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Fresno’s deputy police chief was among four people arrested on federal drug charges, including conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and heroin, authorities said Thursday.
Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster, 51, was arrested for conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone, heroin and marijuana, the Federal Bureau of Investigations said in a statement.
Foster and Fresno residents Rafael Guzman, Jennifer Donebedian and Randy Flowers were arrested as result of a yearlong joint investigation by the FBI and ATF that involved wiretaps and surveillance, the FBI said.
Foster, a 29-year-veteran of the Fresno Police Department, oversaw patrol operations for the department’s four police districts. He has been a deputy chief since January 2007.
Foster has been put on paid administrative leave while the Fresno police conduct an internal investigation into alleged criminal and policy violations, the Fresno Police Department said in a statement.
“This is a very sad day for the Fresno Police Department, the citizens of Fresno, the law enforcement profession, and for me personally,” Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
An affidavit by U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Sherri L. Reynolds shows Foster told Flowers in a Dec. 23, 2014, phone call that he had “100 of those things” for Flowers.
Foster picked up a prescription for 100 oxycodone tablets at a Rite Aid pharmacy drive-thru and then drove his black BMW to Flowers’ home on West Church Avenue in a pocket of southwest Fresno just outside city limits.
Foster picked up another prescription of oxycodone pills on Jan. 27, 2015, and then drove to Flowers’ home.
Flowers has a criminal history in Fresno County that includes a 1988 conviction for possession of cocaine base for sale; a 1994 conviction for being a felon and addict in possession of a firearm; and a 2010 conviction for delivery of a schedule II controlled substance from Marion County,Oregon, the affidavit says.
Neither the FBI nor the Fresno Police Department could provide the name of a defense attorney to comment on the charges.
On the so-called dark web, drug dealing and other illicit sales have thrived in recent years, the authorities have said, through hidden websites like Silk Road and hard-to-trace digital currencies like Bitcoins.
On Monday, the government charged that in the shadows of an undercover investigation of Silk Road, a notorious black-market site, two federal agents sought to enrich themselves by exploiting the very secrecy that made the site so difficult for law enforcement officials to penetrate.
The agents, Carl Mark Force IV, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun W. Bridges, who worked for the Secret Service, had resigned amid growing scrutiny, and on Monday they were charged with money laundering and wire fraud. Mr. Force was also charged with theft of government property and conflict of interest.
A criminal complaint unsealed on Monday in federal court in San Francisco outlined the allegations against the two former agents.
While investigating Silk Road, Mr. Force “stole and converted to his own personal use a sizable amount of Bitcoins,” the digital currency that was used by buyers and sellers on the website and which he obtained in his undercover capacity, the complaint said.
“Rather than turning those Bitcoin over to the government, Force deposited them into his own personal accounts,” it added.
Mr. Bridges, meanwhile, who was described as a computer forensics expert, diverted to a personal account more than $800,000 in digital currency that he gained control of during the Silk Road investigation, the authorities said.
The complaint described both former agents as members of a Baltimore-based task force that investigated Silk Road. The website had been the subject of investigations in several cities. A Manhattan-based investigation ultimately led to the filing of charges against the website’s founder, Ross W. Ulbricht, who was convicted last month on numerous counts.
The Baltimore investigation resulted in an indictment of Mr. Ulbricht on conspiracy and other charges, but that case has remained pending and the evidence in support of it was kept out of the New York trial.
Mr. Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua L. Dratel, said on Monday that shortly before the trial, the government disclosed “only a portion of what is revealed in this complaint,” and over the defense’s objections, “aggressively moved to preclude at trial any reference to Agent Force’s activities.” The judge granted the government’s request.
“It is clear from this complaint that fundamentally, the government’s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked any integrity and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside,” Mr. Dratel said.
The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment. But court documents unsealed Monday show the office argued that Mr. Force played no role in the Manhattan-based investigation, which the office said had “proceeded on a separate and independent track” from the Baltimore one.
Moreover, the office argued, “from the outset, the government has made clear that the investigation” of Mr. Force “concerns only possible corruption” on the agent’s part “rather than anything suggestive of the defendant’s innocence.”
Mr. Force had been employed as a D.E.A. special agent for about 15 years; he resigned in May 2014, shortly after the investigation into his activities began, the complaint says. Mr. Bridges had been a special agent of the Secret Service for about six years until he abruptly resigned on March 18, after learning he was a subject of the investigation, it says.
Mr. Force, 46, was arrested in Baltimore on Friday and remained in custody there on Monday pending a detention hearing on Thursday, a Justice Department spokesman said. Mr. Force’s lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Md., surrendered to the authorities in San Francisco and was released on bond by a magistrate judge there on Monday, his lawyer, Steven H. Levin, said. “Mr. Bridges maintains his innocence and will fight these charges in the appropriate venue at the appropriate time,” Mr. Levin added.
When charges were announced against Mr. Ulbricht in October 2013 and the website was shut down, the authorities called Silk Road “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet.”
Several thousand drug dealers and other vendors used the site from January 2011 through its closing to sell hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods to more than 100,000 buyers, according to charges filed in Manhattan.
The site generated over $213 million in revenue during that period, and Mr. Ulbricht, operating under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, took millions of dollars in commissions, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged.
Much of Silk Road’s allure to buyers and sellers was anonymity: The website operated on a hidden part of the Internet, out of the glare of law enforcement officials, and transactions were made in Bitcoins, which can be as hard to trace as cash.
Mr. Dratel, the defense lawyer, argued during the trial that his client was not Dread Pirate Roberts, the name of a character in the book and movie “The Princess Bride.” He conceded that Silk Road had been his client’s idea, but that Mr. Ulbricht had turned the website over to others before being lured back as a “fall guy” to be arrested.
Mr. Ulbricht was convicted on Feb. 4 of multiple counts; four of the charges, including distributing narcotics on the Internet and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, carry potential life sentences. He is to be sentenced on May 15.
At the trial, the government also accused Mr. Ulbricht of commissioning the murders of five people whom he saw as threats to his enterprise. Although the prosecutors said they found no evidence that anyone was harmed, they cited the murders for hire as evidence that Mr. Ulbricht was willing to use violence to protect his lucrative operation.
The agencies that investigated the Baltimore-based agents included the Internal Revenue Service, the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco, the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the inspectors general for the Justice Department and Homeland Security, according to the complaint.
It charged that the former agents “abused their positions” to defraud the government and others “all for their own financial enrichment.”
Mr. Force, for example, created fictitious online personas that were not officially sanctioned by the investigation in order to communicate with Dread Pirate Roberts, the target of his investigation, the complaint says. Using one of those personas, Mr. Force sought to extort $250,000 from him in exchange for not providing the government with certain information.
Mr. Force, who used the undercover identity Nob in communicating with Dread Pirate Roberts, also created the fiction that he had sensitive law enforcement information that had been provided to him by a corrupt federal agent named Kevin who was part of the Silk Road investigation. In August 2013, for example, Dread Pirate Roberts paid Nob about $50,000 in Bitcoins for “ ‘Kevin’s’ inside law enforcement information,” the complaint says.
During the nearly two years Mr. Force was involved in the Silk Road investigation, the complaint said, he deposited about $776,000 — “an amount that represented solely his liquidation of Bitcoins” — into his bank accounts.
The complaint notes that in their communications, Mr. Force, writing as Nob, and Dread Pirate Roberts encrypted their messages on the agent’s instruction. But it says that a review of Mr. Force’s case file showed that it did not contain any of the keys or passwords needed to decrypt his messages, suggesting he was using encryption to conceal his own illegal activities.
“Even if encrypting messages to D.P.R. would make Nob more credible,” the complaint says, “the communications should have been documented, in deciphered form, and memorialized in the case file.”
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Lawyers for six former police officers charged with stealing millions of dollars in cash and drugs while working undercover attacked the Justice Department case Monday as a fable crafted by 19 drug dealers and a dirty colleague.
Hundreds of cases based on the Philadelphia drug unit’s work have been thrown out, and about 100 civil rights lawsuits are on hold awaiting the outcome of the 26-count racketeering trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek told jurors that the even drug dealers can be victims of crime if the items seized are not “yours to take.” The armed defendants routinely broke into homes without search warrants and ransacked them to steal drugs, cash, a Rolex watch and other valuables, he said.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon fired back that the government had no evidence to back up the testimony of their criminal witnesses, including convicted ex-officer Jeffrey Walker.
“They take all this cast of characters, and they get Jeffrey Walker, and they think … they can just wash away all the problems of this case,” McMahon said.
Walker began cooperating after he took the bait in an FBI sting focused on the aggressive narcotics field unit within the Philadelphia Police Department. He admitted in a February 2014 plea that he had planted evidence in a suspect’s car and taken $15,000 from him.
“When you’re dirty and despicable and dumb and arrogant, it’s easy to get you,” McMahon said of Walker, who is expected to spend several pivotal days on the stand during the 10-week trial.
After his arrest, Walker told the FBI about a series of cases in which drug dealers, he said, were robbed, beaten, threatened and even hung over high-rise balconies. He said that members of his unit stole items ranging from loose change to $80,000 in a safe that they removed from an apartment and carried down 17 flights of stairs.
“These are men sworn to uphold the law but instead broke it,” Wzorek said.
In a 2009 incident described in the indictment, Walker said he and drug unit member Linwood Norman seized four kilograms of cocaine only to have Norman resell three of them on the street.
McMahon, though, told jurors that client Brian Reynolds and the others on trial never fell for the FBI sting that snagged Walker, but instead reported the money they found in an FBI operative’s red Camaro. He also questioned why prosecutors have no plans to call drug unit supervisors who took part in many of the supposedly rogue searches. The defense vowed to call them.
Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello is being held in solitary confinement without bail. Norman, Reynolds and the other co-defendants – Perry Betts, John Speiser, and Michael Spicer – are on house arrest.
If nothing else, the trial is likely to illustrate the eye-popping flow of cash that runs through the drug trade. The drug squad allegedly found nearly $450,000 in cash in one city apartment, and more than $50,000 in countless others, along with huge stashes of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and psychedelic mushrooms.
Some of the drug suspects said the cash – locked in a safe, stashed in a clothes dryer, curled inside a pencil holder – came from legitimate sources. Defense lawyers questioned that, especially when some of the trial witnesses also had weapons in their homes, including a barber with an AK-47.
A sticky-fingered Detroit cop goes down, so does an entrepreneurial New Mexico deputy, and more jail guards get in trouble. Of course. Let’s get to it:
In Baltimore, a Baltimore County jail guard was arrested last Thursday on charges related to a drug smuggling conspiracy at the jail. Guard Melvin Jerome Hodges, 31, is accused of smuggling suboxone into the jail to be distributed by an inmate. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs and has been released on bail.
In Albuquerque, a Colfax County sheriff’s deputy was arrested last Friday on drug corruption charges. Deputy Vidal Sandoval, 45, came under suspicion after two men reported that he had seized marijuana and cash from them without providing a receipt. State police and the FBI then deployed undercover officers to drive highways where Sandoval patrolled, and on three occasions, he stopped their vehicles, found drugs, then offered to escort them down the highway in exchange for a share of their drug proceeds. He is now charged with aiding and abetting an attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.
In Detroit, a Detroit police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he stole a “Scarface movie collage” from a home during a drug raid. Officer Christos Kyriakides, 62, is charged with larceny from a building. His arrest comes as lawsuits have been filed against Detroit drug officers and as the FBI is investigating the former dope squad.
In Vienna, Missouri, a state corrections official was arrested last Saturday in a drug raid in Vienna. Anthony Williams, 46, is a major and Chief of Custody for the state Department of Corrections. Police turned up meth, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, pills, and evidence of drug distribution. It’s not clear what he is charged with.
A Brooklyn federal judge last week sentenced a police officer to 18 years behind bars for committing a series of armed robberies and attempted armed robberies — including some while in uniform — as well as conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin.
Officer Jose Tejada, assigned to the 28th Precinct in Harlem, was convicted in November 2013 of two counts of obstruction of justice and in June 2014 on the drug-related charges. The evidence presented at the two trials showed that Tejada participated in multiple armed robberies and attempted robberies, which netted thousands of dollars in cash and multiple kilograms of cocaine.
Tejada was a 17-year veteran of the NYPD who, at the time of the criminal conduct, was assigned to the 28th Precinct in Harlem. This prosecution arose out of Tejada’s commission of multiple robberies and attempted robberies in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx in 2006 and 2007, some of which he committed while on duty, in uniform and using an NYPD undercover vehicle.
In one such attempted robbery on Schley Avenue in the Bronx, Tejada — while on duty and in uniform — used his status as a police officer to demand and gain access to a private residence occupied by a husband and wife and their teenaged daughter. Tejada and two other robbers impersonating police officers mistakenly believed that the residence was a stash house for narcotics. In fact, the residents had no involvement in drug dealing. While Tejada and the other robbers unsuccessfully searched the premises for drugs, Tejada attempted to handcuff the male victim and brandished his NYPD-issued firearm in an effort to intimidate the innocent family.
In a robbery near 125th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, Tejada, fellow NYPD Officer Jorge Arbaje-Diaz, and NYPD auxiliary Officer Yvan Tineo pulled over an SUV, handcuffed the driver and stole five kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the car. In another robbery on Seaman Avenue in Upper Manhattan, Tejada and Tineo robbed a drug supplier of three kilograms of cocaine at gunpoint.
“The defendant violated his sworn oath as a New York City police officer to protect and serve the citizens of New York by conspiring to commit armed robberies and to distribute narcotics stolen during those robberies,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch stated.
Tejada also supplied members of the robbery crew with NYPD gear and equipment, including an NYPD jacket, utility belt and police radio, to enable members of the robbery crew to impersonate police officers during the drug robberies.
The evidence at the two trials also showed that Tejada searched confidential law enforcement databases to determine whether there were outstanding warrants for his own arrest, as well as for the arrest of other members of the robbery crew. Tejada then shared that information with his confederates in an effort to assist them in evading arrest.
According to the government, Tejada’s conviction is one of the most recent of dozens of convictions in a set of interlocking cases brought in the Eastern District of New York against the members of violent drug robbery crews who impersonated police officers and frequently committed robberies with real police officers. Tejada is the third NYPD officer to be convicted in these cases. In addition, two NYPD auxiliary officers have been convicted as well. In total, 52 defendants who participated in this robbery crew have been convicted.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson handed down the sentence.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Six former Philadelphia narcotics officers charged with robbing and beating drug dealers in a gangland-style enterprise have lost a bid to halt their upcoming trial over claims that at least one accuser lied before the grand jury.
Federal prosecutors on the eve of trial have withdrawn charges involving two of the 22 alleged victims. Defense lawyers accuse them of trying “to whitewash” problems with their witnesses even as jury selection was set to start.
The last-minute fireworks in court Tuesday mostly involved the testimony of a drug trafficking suspect named “C.C.,” who the defense said got immunity in a state burglary case after telling the federal grand jury last year that drug squad officers had stolen $3,200 from him during a 2010 arrest. But he made no mention of the missing money at his related criminal trial or in a lawsuit he filed against police, defense lawyers said.
“The motion to withdraw (several alleged crimes) is nothing less than an attempt to hide and whitewash a fraud that was – be it negligently or recklessly – played upon the grand jury. It is a vain attempt to spare their agents … embarrassment and scrutiny,” lawyer Michael Diamondstein argued in court documents seeking to have the case against his client, John Speiser, dismissed.
Federal prosecutors acknowledged “contradictions” in C.C.’s testimony, but denied that he knowingly perjured himself.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno appeared frustrated but ultimately ruled that enough of the accusations remain to preserve the sweeping, 25-count indictment and hold all six men for trial.
The highlight of the 10-week case is expected to be several days of testimony from former colleague Jeffrey Walker, who has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate. The defendants worked together at the drug squad from about 2000 until their arrests in 2012.
Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello, accused of 15 gunpoint robberies, is the only defendant being held in custody. He and four others also are accused of dangling one suspect over a high-rise balcony to get information out of him.
The other ex-officers heading to trial are Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts and Linwood Norman. All six have pleaded not guilty. Many of the accusations overlap with more than a dozen lawsuits filed against them in recent years.
Opening statements are set for March 30. Jury selection began Tuesday and was expected to last all week.
Bridgeton NJ March 5 2015 A New Jersey police officer involved in a controversial fatal shooting of an unarmed man coerced a woman to have sex with him multiple times or else he would arrest her for shoplifting, a lawsuit claims. Shakera Brown has filed a $25 million suit against the city of Bridgeton and police officer Braheme Days, who she alleges said her shoplifting incident would have to be handled in an “adult matter,” reports The Daily Journal. Days and his partner Roger Worley shot and killed Jerame C. Reid, 36, during a traffic stop Dec. 30. The incident has sparked a wave of protests in the South Jersey city after dashboard camera video shows the officers cursing at and threatening to shoot the suspect after they found a gun in his glove compartment. Reid appeared to put both of his arms in the air as he exited the vehicle when the officers shot him. The officers have been placed on leave as the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office investigates the incident. Before that shooting, Days allegedly coerced Brown into the sex acts between January and December 2014. Days responded to a call for the theft at a Rite Aid on Jan. 20, 2014, and saw Brown. He told her she matched the description of the thief and she would be arrested unless they could “work something out,” the lawsuit claims. When Brown told the officer she had children and could not go to jail, the officer then replied, “I guess we’re going to handle this in an adult manner,” the lawsuit said. The officer had sex with the woman in his police car, a hotel and his home, the suit asserts. At one point he purportedly handed Brown a prepaid cellphone so he could arrange the meetings. He once forced her to have unprotected sex and Brown arranged for an emergency meeting with her doctor to screen herself for any sexually transmitted diseases, the lawsuit claims. Brown would have gone to jail if convicted of the shoplifting charge, the suit says. Police declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to the newspaper. Brown’s attorney Raheem S. Watson told the newspaper his client has pleaded guilty to shoplifting charges three times. “Ms. Brown and her record speaks for itself,” he said. “We’re not defending it. At the same time … that doesn’t mean an officer can take advantage of her and abuse his authority because he has her in a compromising position.” nydailynews
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) – A black policewoman who said she was a victim of racial bias in a dispute with two white officers was acquitted Wednesday of harassment and resisting arrest charges.
“A weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Dolores Sharpe said outside the courtroom after a one-week trial. “And I’m ready to move on with my life.”
Sharpe, 53, had been off-duty and was shopping in West Hempstead in November 2013 when she was arrested. Prosecutors had alleged that Sharpe refused to show her police identification and then swung a broken chain at a fellow officer when she was stopped.
The 20-year Nassau County police veteran had received a 30-day unpaid suspension. A police spokesman declined to comment Wednesday, saying there is an ongoing internal investigation. Sharpe is currently on modified duty, working in the accident investigation bureau.
Her attorney, Frederick Brewington, said Sharpe was “treated in a fashion that many African-American women often receive by people in authority who think they can get away with it.”
He said the police department should “take swift action” against the officers who arrested Sharpe and that they should be retrained.
The incident started when Sharpe pulled up behind a marked patrol car in a store parking lot and exchanged words with the uniformed officer, who she said was blocking a parking space. The officer said Sharpe cursed at him and refused to show her identification after saying she was a police officer.
“We respect the jury process and their verdict,” said Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. Police union President James Carver declined to comment and said the arresting officers also had nothing to say about the case.
BAYONNE – A city law enforcement officer already charged by federal officials with alleged police brutality has additionally been charged with allegedly obtaining a fraudulent loan, one intended for lower income residents, according to a criminal complaint handed down by the United States District Court, the District of New Jersey.
Domenico Lillo, 44, a Bayonne police officer, and his wife, Rose, a clerk in the city’s Building Department, appeared in federal court in Newark on Friday, Jan. 30, for their initial appearance on the two charges, according to Matt Reilly, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office.
Count one charged that the couple, “Did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with themselves and others to commit an offense against the United States, namely: to embezzle, steal, purloin and convert to their use, and the use of others, money and things of value to the United States and of a department and agency thereof …” The agency was the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Count two charged that Mr. Lillo “Did knowingly and willfully make a material false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation to special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. HUD, Office of Inspector General.”
According to the criminal complaint, the Lillos and a relative allegedly took out a mortgage together to purchase a house in Bayonne in 2012.
Following that, Mrs. Lillo allegedly “caused” the relative to submit a home improvement loan application to the city’s Department of Community Development – an agency that receives federal money – that listed the relative as the sole owner of the new home, the complaint said.
The relative had an annual income of $24,000 from Social Security and a pension, which qualified him for the $20,000 home rehabilitation loan, according to the complaint.
The check was issued on June 20, 2012. Sometime during July 2012, the Lillos allegedly moved into the new home, according the complaint.
Additionally, the complaint charges that when special agents of the FBI and HUD-OIG visited Mr. Lillo in March 2013 to question him about whether he had allegedly fraudulently obtained the $20,000 loan that “he [allegedly] falsely stated he lived across the street” in a different house.
Mrs. Lillo was released on an unsecured bond of $10,000, according to Will Skaggs, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Lillo had been arrested by the FBI on Jan. 23 and charged with allegedly violating a defendant’s civil rights by using excessive force during a 2013 arrest, as well as allegedly falsifying records in an attempt to conceal the alleged crime, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Lillo allegedly struck the subject of an arrest warrant with a flashlight while the individual was handcuffed and not resisting arrest on Dec. 27, 2013, according to federal authorities.
Lillo is one of the defendants in a federal lawsuit filed last November by Brandon Walsh, 26, and his family, according to a report on nj.com.