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Friday, October 31, 2008

Transit cop may tell all in sodomy claim

The New York Daily News by SCOTT SHIFREL AND ALISON GENDAR - October 30, 2008

An NYPD transit cop looks to be breaking ranks by offering to tell what he saw the afternoon a Brooklyn man said cops sodomized him on a subway platform, sources said. The transit cop's account of what happened "is bad" for the other three officers accused by Michael Mineo of sodomizing him with a radio antenna on a Brooklyn subway platform Oct. 15, two sources said. "He's not coming forward to say nothing happened," a source said. The transit cop's lawyer is talking with the Brooklyn district attorney's office about his client coming forward to give his version of events. "He doesn't want to go down on this," the source said. Three patrol cops from Brooklyn's 71st Precinct chased Mineo after supposedly seeing him smoking a marijuana cigarette. The transit cop arrived as Mineo was arrested, sources said. Mineo, 24, was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and released. As the Daily News reported Thursday, the transit officer had gone to his NYPD commanding officer after returning from vacation to explain what he saw. A union representative intervened, arguing the officer should not speak to anyone without a lawyer, sources said. The officer had shared highlights of what he saw with at least one friend, sources said. Calls to the officers' lawyers were not returned Thursday. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes called a grand jury to investigate the incident based on Mineo's medical records and the divergent witness accounts. Mineo met with Hynes' staff Thursday to prepare his grand jury testimony, but cut the session short because of intense pain, his lawyers said. Mineo was hospitalized four days after the incident, and released Tuesday after another, five-day stint in the hospital. All officers remain on full duty.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ex-police officer in Ohio wants new murder trial

WTOP News - October 4, 2008

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A former police officer sentenced to life in prison for killing his pregnant lover is seeking a new trial, arguing that the jury handed down contradictory verdicts. Attorneys for Bobby Cutts Jr. filed the appeal Friday in the 5th District Court of Appeals. Cutts, 31, was convicted in February of killing Jessie Davis and their unborn daughter at her northeast Ohio home. Prosecutors alleged he killed Davis, 26, and the fetus last summer to avoid making child support payments. Thousands of volunteers helped search for Davis before her body was found dumped in a park. Jurors convicted Cutts of aggravated murder in the death of the fetus. They found him not guilty of aggravated murder in Davis' death but convicted him of a lesser charge of murder.

The filing argues that convicting Cutts of murder in Davis' death and aggravated murder in the fetus' death was inconsistent because both deaths were the result of the same act. "The jury clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered," the appeal said. Cutts' attorneys also argue that the judge presiding over the trial should have allowed jurors to consider an involuntary manslaughter conviction because no witnesses contradicted Cutts' claim that he did not purposely kill Davis. Cutts testified that he accidentally hit Davis in the throat with his elbow during an argument and that he dumped her body in a panic. Among other issues, Cutts' attorneys also say the trial should have been held outside Stark County, where the crime was committed, because intense media coverage made it difficult to find an impartial jury. Members of the jury had helped search for Davis' body, seen media reports about the death and believed Cutts was guilty, the appeal said. Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Mark Caldwell said many of the issues raised in the appeal were also raised during trial. "I'm not surprised by the sort of claims they are making," he said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trial Begins for Officer Charged in Horrific Beltway Crash

WTOP - Manslaughter Trial Of Prince George's Officer Begins; Officer On Trial In Fatal Crash - October 28, 2008

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (AP) - A trial is under way for a Prince George's County police officer charged in a deadly seven-car crash on the Capital Beltway. Officer Scott Campbell is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the May 30, 2007 chain reaction crash near Forestville. Two people were killed and 15 were injured. Police say Campbell had positioned himself to stop a speeding motorcycle on the Inner Loop, but the motorcycle rider swerved in front of civilian vehicle and sped away. Campbell's car hit the civilian's. That car rolled down an embankment onto the Outer Loop, where five other cars crashed into each other. WJLA reports that jurors must decide if Campbell properly performed his police duties or if he acted in reckless and negligent manner. The trial began Monday. The trial was moved from Prince George's County to Leonardtown in St. Mary's County.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Former Pa. police officer convicted in sex case

The Associated Press -October 24, 2008

NEW BLOOMFIELD, Pa.—A former small-town police officer accused of molesting or propositioning more than a dozen teenage girls while on duty was convicted of several sex offenses. A jury deliberated for about 10 hours Saturday before finding Robert J. Pavlovich Jr. guilty of charges including corruption of minors, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and bribery in official matters. Pavlovich, 40, of Camp Hill, denied the charges during the three-day trial. Asked on the witness stand whether he had sex with any of the accusers, touched them improperly or asked them to sneak out of their homes, the former Marysville officer replied, "Absolutely not." Pavlovich said, however, that he did ask three teenage girls to meet him late at night at locations in Marysville as part of an investigation into drug activity and underage drinking. No one was arrested based on information he received from them, he said.

Several women testified during the trial that, when they were 13 or 14, Pavlovich tried to convince them to sneak out of their homes and meet him. They said they believed he intended to have sex with them. Others testified that Pavlovich had fondled them, and one woman who has been diagnosed with a mental disability testified that she was pressured to perform oral sex on Pavlovich when she was 19. The allegations date back to 2000, the year Pavlovich was hired. He was suspended from the force in March 2007 and later fired. Pavlovich remained free on $250,000 bail. No sentencing date has been set. Jonelle H. Eshbach, a senior state deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case, said she was satisfied with the verdict. Defense lawyer P. Richard Wagner and the Pavlovich family did not comment. The victims and their families were not at the courthouse in New Bloomfield when the verdict was announced after 10 p.m. Saturday. Marysville, a borough of about 2,400 people, is just northwest of Harrisburg. Information from: The Patriot-News,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Juarez police department desperate for officers

By ABC-7 Reporter Marissa Monroy - October 19, 2008

El Paso, TX -- More than 300 Juarez police officers were fired Friday after failing a series of psychological, background and drug tests. The move was part of a campaign to root out corruption within the force. "The pay is very little," said Said Belazquez, a Juarez resident. "Maybe there is a lot of corruption because of that." More than 900 police officers have been fired, resigned or retired leaving the force with less than half the officers it had in January. Now officials say the department is offering new recruits free houses and higher pay to help fill the void. "I wouldn't be a police officer in Mexico for nothing, not even for thousands of dollars," said Jose Angel Sifuentes. In addition to incentives, the department is also looking outside of Juarez for new officers. City officials have sent recruiters to other states in Mexico, including Chiapas, Veracruz and Jalisco. The Juarez police department is also hoping to enlist the help of former soldiers. "They say, 'Oh, they're going to bring soldiers and it's going to be secure, but in reality, there's no security," said one woman who refused to be identified. "They don't do anything." Others said the Juarez military simply cannot be trusted. "They said you can't bribe the military, but that's not true," Sifuentes said. The recent firings leave just 800 police officers to take care of the city's escalating violence, which has already claimed the lives of 1,100 people.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Former Chicago Top Cop Charged

Fitzgerald: Others could be charged in Burge case
Chicago Tribune - October 21, 2008

Retired Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge, facing charges of lying under oath when he denied that he participated in torture of suspects, will be released this afternoon on a $250,000 secured bond, posting his residence as security. Burge is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, Oct. 27, before U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow in federal court in Chicago. Burge was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury in a three-count indictment unsealed today following his arrest at his retirement residence near Tampa, Fla. He had an initial court appearance in federal court in Tampa this afternoon. At a news conference in Chicago this morning, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said the charges show that Burge "broke the law when he was supposed to uphold it," and warned that others who lied about torture could eventually be charged. The case marks the beginning of the Burge prosecution, he said, but "it is not the end of the investigation of torture and abuse." Fitzgerald said federal prosecutors have reason to believe that others also lied during the course of civil proceedings, and said that the possibility of witnesses lying to a grand jury is still under investigation. Anyone who is not honest with investigators should now understand they are lying at their own risk, he said, and no one in the case should hang on some unwritten police code of silence to protect themselves. "It may be hanging on air," Fitzgerald said. "We will get to the bottom of what we can get to."

Fitzgerald said prosecutors will use witness statements to prove that Burge knew torture was ongoing. Prosecutors said Burge engaged in and knew of the torture of suspects, including some who were accused of committing terrible crimes. "Some of them may have been guilty of awful crimes, but that is no excuse," Fitzgerald said. Included in that group may be Madison Hobley, whose civil lawsuit is at the center of the charges against Burge. The fact that his suit provided the context in which Burge gave false statements does not mean the charges against Burge absolve Hobley of the crime he was being investigated for, authorities said. That was a 1987 arson fire that killed seven people, including Hobley's wife and child. Hobley remains under federal investigation for that crime, even though he received a pardon during former Gov. George Ryan's clemency decision that emptied the state's Death Row. Fitzgerald also acknowledged that, at least in some respects, Burge was being charged with what was available to authorities now. The statute of limitations has expired on the torture itself, but prosecutors at least could hold him accountable for lying about it decades later. "Al Capone went down for taxes - that's better than him going down for nothing," Fitzgerald said. Burge, 60, now living in Apollo Beach, Fla., near Tampa, was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Tampa today.

A special prosecutors' report paid for by Cook County and released in 2006 concluded that dozens of suspects had been tortured by Chicago police but that no one could be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out. Today's indictment gets around that legal problem by charging Burge with perjury, not with any instances of actual torture. Burge denied any torture took place while answering written questions in 2003 as part of the lawsuit filed by Hobley, one of the alleged victims. According to the indictment, the Hobley lawsuit included a specific allegation that police officers placed a plastic bag over Hobley's head until he lost consciousness. The indictment cites the questions and answers during the civil questioning, noting that Burge was asked whether he ever used torture methods--including beatings, the use of restraints or machines to deliver electric shocks--or whether other officers were involved. Burge objected to the question as overly broad, and then answered: "I have never used any techniques set forth above as a means of improper coercion of suspects while in detention or during interrogation." In January, the city approved a $20 million settlement with four alleged torture victims.

Several alleged torture victims reacted to the news of Burge's arrest during a news conference at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters on the South Side. "This is a happy day," said Darrell Cannon, who spent 24 years in state prison on a murder charge following a Burge investigation. "The man that has been skating for so long, riding in his boat, catching fish is now in jail, killing roaches." Cannon said Burge's "right hand crew" of officers tortured him in 1983. He said he drew pictures of the scene that led internal police department investigators back to the location where he said he was tortured. Anthony Holmes, another alleged victim of police torture who spent 33 years in prison, said he regretted that it took decades for Burge to be arrested and charged. "When I first got arrested, no one would acknowledge that torture existed," Holmes said. "I hope they give him as much time as they have given all of us." According to the indictment, Burge was a Chicago police officer from 1970 to 1993, a detective at Area 2 police headquarters on the South Side from 1972 to 1974, and an Area 2 sergeant from 1977 to 1980. From about 1981 to 1986 he was a lieutenant and supervisor of detectives in the Area 2 violent crimes unit. Later, he was commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit and later commander of Area 3 detectives. He was suspended by the police department in 1991 and fired in 1993.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Former Border Agents Arrested


Two former Border Patrol agents who investigators suspect committed some of the more brazen acts of smuggling-related corruption at the border in recent years have been arrested and jailed in Mexico, the United States authorities said Monday. The men, Fidel and Raul Villarreal, who are brothers, were arrested Saturday at a gated apartment complex near the United States Consulate in Tijuana, Michael Unzueta, the agent in charge of the San Diego office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Monday. The Villarreals, along with two other people believed to be involved in the case, were taken to a prison in Mexico City. United States prosecutors were making arrangements for their return to San Diego to face smuggling charges. The arrest is a significant break for investigators, who since 2006 have been looking into accusations that the Villarreals, who fled the country as investigators closed in, were involved in smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants, mostly Mexicans and Brazilians, while on duty and with Border Patrol vehicles.

“It was frustrating to see them flee the jurisdiction of the United States,” Agent Unzueta said. “But our perseverance paid off.” The case, among a rash of corruption accusations involving border police agencies in recent years, was all the more striking because Raul Villarreal often appeared on television as a spokesman for the San Diego division of the agency. The brothers were apparently tipped off about the investigation. They abruptly resigned in June 2006 and, investigators believed, left the country. Jan E. Ronis, a lawyer for their family, has said the brothers were prepared to defend themselves if the American authorities filed charges. Agent Unzueta said that the authorities secured an indictment against the brothers and that United States law enforcement officers then worked with the Mexican police to make the arrest. One of the brothers tried to escape, he said, but it was not clear which one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ex-Chicago cop arrested in 1990s torture scandal

The Associated Press by MIKE ROBINSON - October 21, 2008

Chicago (AP) -- A former high-ranking Chicago police official was arrested Tuesday on charges he lied when he denied that he and detectives under his command tortured murder suspects, federal officials said. A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accused former police Lt. Jon Burge of perjury and obstruction of justice for statements he made in 2003 when answering questions related to a civil rights lawsuit. The arrest capped a long-running controversy over allegations that beatings, electric shocks and death threats were used against suspects at Burge's Area 2 violent crimes headquarters. The allegations contributed to then-Gov. George Ryan's dramatic decision in early 2003 to empty the state's death row. Burge, 60, who has long denied wrongdoing, was arrested before dawn at his home in Apollo Beach, Fla., the U.S. attorney's office said. He had moved to Florida after he was fired in 1993. "There is no place for torture and abuse in a police station," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement. "There is no place for perjury and false statements in federal lawsuits. No person is above the law and no person — even a suspected murderer — is beneath its protection." Burge attorney James Sotos did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. The two obstruction counts against Burge each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the perjury count carries up to five years. The indictment said Burge lied when he said he and other detectives hadn't participated in the "bagging" of Madison Hobley — covering his head with a typewriter cover until he couldn't breathe — in 1987.

Hobley was suspected of setting a fire that killed seven people including his wife and son. Hobley says he never did confess and that a confession introduced at his trial was fabricated by homicide detectives. He was convicted in 1990 and spent 13 years on death row but was among four men pardoned by Ryan in January 2003. The other 167 people then on Illinois' death row had their sentences commuted by Ryan, in most cases to life in prison. According to the indictment, Burge was asked whether he had been involved in or knew about torturing Hobley or others. Responding in writing, he stated: "I have not observed nor do I have knowledge of any other examples of physical abuse and/or torture on the part of Chicago police officers at Area 2." He repeatedly answered similar questions with flat denials. A report by two special prosecutors appointed by the Cook County Circuit Court concluded two years ago that Chicago police beat, kicked, shocked or otherwise tortured scores of black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s as they tried to force confessions. But they said the actions were too old to warrant indictments. The city has more recently agreed to pay $20 million to settle lawsuits by Hobley and other former inmates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cop arrested for helping bank robber

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution By MIKE MORRIS - Friday, October 10, 2008

An East Point police officer was being held without bond Friday in Fulton County Jail for allegedly providing information to a man wanted in a string of bank robberies. Officer Nicole Drane, 33, was arrested Thursday and charged with 18 felony counts, including multiple counts of hindering the apprehension and punishment of a criminal, unauthorized disclosure of criminal history, bribery and violating her oath of office. Drane is accused of helping Malik Dillard, a suspect in 10 bank robberies in Georgia and 12 other East Coast states, said Det. Cliff Chandler, a spokesman for the East Point Police Department After recently being apprehended by the FBI, Dillard allegedly told investigators that he would call Drane after some of the robberies to find out if police were looking for him. FBI officials quickly alerted East Point police, who arrested Drane after conducting their own investigation. Drane’s relationship to Dillard remained unclear Friday afternoon, Chandler said. East Point police have turned the matter over to the district attorney’s office. “I think we’re pretty much done with [the case] on our end,” Chandler said. Staff writer John Hollis and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feds lay out case against sheriff

The Monitor by Jeremy Roebuck - October 17, 2008

McALLEN, TEXAS -- Starr County Sheriff Reymundo "Rey" Guerra accepted thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for aiding Gulf Cartel operations, federal prosecutors alleged Friday. The county's top lawman reportedly tipped off smugglers to law enforcement activities, helped bungle ongoing drug investigations and gave up the identities of informants working with police, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Toni Treviño during a day-long hearing into whether Guerra should be released on bond. "He assisted (people) that were not run-of-the-mill drug traffickers," she said. "Through Sheriff Guerra's assistance, he made it easier for (them) to operate almost unfettered in the Starr County area." But as federal agents laid out their case against the two-term sheriff, Guerra's family and friends struggled to reconcile the man they know as community-oriented and family-focused with the image authorities painted of a crooked politician in league with the largest criminal organization operating in the Rio Grande Valley.

LOS SOBRINOS -- Guerra has remained in federal custody since his arrest Tuesday on charges of conspiracy and aiding drug trafficking. But the allegations made against him Friday extend well beyond the peripheral role his indictment suggests. FBI Special Agent Katherine Gutierrez linked the sheriff to at least five alleged drug traffickers operating in Starr County who he reportedly referred to as his sobrinos, or nephews. All were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on cartel members and their associates last month.

Among them was Juan Carlos Hinojosa, a 31-year-old who reportedly claimed to be both a lawyer and an informant for the district attorney's office based in Miguel Alemán, across the international border from Roma. Authorities allege Hinojosa has strong ties to the Gulf Cartel and answered to high-ranking members of its paramilitary wing, Los Zetas, including one of the Zetas' founders, Efrain Teodoro Torres, who was killed last year in a shootout with police in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Hinojosa also led one of the largest trafficking organizations working between Roma and Miguel Alemán, according to the 19-count federal indictment in which Guerra is also charged. Between 2005 and 2008, Guerra worked closely with Hinojosa to help identify roadblocks in his drug smuggling operation in exchange for regular $5,000 payments and gifts of rib-eye steaks and shrimp, Gutierrez testified.

In one alleged instance, the sheriff helped return to Hinojosa a vehicle - seized as part of a cash smuggling investigation - that was later determined to have a false compartment for smuggling drugs. In another, he reportedly had a shooting victim come to the sheriff's office to sign affidavits implicating an alleged drug trafficker as his attacker - a move prosecutors described as unnecessary and meant to intimidate the witness. Guerra's attorney - Phillip Hilder - maintained, however, that the sheriff shared information with Hinojosa because he believed him to be a member of Mexican law enforcement. Over the three years of their alleged relationship, Hinojosa had helped track down murder suspects and wanted fugitives in Miguel Alemán and bring them into custody in the United States, Hilder said. "But law enforcement doesn't help other law enforcement commit crimes and hide offenses," Treviño, the prosecutor, responded.

‘BIRDS ON THE WIRE' -- Federal agents first became involved after one of Guerra's own deputies began to question his behavior. The investigator became suspicious after the sheriff allegedly asked him to divulge sensitive information about a stash house raid. During a meeting in Guerra's truck, the sheriff reportedly ordered him to tell Hinojosa who tipped authorities off to the drugs. At the prompting of the FBI, the investigator provided false information. "It would be very uncommon for us to reveal the identity of any of our sources to someone who wasn't involved in the investigation," Gutierrez said.

After another raid that uncovered a drug stash, the investigator witnessed Guerra accept fraudulent documents from the home's owner that said she had leased the building to someone else, Gutierrez testified. The woman, now a co-defendant in the federal case, later told agents that the sheriff knew the lease was a fake and accepted it so deputies could close the case without making an arrest. As authorities circled in on Guerra, he became increasingly nervous that he would be found out, Gutierrez said. He allegedly warned his associates that there were "birds on the wire" and that "someone was talking" in several wiretapped conversations. On Sept. 4, those worries were confirmed as FBI agents raided his home and office, two weeks before many of his alleged associates were arrested. A month later, Guerra found himself behind bars.

‘IT'S TRADITION FOR US' - Guerra's relatives and friends shook their heads in disbelief and muttered retorts from the court gallery as the government piled on accusation after accusation Friday. To them, he had always demonstrated the utmost character and devotion to his community - qualities they say clash with their perception of a corrupt politician. "He's a dedicated, supportive, loving Catholic," his daughter Veronica Kerns said. "He's everything that a man can be and more."

Guerra helped raise his wife's three daughters from a previous marriage as if they were his own. Throughout his decades-long career in law enforcement, he made time to volunteer at his church and with civic groups like the Rotary Club and the Knights of Columbus. And even while on duty, Guerra rarely felt comfortable carrying a weapon, they said. But at least one witness who testified on the sheriff's behalf Friday seemed able to resolve that disparity with ease. Alonzo Alvarez, a retired Roma High School teacher who has known the sheriff for decades, described drug trafficking as simply a way of life in Starr County.

Without surmising as to Guerra's guilt or innocence, Alvarez testified that many of his friends, relatives and neighbors growing up in impoverished Roma turned to drug smuggling as a way to make a living for their families. "It's part of our heritage on the river," Alvarez said. "It's tradition for us." Guerra faces one count each of conspiracy, aiding and abetting smugglers and using a telephone to help commit a crime. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to life in prison and $6.25 million in fines. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos is expected to decide Monday whether Guerra should remain in custody without bond until his trial date. Jeremy Roebuck covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4437.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

No jail for cop who dealt drugs

The Salem News by Alan Burke - October 15, 2008

BOSTON — Former Swampscott Patrolman Thomas Wrenn was sentenced to six months' home confinement and two years' supervised probation in U.S. District Court yesterday for possessing drugs, cocaine and oxycodone, with intent to sell. Wrenn, 37, pleaded guilty to the charge last June, admitting that he dealt drugs even while he was a working police officer. Court papers revealed that Wrenn sometimes stored pills inside his child's Batman Pez dispenser. He was arrested in Lynn while attempting to buy drugs during a combined DEA/Swampscott police sting operation last March. Prior to sentencing, in a voice slightly quivering, Wrenn offered an apology to the community. "I'd like nothing more than to be able to reclaim my life. I've learned my lesson. Nothing like this will ever happen again."

"My inclination was to go beyond (Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil's) recommendation and put you in jail," Judge Joseph Tauro told Wrenn. Ultimately, he handed down a lighter sentence than the one recommended. The potential penalty for possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute is 20 years in prison. Wrenn, a 10-year veteran of the Swampscott police, was also sentenced to "time served" — one night in jail. It was a plea by the defense attorney, Tracy Miner, including a description of Wrenn's travails since he was caught, that turned the judge around. "I think you're fortunate to have such an able counsel," Tauro told the disgraced officer. "It's been a difficult ordeal for the majority of the members of the Swampscott Police Department," Chief Ronald Madigan said when he learned of the sentencing. Wrenn's arrest shocked the department and reflected badly on its people, he said. "But the sense is now that the community recognizes that the members of the department are professional and hardworking and upstanding and do a great job." He declined to speak on the impact of the sentence. "It is what it is." Overall, he expresses gratitude that the investigation, which was begun by the Swampscott police, is at an end. "For the Swampscott Police Department, it represents closure. It's time for the Police Department to move beyond it."

'Dirty cop' - In court, prosecutor McNeil rebutted a written plea by Miner that stressed her client's better nature. Instead, he described Wrenn as "A corrupt cop. A dirty cop." The prosecutor scoffed, "He claims he was a family man and a good cop. ... He was far from a family man." McNeil pointed to the married officer's use of drugs to gain sex from female addicts. In addition, Wrenn also involved another cop, former Nahant officer Michael Kairevich, who later cooperated in the investigation against Wrenn. "Any sentence of straight probation is going to be viewed ... as something of a joke," McNeil said. "The court needs to send some message to the community." It was difficult not recommending jail time, McNeil said. On the other hand, confining Wrenn for six months in a community facility, a halfway house, would allow him to keep his job and to continue to support his two children. In addition, the prosecutor asked for three years of supervised probation.

Acknowledging Wrenn's cooperation almost from the moment of his arrest, McNeil said, "He largely confessed to his crime. ... He agreed to resign from the Swampscott police." He also noted that the drugs were distributed in relatively small amounts "to small-time drug dealers." Miner also minimized Wrenn's drug dealing, noting that he mainly shared the drugs with friends. "This court should not get into the business of judging who his friends are. ... Whether it's AIG executives (workers for the insurance firm bailed out by the government before embarking on a luxury vacation) or Marcia Brady (a 1960s television character known for her upright behavior.)"Moreover, she implied, the case would have been handled in a state court and more leniently if Wrenn had not been a police officer.

'Lost everything' - Wrenn became involved in drug use as a result of painkillers prescribed in the wake of difficult dental work and an on-the-job injury, Miner said. "He made a mistake. He's paid for that mistake dearly." She ticked off the cost to Wrenn, who has lost his nearly $100,000-a-year job, his luxury auto — a Hummer used in some of the drug transactions — and his home in Nahant. He makes ends meet now at a job paying $9 an hour delivering used cars. "(He's) lost everything," Miner said. "He's basically indigent." Wrenn will wear a tracking bracelet during his home confinement, and he pledged to never again hold a job in law enforcement. His attorney indicated that he no longer uses illicit drugs. "He's turning his life around." "Our sentencing has to have credibility," Tauro said. "The public has to believe that justice was done." At a hearing last June, the judge mentioned a plea between Wrenn and the U.S. attorney, but no details were offered then or yesterday. McNeil declined any comment. Leaving court, Miner said, "It was a long process and a fair sentence." Sought for comment, Swampscott Selectmen Jill Sullivan and Eric Walker declined to speak.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hollywood police under fire for corruption in FBI agent's book

Hollywood police under fire for corruption in FBI agent's book
South Florida Sun-Sentinel by John Holland - October 16, 2008

He brought down Mafia killers in New York, drug dealers in Los Angeles and crooked politicians in Atlantic City. But in more than two decades as one of the FBI's top undercover operatives, no case confounded and angered Jack Garcia in quite the same way as his investigation of corruption at the Hollywood Police Department. "What was amazing to me is that it was so easy to get cops to look the other way, to guard trucks for us, no questions asked. I'd never seen anything like it," Garcia said this week about an investigation that helped convict four Hollywood officers of trafficking large shipments of heroin. Garcia recounts the Hollywood case and his 26-year career as one of the most prolific undercover agents in FBI history in Making Jack Falcone, a new book about the more than 100 cases in which he posed as a mobster or other criminal. The FBI says he had the most undercover assignments in its history.

"The corruption is systemic throughout the whole [Hollywood] police department. We've heard from numerous sources just how corrupt these guys are," Garcia wrote. He railed against what he called transgressions ranging from officers turning a blind eye to blatant criminal activity to automatically deducting 20 percent off their checks at local restaurants. Posing as a Gambino crime family captain, Garcia effected the February 2007 arrest of Hollywood Police Sgt. Kevin Companion, Sgt. Jeff Courtney, Detective Thomas Simcox and Officer Stephen Harris on drug charges. The men, who pleaded guilty and received lengthy prison sentences, also were recorded on video dealing in what they thought to be stolen diamonds and art and protecting crooked card games, according to court records. Companion even talked about becoming a "made" Mafia member and recruiting more officers to form a criminal crew, Garcia wrote. Hollywood Lt. Manny Marino said the allegations are old and the department is being unfairly tarnished because of a few crooked officers. "There are more than 300 police officers who go to work every day doing their job, and they have to keep hearing about this more than a year later," Marino said. "Anyone can say what they want in a book, and we're going to have to deal with this a long time. But all we can do is keep moving forward."

Making Jack Falcone is a look at Garcia's dual life inside the FBI and the Mafia, including the agency's makeshift "Mob School," where the 6-foot-4, 400-pound, Cuban-born agent learned how to act like a mobster. Unlike most agents, he juggled four or five fake identities at a time, careful not to answer the wrong cell phone or burst into Spanish when he should be whispering Italian to his mob buddies. Garcia's greatest work came as Jack Falcone, a money launderer and hoodlum who ingratiated himself to notorious Gambino strongman Greg DePalma. Garcia was two weeks away from becoming a made member of the Mafia in 2004 when the FBI pulled the plug on the operation, citing safety and what Garcia calls "bureaucratic" infighting that still rankles him. FBI agent Joe Pistone, whose undercover persona "Donnie Brasco" led to book and movie deals, is the only other agent ever proposed for mob membership. Garcia came back to Broward earlier this year, as "Big Tony," to arrest Broward Sheriff's deputies Richard Tauber, of Boca Raton, and Kevin D. Frankel, of Lake Worth, who have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges. He used the same technique on the deputies that he had used in the much-publicized Hollywood sting. "If Kevin and [Tauber] had stopped gambling and fooling around long enough to buy a newspaper, they never would have gotten caught," Garcia said, laughing, in an interview Tuesday. John Holland can be reached at or 954-385-7909.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cops Reassigned After Crime Scene Blunders

Sean Bell cops reassigned: 8-week trial highlighted blunders in the NYPD's crime scene procedures
The New York Daily News by ALISON GENDAR - October 15, 2008

The NYPD captain in charge of collecting evidence after the Sean Bell shooting is being transferred as part of a housecleaning of the famed crime scene unit, police sources said. Capt. Michael Kletzel is being booted to the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau as part of the NYPD's quiet overhaul, sources said. His transfer comes on the heels of the NYPD shipping the commanding officer of the crime scene unit, Deputy Inspector Gary Gomula, to the Narcotics Bureau last month. Gomula was on vacation when police shot and killed the unarmed 23-year-old Bell outside a Queens strip club Nov. 25, 2006. The officers involved were acquitted in Bell's death, but the eight-week trial highlighted a series of blunders in how crime scene detectives handled the investigation. Ballistic evidence was missed; a door hinge of Bell's car was lost when detectives ripped the car apart to see if anyone fired from inside the car.

Rank-and-file crime scene detectives blasted Kletzel for trying to micromanage the crime scene. At trial, NYPD detectives testified that police brass trampled across the scene of the problematic shooting, wanting to see it for themselves. A dent in the back of Bell's car was not photographed before it was removed; no paint samples were taken to see where the dent came from. That discovery was important to the defense, which said cops opened fire after Bell hit undercover Detective Gescard Isnora with his car and then backed up and rammed an unmarked police van. Kletzel was grilled in May at an internal NYPD disciplinary hearing over how the crime scene unit collected and processed key evidence in the fatal shooting. Similarly sloppy work was done in East Harlem after a police shooting on Sept. 28, 2005, sources said. A Manhattan Supreme Court justice declared a mistrial in the attempted-murder case of Cedric Rooks, accused of firing at six officers outside Manhattan's Taft Houses.

The judge declared the mistrial after learning that Gomula ordered one detective to forge another's signature on key ballistic evidence. "It is clear ... that this crime scene investigation was compromised by the deputy inspector at the time and in a manner that was so serious that it suggests misconduct," Justice William Wetzel said. Police said Rooks fired five to seven times at the cops before his gun jammed. Six officers returned fire with 77 rounds; Rooks was wounded. He was charged with six counts of attempted murder. Crime scene investigators recovered only one of the rounds cops say Rooks fired, the sources said. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly asked Deputy Police Commissioner Phil Pulaski to overhaul procedures within the NYPD's entire forensic division. Deputy Inspector William Aubry, from Brooklyn's 67th Precinct, was tapped to command the forensic division, and Capt. Kevin Radday of Manhattan warrants took Gomula's post.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Former drug cop says his lies sent over 150 to jail

Cannabis Blog - New Zealand

Police have hired one of the country's top lawyers to investigate a former officer's stunning confession that he lied in court - and wrongfully sent at least 150 people to prison. Patrick O'Brien wrote to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias admitting to perjury, saying he was racked with guilt after carrying a "dreadful secret" for more than 30 years. Now nearly 60, O'Brien was an undercover agent in covert drugs operations in the 1970s, immersed in a dark, criminal underworld, and the star Crown witness in the resulting court trials. [...] In his confession, O'Brien told Dame Sian he answered to the "grey men" who trained him, on whose orders he lied to obtain the convictions at any cost. "They called it Doomsday work and instructed me to take this dreadful secret to the grave," O'Brien wrote. "In every case I lied to the courts and I lied to the juries to obtain convictions against my targets. "Telling lies was easy - 'policemen don't tell lies' - and my targets never stood a chance." Tampering with evidence was also common, he said. Often the exhibit before the court was not the drugs that he bought from the target.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NYPD Cops Eyed in Drug Crimes

NYPD cops eyed in 100 East Coast robberies of cash, coke from dealers
The New York Daily News by JOHN MARZULLI AND ALISON GENDAR - October 13, 2008

Two NYPD cops - one active and one retired - are under suspicion as part of a violent crew accused of robbing drug dealers and kidnapping and sexually torturing some of their victims. The two unnamed officers wore uniforms when they acted as "cops" in a crew that shook down dealers for more than 100 kilos of cocaine in at least 100 robberies along the East Coast, sources said. The real cops changed their collar brass so they would not be wearing the number of their actual NYPD precinct when they betrayed their badges, sources said. The crew would kidnap their victims either in a police-style car stop or in a home invasion. The car-stop victims were taken at gunpoint to a remote area, where the robbers demanded to know the location of their cash and drugs, which they resold in New York. 

The cops worked with defendants Jose Castro and Asnel Torres, who "applied a pair of pliers to the victim's testicles, threatening to squeeze the pliers if the victim did not talk," prosecutors said. A spokesman for the NYPD declined to comment Sunday. A dozen members of the crew have already been named in federal indictments in Brooklyn. But during a Sept. 16 hearing before Brooklyn Federal Judge Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg said she intends to file a superseding indictment, a move promising additional charges and the arrest of the two cops. Most of the brazen attacks occurred in Queens, upper Manhattan and the Bronx in the past five years. The crew also targeted drug dealers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. The crew used tipsters and surveillance to find their targets, and sometimes followed their victims for weeks to learn their daily routine, according to court documents. They allegedly came for the crimes equipped with guns, handcuffs, duct tape, police lights and sirens.

The NYPD has been stung by a series of scandals involving cops turned crooks. Five Brooklyn South narcotics detectives have been indicted in a corruption probe amid allegations they used seized drugs to pay off informants. The probe prompted a shakeup of NYPD narcotics brass. Retired 33-year veteran Detective Athelston Kelson was busted in August for robbing banks in Queens and Long Island. In both cases, NYPD brass said the problems were isolated lapses.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Police Dispatcher Charged with Murder Conspiracy

Officials silent on arrests
New Jersey Courier Post by LEO STRUPCZEWSKI  -October 11, 2008 

CAMDEN — A city police department dispatcher was charged with conspiracy to commit murder on the same day law enforcement officials dismantled a drug organization during a series of raids earlier this week. Marilyn Barrito was being held at Camden County Jail on $300,000 bail Friday, the jail's admissions office said. Barrito is a dispatcher with the Camden Police Department, the city clerk's office confirmed. Arrested in the raids was Anthony Flores, a 33-year-old Camden man. Flores, now in jail on $1.1 million bail, faces charges that include leading a narcotics network, racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of weapons and possession of narcotics, a Camden County Jail admissions officer said. His arrest was one of many made Thursday morning when members of the Camden Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor's Office and New Jersey State Police raided seven area locations. During those raids, state troopers "fast-roped" from a helicopter into the Northgate I apartment building and teams of law enforcement officials made their way into at least two city homes and an auto detailing shop in East Camden at 6 a.m.

Camden Police Inspector Michael Lynch, a spokesman for the department, would not say whether the raids occurred and would not address charges against Barrito. Like Lynch, other officials refused to acknowledge Thursday's events and would not offer an explanation as to why. In fact, the Camden Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor's Office and Camden County Jail all refused to release a list of those charged. Jail officials said a lawyer for the county would not allow them to do so. Neither Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson and Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk would address how deep corruption runs in the police department or how it is being handled. "We are, as an organization, committed to ensuring that every employee within the department conducts themselves in a professional and ethical manner," Camden Police Inspector Michael Lynch said in a general statement. "We won't tolerate anything less -- from the top executive down to the newest employee." When asked about the role of corruption in the city's police department, Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office replied: "That's not a matter we're going to talk about."

Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram, said Friday that the Attorney General's Office had not heard about a Camden Police Department dispatcher being arrested. On Thursday, New Jersey State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said 17 people were arrested while teams of law enforcement officials were "executing a number of search warrants as part of an ongoing operation." Though exact charges were not known, several arrests dealt with alleged drug distribution, Jones said Thursday. "The larger aspects of that investigation still continue," he said. Flores, the 33-year-old Camden man, owned the auto detailing shop -- T and T Auto Detailing -- which was the subject of Thursday's raid. Though details of Flores' alleged drug organization were not available Friday, aspects of his history were. According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections Web site, Flores was on parole at the time of his arrest. He has previously served time in state prison for drug conspiracy charges and making terroristic threats.

In July, Flores' twin brother, Elvin, was shot to death in front of T and T Auto Detailing. The brothers were co-owners of the business and the initials in the business's name stood for "Tito" and "Tone" -- the brothers' nicknames -- family members said following the homicide. Elvin Flores also served time in state prison, the Department of Corrections Web site shows. His charges included drug distribution and drug conspiracy charges. Elvin Flores was most recently released from prison in July 2007. Officials said Elvin Flores' homicide occurred after he and his brother hosted a party inside the shop and the alcohol ran dry. Elvin Flores began kicking out his guests. A fight erupted in front of the facility and someone pulled a gun on Anthony Flores. When Elvin Flores attempted to quiet the situation, he was shot. On Sept. 4, investigators charged Abdul Malik, a 20-year-old Camden man, with Elvin Flores' homicide. Officials would not comment on whether that homicide is related to Anthony Flores' alleged drug organization. Reach Leo Strupczewski at (856) 317-7828 or

Saturday, October 4, 2008

NYPD sergeant charged with shooting up East Side ATM

The New York Daily News by ALISON GENDAR, MIKE JACCARINO AND TRACY CONNOR - October 3, 2008

Hours after accompanying Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to a midtown party, an NYPD sergeant went on a drunken rampage and shot up a cash machine, sources said. Sgt. John Hynes, 35, was arrested and suspended after his bar-hopping escapade on the upper East Side ended in gunplay, the police sources said. Hynes, a member of the Police Department's ceremonial unit, escorted Kelly to New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy's retirement party on Manhattan's Restaurant Row Wednesday. Kelly presented Dunleavy with an appreciation plaque at the Bourbon Street Bar and Grille on W. 46th St. In uniform and on duty, Hynes did not drink at the bash, sources said. Once off the clock, he changed into street clothes, but didn't ditch his 9-mm. gun before hitting bars on the upper East Side - even though NYPD regulations say cops must be unarmed if drunk. Hynes stopped at two taverns before showing up at Brady's on Second Ave., staggering around the bar, clearly aware a gun stuffed in his waistband was visible to everyone, witnesses told cops. "He just walked around to the tables but didn't say anything to anyone," bartender Peter Carew, 31, said Friday night. "Then he went to the men's room, came out, staggered around some more, then left." "I was freaking out. I wasn't going to serve the guy, but I didn't want to have to say no to a drunk with a gun," Carew said. "Thank God nobody tried to take the gun from him and nobody got hurt."

Carew said he called 911 when he heard a gunshot about a minute after Hynes left. Police sources it was sometime after 2a.m., when Hynes walked up Second Ave. to 83rd St., drew his weapon and fired at a building, hitting an ATM chained to a storefront, sources. He was nabbed half a block away. Cops found him sitting on a stoop and seized his 9-mm., which held 13 live rounds. They found a spent 9-mm. shell casing on the ground near the ATM. "It's scary," said Eric Sais, 38, manager of Copyland Center, the store next to the freestanding ATM, which has a bullet hole in front. "It still works," Sais marveled. Hynes, who joined the force in 1997, was arraigned Thursday on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and prohibited use of a weapon. He faces four years in jail, if convicted. He was released without bail. "We've entered a not guilty plea and are doing an investigation," said Anthony DiFiore, a Sergeants Benevolent Association lawyer who represented Hynes. with Kerry Burke

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Former Metro Cop At Center Of Massive FBI Raid Found Dead

September 30, 2008

LAS VEGAS- Tuesday brought a major development on the FBI probe into alleged corruption and collusion at several valley homeowners' associations. Tuesday morning, Henderson Police found a body on the railroad tracks between Warm Springs and Windmill. The man had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. His name is Christopher Van Cleef, a retired Metro cop whose name recently surfaced in connection with a joint FBI and police investigation of public corruption. It involves local homeowners associations, construction defect contractors and lawyers. Last week, law enforcement raided the offices of Silver Lining Construction, the firm at the center of the corruption probe. Van Cleef was one of three former Metro cops who are potential targets in the ongoing investigation. The allegations include HOA Board Elections being rigged to bring in homeowners who would ensure Silver Lining Construction got lucrative construction defect contracts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ex-Cop Connected to FBI Probe Commits Suicide

LAS VEGAS- A former Metro Police officer who was a potential target of a political corruption investigation has committed suicide. Police say Christopher Van Cleef took his own life with a firearm at his home this morning, but the incident remains under investigation. Van Cleef was a friend and business partner of retired Metro Captain Frank Sutton. Sutton's name was among those in FBI search warrants served at local businesses over the past week, as part of an ongoing probe into alleged corruption between local homeowners associations and construction contractors. Van Cleef and Sutton reportedly purchased multiple condominiums together in local developments, while Sutton was employed for a powerful construction defect contractor. No charges have been filed in the investigation so far.