Drug dealers snitch on dirty NYPD cop

Disgraced NYPD officer Merlin Alston (Photo Source: NYPD)

There is a trial going on currently in New York that is exposing the level of corruption in the NYPD when it comes to drugs. Merlin Alston, 32, an NYPD officer, was arrested in December 2014 and charged with narcotics conspiracy based on his involvement with known drug dealers in the city. According to Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Jared Lenow, Alston “was serving as these drug dealers’ spy within the police department.” Alston is currently on trial for these charges in a case that has been filled with “snitches” against the disgraced cop.

Alston had his bail revoked in September when a key witness set to testify against him was found dead in an apparent gang style hit. Robert Bishun, 36, was abducted from his auto body shop and found beaten and strangled in the back of his BMW. It is alleged that Alston acted as “a helper, driver and shotgun-toting bodyguard” for multiple drug dealers.

Other dealers are expected to testify against Alston, who allegedly was part of a drug distribution ring from 2010 to 2014. Prosecutors claim that during this time period, Alston regularly tipped several dealers off to cops’ investigations and whereabouts. One drug dealer identified as Gabriel Reyes took the witness stand recently and testified that Alston would team up with him on drug runs and even gave him a Police Benevolent Association card that helped him avoid at least 30 traffic stops. Reyes and Alston have been friends since high school and he further stated, “He told me he had my back. Merlin would do what he had to do.”

Reyes was arrested in June 2015 on drug conspiracy and firearms charges and is currently seeking a plea deal with prosecutors. This fact caused Alston’s defense team to declare that Reyes and others like him “are “snitches who have everything to lose and a whole lot to gain” by testifying. They’re there for one reason and for one reason alone — to benefit their own case.”

Merlin Alston is currently on suspension from the NYPD while his criminal trial proceeds.

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Ex-DEA officers charged with drug, weapons crimes

WASHINGTON – Two former Drug Enforcement Administration task force officers were charged in a superseding indictment unsealed today with drug conspiracy, weapons offenses, robbery, obstruction of justice and falsification of records in federal investigations, according to Department of Justice and FBI officials.

Karl Emmett Newman, 49, of Kentwood, and Johnny Jacob Domingue, 27, of Maurepas, were indicted Oct. 7 by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, authorities said.

Newman is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone, one count of interference with commerce by robbery, one count of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, one count of possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, two counts of unlawful conversion of property by a government officer or employee, two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation and one count of obstruction of justice.

Domingue is charged with one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation.  Newman was originally charged on May 13 in a now-unsealed indictment and was arrested on that date.  Domingue was arrested on a now-unsealed criminal complaint on May 12.

In addition to serving as DEA task force officers, Newman and Domingue previously served as deputies with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Monte A. Cason of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Dallas Field Office and Deputy Chief Inspector Brian M. McKnight of the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility made the announcement.

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2 officers arrested after drunken night, Vero Police Dept. policing their own

The Vero Beach Police Chief says his policemen and women are not “above the law.”

Tonight, he’s responding to the arrest of two of his officers by his own department.

The blue wall of silence, or blue shield, is the unwritten rule that exists among police officers not to report on a fellow officers’ misconduct or crime, but not here. The chief at the Vero Beach Police Department says his officers did the right thing–they enforced the law.

“It’s disappointing,” said Chief David Currey with the Vero Beach Police Department. “We arrested our own people. That’s unfortunate and its disappointing and its sad. So this is not a good day by any means.”

Officer Joshua Harris is charged with disorderly intoxication and criminal mischief for damaging a mirror on a colleague’s police car. Officer Nick Knutson was charged with a DUI.

“It’s disappointing but I feel we did the right thing.” Chief Currey said.

The two off duty officers began their night at Filthy’s, a top local’s hangout in Vero Beach. The officers were celebrating getting off a days-long hurricane shift. Harris even gave the keys to his girlfriend when he was dropped off – so he wouldn’t drink and drive.

And when Harris, on foot was walking home that night, his girlfriend pulled up in a car alongside him, and multiple witnesses saw Harris get upset. Police say he then punched and smashed the side mirror on her car.

But there’s a twist. Harris’ girlfriend was the one who arrested him. She too is a police officer in Vero Beach. And the car he punched was a police car.

“No outside investigation needed. We arrested our own,” Chief David Currey said. “We are not above the law by any means. We did what we would do with anyone else.”

Just about the time Harris was getting arrested, off-duty Officer Knutson left Filthy’s to look for his friend. But Knutson did get behind the wheel.

The chief says Officer Knutson was visibly drunk when he located Harris surrounded by flashing lights just a few blocks away from the bar.

“We actually had another officer, a Sgt. and a Corporal on scene when Knutson pulled up to the scene in a pick-up truck.”

Police say he was wreaking of alcohol, stumbling out of his truck, and that’s how Knutson ended up in handcuffs as well–charged with a DUI.

The chief says they will wrap up their internal investigation within a week.

The data shows just how rare it is a local police department would arrest their own men.

In a time where many question the integrity of policing, CBS 12 wanted to know how often are police held accountable and not given a pass as being above the law.

National Institute of Justice: a study paid for by the Department of Justice can be found here.

A new study just released shows police officers are rarely arrested nationwide. With roughly 1.2 million law enforcement officers in this country, only three officers are charged with a crime every day. That amounts to 1,100 annually, according to the study.

The most common crimes were simple assault, drunken driving and aggravated assault, and significant numbers of sex crimes were also found. The study also shows 95 percent of the officers charged are men.

In this case, Harris tried to avoid driving by walking home but told the chief he was sorry he made a poor choice in damaging the police car mirror.

Knusten, pulled up to Harris’ crime scene, the chief said was visibly drunk.

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US judge traded sentences for sex favours

A former Arkansas judge accused of giving lighter sentences to defendants in exchange for nude photos and sexual acts has been indicted on federal fraud and bribery charges, according to a federal indictment.

Former Cross County District Court Judge Joseph Boeckmann resigned in May after an investigation into allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships with men accused of crimes dating back decades, to his time as a prosecutor. Boeckmann allegedly had more than 4600 photos of nude or semi-nude men.

A grand jury accused Boeckmann of corruptly using his official position as an Arkansas district judge “to obtain personal services, sexual contact, and the opportunity to view and to photograph in compromising positions persons who appeared before him in traffic and misdemeanour criminal cases in exchange for dismissing the cases”. The indictment is dated October 5.

Boeckmann’s attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday. Boeckmann has previously denied the allegations through his attorney.

Boeckmann was indicted on eight counts of wire fraud, two counts of witness tampering, one count of federal program bribery and 10 counts of violating the federal Travel Act.

Dozens of men have accused Boeckmann of sexual abuse and misconduct, saying the small-town judge paid them to allow him to spank them with a paddle and to take photos of the red skin.

Others said they posed nude in exchange for money to pay off court fines.

Others, some of whom were underage, said Boeckmann would offer them community service in lieu of court fines and fees. The assignments often involved going to his house or another location, taking off their shirts, bending over and pretending to pick the cans up while, they allege, Boeckmann took photos.

An Associated Press investigation into court and law enforcement records in June showed that of the 254 men Boeckmann sentenced to community service over a seven-year period in one of three districts he oversaw, just 13 of the cases include timesheets and court records showing completion of the sentences.

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