A wrinkle in the Northampton drug bust—there were no drugs

The details were salacious: stash houses, airport shipments, guns, bribery, extortion, money laundering and millions of dollars in drug proceeds. The occupations of those charged with drug trafficking were even more shocking: seven Northampton County sheriff’s deputies and three North Carolina correctional officers are among those who allegedly conspired to move 115 kilograms (253 pounds) of heroin and cocaine across four states along Interstate 95.

Each officer willfully joined what appeared to be an illegal drug syndicate staffed with other dirty law enforcement agents across the East Coast, who used their guns and badges for protection, according to prosecutors.

During a press conference last month, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker unveiled the gripping details of “Operation Rockfish,” which resulted in a 54-count indictment. In actuality, he said, the drug syndicate was fictitious—invented and stagecrafted by undercover FBI agents posing as dealers. Yet Walker didn’t mention one notable piece of information about the 18-month sting: There were no drugs.

Lawyers call it “ghost dope”—and it’s a common tactic by the feds in conspiracy cases.

The FBI used its own discretion to select the quantity of the fake drugs the officers believed they were transporting. Given the amount, the officers, if convicted, will receive longer mandatory-minimum prison sentences. The feds also ensured the officers would get extra time by persuading them to carry their service weapons during the transports. In total, one suspect faces 90 years in prison. Four others could do 65 years, and seven are looking at 40 years. Nearly all of the 15 defendants have young children, and none had a significant criminal record.

“The government was free to imagine any quantity of drugs, any number of overt acts, and any length of time for the purported conspiracy,” an attorney for defendant Cory Jackson wrote in a recent motion. “Cory is alleged to be one of the victims of the Government’s imagination.”

It’s not clear what led the officers to believe they were transporting real drugs during the 18-month operation. Perhaps they handled a legal substance, like baking soda, wrapped in plastic bricks. Perhaps they transported sealed luggage.

The case is being prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney Walker and the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section. The assistance from Washington has perplexed some attorneys.

“The Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department is the most elite public-corruption team in the country,” tasked with investigating political corruption within U.S. Congress, said Raleigh attorney Raymond Tarlton, who represents one of the officers. “Why are they in Northampton County?”

But Northampton Sheriff Jack Smith has no quibbles about the investigation. Upon learning that five of his deputies had been indicted, he promptly fired them. “If it was my own brother, I wouldn’t defend him,” he said. “When you’re carrying a badge and sworn to uphold the law, you shouldn’t go outside the boundaries.”

Recent court documents give the backstory of Operation Rockfish, a two-year investigation that apparently began with allegations of corruption within the Northampton Sheriff’s Office, though the extent is unknown.

“Why the FBI invented this alleged crime is a mystery. Currently we are just jousting at shadows,” said Tarlton, the defense attorney.

In 2013, undercover agents, posing as members of a fictitious drug syndicate, successfully recruited one defendant—a Virginia-based correctional officer—into their fake organization. The agents encouraged him to recruit others, setting off a chain reaction that brought in 11 current and former North Carolina law enforcement officers, including a sheriff’s captain and the son of a former sheriff.

Once the unsuspecting recruits showed willingness to move drugs, the undercover agents began flying bulk shipments of fake cocaine and heroin into the Halifax Northampton Regional Airport, where the defendants received them.

In total, the officers believed they’d transported 55 kilograms of cocaine, 60 kilograms of heroin, and $3 million worth of drug proceeds during 14 operations, records show. They collectively received $200,000 for their services. Two defendants were given Rolex watches.

That’s a lot of money in Northampton County, one of the poorest areas in North Carolina. Five of the indicted officers earned between $34,000 and $37,000 a year.

The extent of the hoax upsets defense attorneys. “This case involves an investigation that was fabricated in near whole cloth by the government,” one wrote in a motion. After bribing the central suspect, the FBI began “providing fake drugs, fake money, fake bearer bonds, vehicles for transporting the fake drugs, fake warehouses [and] fake destinations for the various trips,” he wrote.

But Nancy Savage, the executive director for the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, says stings like Operation Rockfish are common in public corruption cases.

“Corrupt public officials are an extremely high priority for the FBI,” said Savage, who participated in similar operations involving terrorism, drugs and murders-for-hire during her career as a supervisory agent in Miami. After planning a sting, the FBI guards against entrapment defenses by ensuring that their quarries are enthusiastic about committing crimes, she said.

Typically, “There are tape recordings that indicate you’re making pretty doggone sure this is what these people want to do,” said Savage. In many cases, “They’re knocking on your door—’your door’ being the criminal organization you’re portraying.”

Operation Rockfish ended on April 30, when the officers were lured to the Halifax airport and a warehouse in Rocky Mount under the guise of receiving and transporting another shipment. This time, however, the undercover FBI agents revealed their true identities and arrested and transported the suspects to an abandoned prison, where they were presented with video-surveillance evidence. Afterward, each defendant was taken to a separate room and interviewed.

Their lawyers question the legality of those interrogations, which were held prior to the defendants’ appearing before magistrate judges. The FBI “took all defendants to a show-and-tell session at a secret law enforcement facility, all of which was designed for the sole purpose of eliciting improper confessions,” one wrote in a motion.

Thirteen defendants have been detained pending trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Gates based that decision on several factors, including the strength of the government’s case, the public corruption factor, flight risk and the defendants’ familiarity with firearms.

“Even though the drugs and drug proceeds were not real, that fact does not negate the demonstrated willingness of the subject defendants to violate the law,” Gates wrote in his 13-page detention order.

While defense attorneys bicker over governmental sham operations, Savage, the retired FBI agent, underscored the importance of elaborate cover stories to root out rogue public officials. “They’re not going to catch them with choir boys,” she said.

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Police Officer Sentenced to 12 Months for Role in Conspiracy to Provide Drugs to Informants

Vargas, 46, was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 25, 2014. He pleaded guilty on October 21, 2014, to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; distribution of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 84; conspiracy to commit theft concerning a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a); and theft concerning a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a). According to the plea agreement, Vargas admitted that he and two other SFPD officers, Ian Furminger and Edmond Robles, repeatedly stole money and property during searches and arrests. Vargas also admitted the officers kept the stolen items for themselves and that he provided drugs seized by the SFPD to informants.

Vargas testified at the trial of Furminger and Robles, who were convicted by a jury in San Francisco on December 15, 2014. After their convictions, Furminger was sentenced to a term of 41 months in prison and Robles was sentenced to a term of 39 months.

Vargas’s 12-month sentence was handed down by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, U.S. District Judge. Judge Breyer also sentenced Vargas to a three year term of supervised release. Vargas was given two months to voluntarily surrender to begin serving his sentence.

In sentencing Vargas, Judge Breyer described Vargas’s testimony as “crucial, essential, to the successful prosecution of the case.” Judge Breyer described the testimony as “genuine” and lauded Vargas for truly accepting responsibility and making a concerted effort to transform his life for the better. The Court acknowledged the difficulty of testifying as a police officer against other police officers and said that he “hope[d] that other police officers understand that when they see this type of activity by colleagues . . . it hurts them, as well as the police officers who are involved.”

The investigation that led to Vargas’s plea and cooperation began with the public release of a videotape showing SFPD officers entering a single room occupancy hotel room without a warrant. The investigation, which was conducted by the FBI and SFPD Internal Affairs Division, grew to include, among other things, allegations that Vargas, Robles, and Furminger engaged in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars and valuable property during the course of performing their official duties. The officers also filed false police reports that did not identify the money and property they had stolen.

“The misconduct of the police officers prosecuted in this case damaged the credibility of good police officers everywhere,” said United States Attorney Melinda Haag. “Without the trust of the community, police officers are not able to safely and effectively do their jobs,” she said.

At Vargas’s sentencing, Judge Breyer said that this is one of the most serious cases he has seen as a district judge. He described why it is critical that police officers act with honesty and integrity:

Police officers go out every day putting their lives at risk, and you have done that repeatedly. And whether they come back at night, whether they can perform their duties, in large part, depends on whether the public accepts them as guardians of their safety. You are the agents of all of us. You are the people out on the street representing every judge, every prosecutor, every defense lawyer, and everybody else who lives in this city, including those people who are so vulnerable that they have fallen susceptible to disease, to addiction, to a way of crime. You represent them. . . . And the success of your task, of all of our tasks, is that society accepts what we do, they think that the system is fair, they think that the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the judge, the police officer, will be fair in administering the law. . . . [A]nything that detracts from the credibility of the people who are involved in the justice system, jeopardizes the justice system . . . . And unless we have a system that is credible, we are no different, no different at all, from any totalitarian state in which police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, act capriciously, act without due process.

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Indictment: State judge knowingly harbored wanted man

SOMERVILLE, N.J. (AP) – A suspended New Jersey judge has been indicted on charges that she hindered the search for a wanted man she was dating and living with in Woodbridge.

Somerset County prosecutors say Carlia Brady is charged with one count of official misconduct and two counts of hindering the man’s apprehension in the indictment handed up by a county grand jury. It was made public Wednesday afternoon.

The case was transferred to Somerset County because the 41-year-old Brady served as a Superior Court judge in Middlesex County, where the arrest occurred in July 2013. She had started serving on the bench about three months earlier.

Brady allegedly harbored her then-boyfriend at her home and offered to help him obtain money, transportation or clothing to help him avoid discovery or apprehension.

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This is what they look like !!


The following six pictures might look like the same smiling face, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. These six pictures are facial averages of United States politicians based on their stances on marijuana. We took a look at governors, congressmen and senators and averaged their faces based on which side of the prohibition debate they stand.

Today, America faces a rapidly changing attitude on marijuana. In addition to a rash of states who have now legalized marijuana for medicinal use, certain states have chosen to legalize the drug outright. A majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, and politicians who once derided marijuana as a dangerous substance are beginning to throw their support behind the drug.

You would expect this debate to be a debate of new school versus old school, the young crowd versus the old crowd.

Visually, sure. While the average faces of these politicians do not seem to differ greatly at first glance, a closer look reveals slight differences between the faces of this debate. You can see this illustrated in the Governors and Senators categories especially, where the average face of an anti-marijuana politician has slightly older features and gray hair. In the Congressman category, the main difference is slightly darker skin, more facial hair shading on the upper lip, as well as darker hair.

However, the numbers tell a different story from the one you might expect. The average age of a congressman for legalization of marijuana is 58.7, whereas an anti-marijuana congressman is 57.4. The average age of an anti-marijuana senator is 62.4, but a senator for legalization is 62.5. The expectation of an age difference is somewhat more borne out when looking at governors, where the anti-marijuana governor’s average age is 61.4, while the pro-marijuana governor’s average age skews younger, at 59.8.

The Average Face of a Politician

The results may speak to the fact that the faces of American politicians are more similar to each other than we’d expect. Facial homogeneity aside, it’s clear that there are two distinct sides to this debate, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Marijuana may be legal in certain states now, but federal law still prohibits its possession and use. The current White House views marijuana as a states’ rights issue, but if the administration changes, there’s no telling how it could change the landscape. Though the majority of Americans now support legalization, elected officials will still play a big role in shaping marijuana policy in the years to come.

 *The facial average above is comprised of all male governors, senators, and congressmen, from both sides of the marijuana reform isle.

Methodology

For this project we compiled a list of active state governors, senators, and congressmen, segmenting each by known stances on Marijuana legalization. Their faces were averaged using PsychoMorph (depicted above). To accomplish this, points were meticulously placed on each face to achieve an accurate, clear result from the overlaid images. To learn more about this process, and the software used, please visit its wiki.

Each facial average is made up of all male governors, senators, and congressmen, who have a clear stance on Marijuana. Politicians have been grouped into two categories based on their stance; Pro-Marijuana and Anti-Marijuana. “Pro-Marijuana” politicians consist of politicians who are open to, or in favor of medicinal or recreational marijuana legalization. “Anti-Marijuana” politicians have a clear stance against legalization.

Fair Use

Feel free to use any of the images found on this page related to this project. When doing so, we ask that you please attribute this project by linking back to this page, so your readers can reference our methodology, and view additional project assets.

Sources

http://www.house.gov/representatives/

 

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Thirteen Current and Former Law Enforcement Officers and Two Others Indicted for Their Alleged Participation in a Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

WASHINGTON—Thirteen current and former law enforcement officers and two other individuals have been indicted and arrested for allegedly protecting narcotics shipments and cash proceeds during transit along the east coast for what they believed was a large-scale drug trafficking organization that was actually an undercover operation by the FBI.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker of the Eastern District of North Carolina and Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, Division made the announcement.

“Corruption in local government—especially involving law enforcement—threatens the social compact that binds our communities together,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “When the officer with a gun and a badge is no different from the trafficker peddling drugs in the street, we all suffer. That is why the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in North Carolina and throughout the country are determined to root out corruption, wherever and in whatever form it may be found.”

“The actions by these individuals are particularly troubling due to their current and past affiliation with law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Walker. “Their alleged conduct was reprehensible and my office will not tolerate this kind of corruption in our district. I am grateful for the outstanding work of the FBI Special Agents who investigated this case.”

“They vowed to protect and serve, but instead these deputies and correctional officers sold their badges and used their law enforcement positions to line their own pockets,” said Special Agent in Charge Strong. “Public corruption at any level is the number one criminal priority of the FBI and we will work aggressively to protect the public trust.”

The following individuals were indicted in the Eastern District of North Carolina and arrested today in a coordinated operation by the FBI:

  • Lann Tjuan Clanton, 36, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections;
  • Ikeisha Jacobs, 32, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Jason Boone, 29, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Wardie Vincent Jr., 35, formerly of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Adrienne Moody, 39, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
  • Cory Jackson, 43, formerly of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Jimmy Pair Jr., 48, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Curtis Boone, 31, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Antonio Tillmon, 31, a police officer with the Windsor City Police Department;
  • Alaina Kamling, 27, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
  • Kavon Phillips, 25, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
  • Crystal Pierce, 31, of Raleigh, North Carolina;
  • Alphonso Ponton, 42, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections;
  • Thomas Jefferson Allen II, 37, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office; and
  • Tosha Dailey, 31, a 911 dispatch operator for Northampton County.

All 15 defendants are charged with conspiring to distribute controlled substances and conspiring to use and carry firearms during and in relation to drug trafficking offenses. Other charges against certain defendants include attempted extortion, attempted possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, money laundering, federal programs bribery and use and carry of firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking offenses.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Charlotte Division, Raleigh Resident Agency and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, with assistance from the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Lauren Bell and Menaka Kalaskar of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian S. Meyers of the Eastern District of North Carolina.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Queens man spends 6 years in jail before cleared of murder charges

EXCLUSIVE: Queens man spends 6 years in ja

 Lawyer Jorge Santos (L) with Terrel Banks, 26. Banks spent nearly seven years in jail before he was cleared of murder charges.JEFF BACHNER/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Lawyer Jorge Santos (L) with Terrel Banks, 26. Banks spent nearly seven years in jail before he was cleared of murder charges.

A Queens man who spent more than half a decade locked up at Rikers Island was officially declared off the hook for murder charges Wednesday, the Daily News has learned.

Terrel Banks, 26, was arrested months after his 20th birthday for the October 2008 fatal shooting of 21-year-old Timothy Smith in Fresh Meadows.

Banks lingered behind bars and faced trial three times — all of which ended in mistrials.

“It’s been a long time,” Banks told The News Wednesday. “Knowing that you’re an innocent man and that you were wrongfully (accused) to be out free now after all the years . . . It’s a huge relief.”

After new information emerged in the case, prosecutors released Banks in January, and formally dismissed his second-degree murder charge Wednesday.

Judge Gregory Lasak suggested that Banks, “thank the district attorneys for dismissing the charges.”

“You persevered through a very tough time — be proud of yourself. . . . You got a second chance at life,” Lasak added.

The case against Banks had been rocky from the start as the prosecution’s star witness changed her testimony that she saw Banks shoot Smith before the first trial in 2010.

They earned Lasak’s approval to use the woman’s grand jury testimony identifying Banks in subsequent trials.

Banks’ third and final trial ended in March 2014 with a hung jury.

A JUNE 20, 2014 AERIAL PHOTOSUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Banks was locked up at Rikers Island for more than six years for a murder he didn’t commit.

After that, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort with a plea deal, agreeing to drop the murder charge if Banks copped to criminal possession of a weapon.

Banks refused to admit guilt, his lawyer Jorge Santos said.

“He said, ‘I’m innocent I’m not taking it, I don’t care. I’m not admitting to having a gun, I didn’t do anything,’ ” Santos said.

Prosecutors finally dropped the case after new information came to light pointing to another suspect, a source said.

Banks, who was facing a potential life sentence, said he doesn’t harbor any grudges against the district attorney’s office, the police or the judge.

“It’s not their fault that they put me in handcuffs and accused me of this crime,” the gracious 26-year-old said. “Police is just doing their job. The district attorney is just doing their job.”

But Banks, who has enrolled in school to be a phlebotomist and works at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, said no one would ever understand what he went through.

“The heartache, the stress, the pain, the anguish. . . the police don’t know what you go through. The district attorney don’t know what you go through. The judge don’t know what you go through,” he said. “It was a bad experience that nobody should have to go through.”

The Queens district attorney’s office declined to comment on the dismissal.

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No bond for ex-narcotics officer caught in drug sting

McALLEN — Noel Peña looked over his shoulder to where his family was sitting as he was led out of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos’ courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

Ramos ruled that the former narcotics officer would not be released on bond after testimony from Peña’s wife failed to sway the judge that he was not a flight risk after his arrest on cocaine conspiracy and distribution charges.

Peña, 29, and his attorney Eduardo Ramirez had hoped testimony from his common-law wife, Nancy Villarreal, 26, would persuade Ramos to set a reasonable bond so that he would be able to rejoin his family.

Peña, a former Rio Grande City police officer assigned to the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, and Hector Salinas-Hinojosa were charged with conspiring to hand over a falsified police report to an undercover officer they thought was a cocaine trafficker and who told them he needed help stealing the majority of a 22-pound load of cocaine he was holding for drug cartels, according to a criminal complaint.

The duo agreed to assist the undercover agent on April 9 by providing a police report that would make it look as if the cocaine had been seized by HIDTA. Both men would then receive $10,000 each for their services, with $5,000 as a down payment, records show.

Ramos requested a continuation in the bond hearing for Peña after testimony last week revealed that federal agents seized more than $21,000 from Peña’s bedroom the day after his arrest. Peña’s attorney said the cash was the man’s personal savings.

On Tuesday, his wife testified she gave Peña $17,000 cash last August to pay off a lot of land that she and Peña had purchased. The cash was a portion of $53,000 she had received as an inheritance after the death of her mother.

Villarreal said she wanted the father of her children to hold on to the cash despite issues between them. Both recently separated and have lived in different residences for more than four months.

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops, cocaine, and corruption, from Florida to Texas to California to Michigan. And some crooked jail guards, too. Let’s get to it:

 

In Punta Gorda, Florida, a Charlotte County sheriff’s deputy was fired last Friday after an internal affairs investigation revealed he bought drugs and traded them for sexual favors. Deputy Elio Santana would buy cocaine while in uniform and driving his squad car, and the investigation found at least some of it was used to pay for sex.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a local jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he smuggled marijuana into the Pendleton Correctional Center. Laura Whitinger, who has been on the job less than a year, faces charges of trafficking with an inmate, possession of marijuana and dealing a controlled substance.

In Yuba City, California, a Yuba City police officer was arrested last Wednesday on federal charges he was involved in cocaine trafficking. Officer Harminder Phagura, 35, and his brother, Gursharan, 39, were both arrested in an investigation that targeted the brother, but that also implicated Harminder, who is accused of passing on sensitive law enforcement information to his brother. They are both charged with conspiring to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and use of a communications facility in drug trafficking activity.

In Detroit, three Detroit narcs were indicted last Wednesday for allegedly setting up drug deals while in uniform and making fake traffic stops to rip off suspected drug dealers. Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson face charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, while Officer Arthur Levells faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In Rio Grande City, Texas, a Rio Grande City narc was arrested last Saturday on charges he was involved in a cocaine deal. Noel Pena, a narcotics investigator and member of the Starr County HIDTA Task Force, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 10 pounds of cocaine. He was busted by the Homeland Investigations division of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

In Dover, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 4 ½ years in state prison for plotting to smuggle marijuana and cellphones into the Vaughan Correctional Center. Darryl West, Jr. had earlier pleaded guilty to manufacturing, delivering or possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance with an aggravating factor, promoting prison contraband and second-degree conspiracy. He went down after authorities found a quarter pound of pot, $700, and two new cellphones in his vehicle in the prison parking lot.

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Who Is Michele Leonhart? DEA Administrator To Step Down Amid Scandals

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Michele Leonhart served in the DEA for 34 years, but the widespread sexual misconduct of DEA agents over the last 15 years appears to be ending her career there. Reuters/James Lawler Duggan

Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele Leonhart has resigned as the result of a series of scandals, most recently over the widespread sexual misconduct of DEA agents abroad. As far back as 2001, DEA agents held taxpayer-funded sex parties with prostitutes abroad, often funded by the drug cartels they were tasked with fighting, according to excerpts of a report released by the House Oversight Committee last week.

The committee grilled Leonhart and Associate Deputy FBI Director Kevin Perkins about the sex scandals and found both the DEA and FBI “impeded and obstructed,” a Department of Justice investigation into the allegations. The committee found Leonhart failed to properly penalize officers involved, but she said civil service laws prevented her from firing or otherwise disciplining her agents. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., said the findings of the report reflect “a ‘spring break frat party’ mentality for the last 15 years at the DEA.”

The next day, nine Republican and 13 Democratic lawmakers on the committee released a statement declaring they had no confidence Leonhart could “initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

“Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency,” the press release said. “From her testimony, it is clear she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position.”

Leonhart started her law enforcement career as a police officer in Baltimore in the late 1970s but joined the DEA as a special agent in 1980. After 24 years climbing up the ranks at DEA headquarters, she became deputy administrator in 2004 and became acting administrator in 2007. She was nominated as administrator in 2010 by Obama and was confirmed by Congress shortly thereafter.

Besides the recent sex scandal, her time as administrator was marked by a number of high-level bouts with Obama over his marijuana policy and with Attorney General Eric Holder over her opposition to Holder’s plans to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, NPR reported. Leonhart did not support Obama’s acknowledgement marijuana is not “more dangerous than alcohol,” nor his and Holder’s initiatives to reform drug-related penalties.

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Why Marijuana Legalization Is Good For You (Even If You Won’t Use It)

marijuana glasses

Photo: www.marijuana.com

Legalization of Marijuana would save the United States an estimated $20 billion per year.

Even if you don’t use Marijuana, you should be supporting getting it decriminalized.

Tax Marijuana, Hit Cartels Where it Hurts

About 1 in 4 people have claimed to have used Marijuana at least once in their life (the rest are probably lying) and according to the Federal Government about 15 million Americans are currently using Marijuana at least once per month. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the world and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Economics 101 states that where there is demand, there will be a supply and right now, the supply is mainly coming from Mexican drug cartels. These drug sales are grossing Mexican cartels a healthy $64 billion in untaxed drug revenue each year.In the last 5 years, police and drug cartels have killed a staggering 55k people and cartels are growing Marijuana in National Forests while running drug distribution networks in over 1k cities across the U.S. The legalization of Marijuana will put a big dent in the cartel revenue, reducing crime, lowering money spent fighting cartels while adding another source of revenue for the U.S. government.

Each year, over 75k people die from alcohol and over 100k people from prescription drug abuse yet, there have never been any documented deaths from the use of Marijuana.

Legalize Marijuana, Create Jobs & Business Opportunities

With the Marijuana legalization in states like Colorado, Washington and California (medical legalization) and many others, it has opened up many opportunities for new and existing businesses and the direct/wholesale sales industry are not the only ones benefitting from this. Businesses such as Marijuana business listings services like and Weed Maps and FindLocalWeed.com have made very profitable businesses helping people find where to buy Marijuana.Other business have followed suit by offering services such as strain testing, publicly traded Marijuana vending machine companies and even scenic Marijuana tours to name a few. Cannabis is a rich source of paper (hemp), plastic and oil which could become a massive industry in no time.

Decriminalize Marijuana on A Federal Level, Increase State Tax Revenue

Even with Marijuana legalized on a state level it’s still difficult to track revenue that should be taxed. This is because Marijuana is still mainly a cash business. As long as Marijuana is illegal on a Federal level, credit card companies won’t service Cannabis businesses which makes it hard to track what revenue should be taxed. By opening up Marijuana legalization on a Federal level, it will solve this problem and help states increase tax revenue from the sale of Marijuana.

Additionally, the United States is known for its high incarceration rates. It is estimated that 1 in 5 inmates in state prisons and are serving time for drug related offenses. At a cost of $20-$40k annually per inmate to taxpayers,this could help reduce state and federal funding requirements for prisons and put that money to use in better places like transportation, education and the like.

Consider the facts

Over the last decade, the NYPD has spent over 1 million hours enforcing Marijuana Laws; in 2012, over 600k individuals were arrested for Marijuana charges with the majority being for simple possession and since Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971, the U.S. government has spent over a trillion dollars fighting it.

Legalize Marijuana, Find More Medical Uses

Decriminalization of Marijuana will open up more studies as pharmaceutical companies will be able to fully profit from its medical benefits. Medical Marijuana has already been found to have medical benefits with things such as pain, Multiple Sclerosis, hardcore drug dependency and depression. Prescription drugs such as Sativex and Marinol have already been approved and are currently being used in countries such as the UK, Canada, Sweden and Denmark to name a few. Legalizing Marijuana would help the U.S. enjoy more medical benefits from Cannabis.

With more citizens including economists and politicians jumping on board to legalize Marijuana; now is the time to make this happen. The first step should be to remove Marijuana as a Schedule I drug and decriminalize it on a Federal level. This will push states to follow suit and ease the burden that it has had on our pocket books.

This piece originally appeared on Medium and was written by David McClellan, a self proclaimed cool guy turned internet nerd and is co-founder of Social Catfish, a people search.

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