Police Corruption (STDW)
Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster by Robert Joe Stout (2014, Sunbury Press, 210 pp., $16.95 PB)
[image:1 align:right]Today is the official 104th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. The uprising that began then lasted for nearly two decades and by the time it was over, nearly two million Mexicans were dead, and the country was changed forever. That revolution overthrew a sclerotic, encrusted dictatorship that advanced the country materially and brought it to the brink of the modern era, but which ignored the wishes of the vast majority of Mexicans.
Are we about to see a repeat? That's probably premature, but it's notable that authorities in Mexico City have canceled the official commemorative parade set for today, afraid of trouble breaking out. There has already been trouble in Mexico City today, anyway—with masked demonstrators attempted to block access to the international airport—so that decision may well be a prudent one.
What is motivating the protests today—and for nearly the last two months—is the disappearance (and almost certain murder) of 43 radical students from a provincial teachers' college in the south central state of Guerrero. It seems clear that the students and their threats of demonstrations were seen as a threat by Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the wife of Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca. Pineda, who has been identified as a leader of the Guerreros Unidos organized crime group (commonly referred to as cartels), is believed to have ordered Iguala municipal police to "take care of" the unruly students.
According to a version of events delivered by Mexican Attorney General Jesus Karam Murillo, Iguala police shot up the commandeered public buses the students were riding in (commandeering buses is not unusual in political protests), killing some of the students on the spot. The remaining students were then allegedly turned over by Iguala police to Guerreros Unidos gang members, who, according to Karam, killed them all, burned their bodies, chopped them to bits, and threw them in a river.
Of course, it took Karam a month to make that announcement, and in the meantime, anger over the disappearances grew by the day. Demonstrators attacked and burnt part of the state capitol complex in Chilpancingo; they attacked and burnt municipal buildings in Iguala; they fought pitched battles with police on the road to the Acapulco airport. And the demonstrations and solidarity protests are spreading.
This is a brutal scandal that has shaken even brutal scandal-plagued Mexico. Federal authorities have now arrested the mayoral couple, along with dozens of police men and gang members (some are undoubtedly both). The governor of Guerrero has been forced to resign. And President Enrique Nieto Pena and his government are now besieged, even though the mayor and the governor belonged to another political party.
This may be the landmine that sets off a long pent-up social explosion south of the border. I use the word "landmine" deliberately, for that is the precise term used by long-time journalist and current Oaxaca resident Robert Stout in his new book, Hidden Dangers. Although it appears to have been largely written before Pena Nieto took office nearly two years ago, it seems remarkably prescient.
In Hidden Dangers, Stout identifies several festering—and interconnected—problems facing Mexico, the result of ongoing economic and political changes.Looming large among the potential landmines are emigration, the war on drugs, rising popular political movements of resistance, official corruption and impunity, and increasing environmental degradation.
With the case of the missing 43 students, Mexico is stepping on two of those landmines: the war on drugs and the problem of official complicity and corruption. As Stout makes clear, Mexico's drug corporations (he never uses the word "cartels") have thrived in an atmosphere of violence and corruption and official complicity. I wouldn't say that drug money has corrupted Mexico's institutions because they have been deeply corrupted for years, as Stout illustrates throughout the book, but it has deepened the corruption and blurred the line between organized crime and state power.
What Stout has to say about the drug cartels and the counterproductive policies adopted on both sides of the border to stop them is probably not new to regular readers of these pages. Through violence and cold, hard cash, the cartels manage to suborn security forces, elected officials, and legitimate businesses alike. And heavy-handed, militaristic attempts to quash them, especially with an army that seems to have no notion of "human rights," has only resulted in more violence and more mistrust of government.
But it is complicated, and looking at Mexico solely through the prism of its war on drugs is too narrow a focus to get a good grasp on the country's realities. Mexico's drug cartel problem doesn't exist in a vacuum; it is part and parcel of a deeper social and political malaise, which, in Stout's view, is related to the country's authoritarian, unresponsive government and its inability or unwillingness to address the country's aching concerns.
And it's not just the PRI, the party that emerged from the Revolution to govern the country as "the perfect dictatorship" until the election of Coca Cola executive Vicente Fox in 2000. One of Stout's contributions to our understanding is his explication of the authoritarian character that defines all political parties in Mexico. Whether it’s the PRI or the rightist PAN or the leftist PRD, all have adapted the same top-down, strongman politics that characterized the PRI in its heyday.
It is worth noting that the mayor of Iguala and his wife are members of the PRD, which is a sad reflection on the Mexican left. But Mexicans don't need to read Stout's book to understand that the same rot grips all the parties, and that's part of the reason even the PRIista Pena Nieto is feeling the heat over the Iguala disappearances. The problem is systematic, Mexicans understand this, and that's why they're so angrily taking to the streets right now.
Hidden Dangers does a very good job of tying together the disparate "landmines" facing Mexico right now. Especially for readers who have approached the country primarily through the lens of drug policy, it is a welcome opening of perspective. And, at only a bit more than 200 pages, it's a relatively quick read, packed with information and plenty to ponder. Check it out.
A Baltimore cop who insisted on arresting the wrong guy is in trouble, a suburban Chicago cop who tried to be a little too helpful to some women has lost his job, and a Tennessee cop facing federal drug-related money laundering charges retires with his benefits. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer was charged last Friday with arresting on drug charges a man he knew was innocent. Officer Steven Slack was part of an arrest team directed to detain a man observed by hidden officers making a hand-to-hand drug deal, but he placed the wrong person under arrest. Even though he was informed by the observing officers that he had the wrong guy, Slack arrested him anyway and wrote up an arrest report claiming he had committed the crime. Slack is now charged with official misconduct and perjury.
In Newport, Tennessee, a Newport police officer facing money laundering charges retired last Wednesday. Former Captain Roger Lynn Schults, 54, had been indicted in July on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering along with another Newport police officer, the officer's wife, who is a city alderwoman, and their son. The federal charges involve a hydrocodone distribution ring. It looks like Schults will get his retirement benefits, too, according to his brother, Newport Police Chief Maurice Schults.
In Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a Hoffman Estates police officer has resigned after being caught phoning female partiers at a local hotel and warning them that police were on the way because of a marijuana smoke and loud noise complaint. The officer, who has not been named, had met the two women earlier in the evening during a traffic stop. One of the women, who was later arrested on a prostitution charge, told arriving officers "one of your cops keeps calling us, and he just called telling us the cops were on the way." He signed a separation agreement with the department in September, and faces no administrative or criminal charges.
Busy, busy. A crooked FBI agent is wreaking havoc with drug cases in DC, rip-off cops get busted in Chicago and Philly, an Alabama cop gets nailed for making a woman cook meth for him, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Washington, DC, a federal judge threw out 13 more tainted drug cases last Friday. US District Judge Reggie Walton dismissed 13 criminal indictments against defendants in major drug cases as a scandal around FBI agent Matthew Lowry, 33, continues to unravel. Lowry is accused of tampering with drugs, guns, and other evidence seized in the cases, but he has not yet been charged with any criminal offenses. A day earlier, prosecutors dropped charges against 10 other defendants, some of whom had been serving lengthy prison sentences.
In Chicago, a Cook County sheriff's deputy was arrested on drug corruption charges last Monday. He killed himself the next day. Officer Stanley Kogut apparently hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he was being held. He and his partner, Robert Vaughan, had been arrested in an FBI sting after they robbed an agent posing as a drug dealer of 70 pounds of marijuana.
In Salem, West Virginia, a Salem Correction Facility guard was arrested last Wednesday after she was caught bringing pills, powders, and paraphernalia into the jail. Guard Philomena Liberty got caught during a random pat down at the start of her shift. Officers found she had six different types of pills, a cardboard envelope containing a white powder, and drug paraphernalia. She denied that she intended to traffic the drugs, saying she was going to crush and snort them herself. She is charged with transporting drugs into a correctional facility.
In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly ripping off drug dealers and buyers along with three middlemen. Christopher Saravello is accused of using the middlemen to buy or sell drugs to others and then providing him with information on their locations. Saravello would then show up in uniform in his police vehicle, pretend to lock up his middlemen, and then let the buyers and dealers go, but only after stealing their cash and drugs. Saravello had resigned from the department in 2012, as it prepared to fire him for being strung out on prescription drugs.
In Mt. Vernon, New York, a former Mt. Vernon police officer was arrested Monday for illegally obtaining nearly 4,000 hydrocodone pills. Joseph Russo used forged prescriptions in his and his wife's name to obtain the pills. He also filed fake insurance claims to pay for the prescriptions. He is charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first degree scheming to defraud, but, oddly enough, not drug possession.
In Colchester, Vermont, a Colchester police detective was arrested Tuesday after a gun that was supposed to be in the department's evidence room turned up at a house in a Burlington drug raid. Corporal Tyler Kinney, 38, is now accused of taking drugs and the gun from the evidence room. He was expected to be charged in federal court today with drug distribution and gun trafficking offenses. The Colchester Police say they have now ordered an external audit of the evidence room and procedures for handling evidence.
In Birmingham, Alabama, a former Winston County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges that he forced a woman to cook meth for him. Grady Concord, 42, had been hit with a single count of meth manufacture in June, but prosecutors added new counts of extortion under color of law, meth manufacture, and meth distribution where children are present. The woman said Concord threatened her with arrest if she didn't cook for him and provided pseudoephedrine tablets for her. Some of them were stolen from the department evidence room. Concord copped to the three later counts Monday and is looking at up to 20 years in prison at sentencing.
Trouble is brewing in Detroit and DC, a Texas narc gets in trouble, so does a Miami cop, so does a
Camden cop and a suburban St. Louis one. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Washington, DC, a probe into a possibly crooked FBI agent led to at least a dozen convicts being released from prison by last Friday. The as yet unnamed agent was assigned to a DC police task force, and officials said that more cases, including one with 21 defendants, could be in jeopardy. Those freed so far have not yet had their convictions dropped; that awaits the outcome of the investigation.
In Detroit, four dope squad officers were suspended last Friday amidst an ongoing investigation into the now disbanded unit. Both the FBI and Detroit Police Internal Affairs Investigation are looking into the matter, and criminal charges could be coming. Among other things, the officers are accused of stealing big-screen TVs and video game consoles from drug dealers they raided.
In Grapevine, Texas, a Grapevine K-9 officer was on administrative leave Tuesday after being accused of stealing a case of training drugs and doing some of them. Senior Officer Danny Machio reported on October 7 that someone had broken into his patrol/K-9 vehicle and stolen the drugs, which included heroin, cocaine, and meth. An internal investigation ensued, and Macchio went missing the day he was supposed to take a drug test. He was found in the Panhandle and returned to the Dallas metro area. He now faces possible criminal drug possession and other charges.
In Miami, a Miami police officer was arrested Wednesday on charges he took money to protect drug dealers. Officer Jose Maldonaldo-Dick went down in a sting in which he oversaw drug deals involving half-pounds of cocaine and offered protection to a man he thought was a drug dealer. He got paid $1,900 for his efforts. He is now charged with two counts of cocaine trafficking and two counts of being unlawfully rewarded while working as a police officer. He's looking at to life in prison.
In Camden, New Jersey, a Camden County police officer was arrested last Wednesday in the roundup of more than 40 people allegedly involved in a drug trafficking network. Officer Ashley Bailey, whose husband was part of the network, is accused of accessing confidential law enforcement information and alerting targets of the investigation. She is charged with official misconduct, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and making unlawful threats.
In St. Louis, a former suburban Hillsdale police officer was sentenced last Thursday to nearly four years in prison for helping a drug dealer rob a rival drug courier. Parrish Swanson pleaded guilty to one count of felony conspiracy to distribute heroin and attempt to distribute heroin.
New York, San Francisco, and Phoenix all had corrupt cop cases this week. So did East Orange, New Jersey. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In East Orange, New Jersey, an East Orange police officer was indicted last Thursday along with two others on charges she was dealing cocaine out of her home. Officer Rajheher Massenburg, 35, now faces charges of official misconduct and conspiracy to distribute narcotics in what appears to be a cocaine ring run by her housemate and father of her children. Her housemate got hit with more serious charges, including multiple counts of cocaine distribution.
In San Francisco, a former San Francisco police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday in a major corruption case that involved stealing money and drugs from suspects and distributing the ripped off drugs. Reynaldo Vargas copped to four felony counts and promised to testify against his former colleagues in their upcoming trial. In his plea agreement, he admitted that "I stole computers and other property from subjects during searches and arrests. I took the computers and other property, including gift cards and money, during law enforcement operations and, rather than booking them into evidence as I was required to do, I kept them for my own personal use and enrichment." He also admitted stealing marijuana from a UPS parcel police had intercepted and turning it over to informants to sell.
In New York City, a former NYPD officer was found guilty Monday of helping what he thought were drug dealers to move several kilos of heroin from the Bronx to Brooklyn. Jose Ramos went down in a sting operation and was convicted of attempted possession of a controlled substance, attempted grand larceny, and attempted robbery. It's not over for Ramos. He still faces a conspiracy count for trying to get an informant killed. The Ramos case also led directly to the NYPD ticket-fixing scandal, in which more than a dozen cops are accused of fixing parking and traffic tickets for friends and family members. Those cops go on trial in January.
In Phoenix, a former Phoenix police officer was sentenced last Friday to 3 ½ years in prison for stealing drugs from the department evidence room. William McCartney had pleaded guilty in June to one count each of theft and fraudulent schemes. He originally faced 40 counts.
A deputy US marshal goes gangster, more prison and jail guards get in trouble, and another pain pill-peddling police officer goes to prison. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Yuba City, California, a deputy US marshal was charged last Wednesday with stealing 24 pounds of marijuana in the guise of a drug raid. Deputy US Marshal Clorenzo Griffin and two other men intended to sell the marijuana, prosecutors said. He went down after a California Highway Patrol officer saw his vehicle run a red light shortly after the robbery and pulled it over. Griffin and the two others are charged with robbery, possessing and distributing marijuana, and brandishing a firearm while committing a crime.
In Terre Haute, Indiana, a former federal prison guard was charged last Wednesday with smuggling drugs into the federal prison there. Edward Tunwar, 54, is accused of providing an inmate with heroin and a cell phone. He is charged with distribution of a controlled substance and two counts of providing contraband in prison.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Kent County jail guard pleaded guilty Monday to charges related to a marijuana butter distribution ring among jail guards. Sgt. Timothy Bernhardt, a 22-year veteran, copped to a single charge of maintaining a drug house. In return he must testify against his fellow officers. Another jail guard accepted an identical plea deal last week. Two other jail guards still face charges.
In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a former Hughestown Borough police officer was sentenced last Thursday to 2 ½ years in federal prison for peddling pain pills. Robert Evans Jr. admitted to selling hundreds of the pills while in uniform and on duty. It's not clear what the formal charge was, but he's also looking at three years on probation once he is released.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a former prison guard was sentenced Monday to no jail time in a case where he supplied drugs to female inmates in exchange for sex. James Johnson, 54, had faced numerous charges, but accepted a plea deal to charges of sexual abuse, trafficking a controlled substance, and official misconduct. He got seven years of probation and a diversion program.
A pill-popping, prescription-forging North Carolina narc, a pair of lying New York City narcs, a crack-slinging Baltimore schools police officer, and a pot-growing California prison guard are among the corrupt cops in the news this week. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]In Elizabethtown, Tennessee, a Carter County sheriff's jail guard was fired September 28 after he was caught bringing drugs and contraband into the jail. The sheriff didn't announce the firing until last week. Officer Kenneth Turner has yet to be charged in the case, but the state Bureau of Investigation is looking into it.
In New York City, two former Yonkers narcotics officers were arrested last Wednesday for lying about drug activity in order to obtain search warrants. Former narcs Neil Vera and Christian Koch are accused of lying to a Yonkers City Court judge to convince him to sign a search warrant in a drug raid that resulted in a man's death. Dario Tena fell to his death from a window during the raid. The two former officers pleaded not guilty to one count of felony perjury.
In Sacramento, a California state prison guard was arrested last Wednesday when an investigation into gang activity resulted in the seizure of 617 marijuana plants. Guard Eddie Lay, 32, is charged with cultivation of marijuana for sale. Four others were also arrested, and police seized guns, 248 pounds of packaged pot, and more than $5,000 in cash in addition to the plants.
In Houston, a former Houston police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to playing a role in a drug conspiracy. Marcos Carrion admitted to providing security for a drug deal involving 10 kilograms of cocaine in exchange for $2,500. He also admitted agreeing to provide security for future dope deals. He copped to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five or more kilos of cocaine and is looking at a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
In Baltimore, a former Baltimore school police officer was sentenced last Friday to two years in federal prison for dealing in cocaine. Napoleon McLain, 31, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base. He admitted buying various ounces of cocaine base and reselling them to others between December 2012 and August 2013.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, a former New Hanover County sheriff's narcotics lieutenant was sentenced Monday to seven years in state prison for stealing evidence and forging court orders to obtain prescription medications. Joseph Antoine LeBlanc, 42, had pleaded guilty to a hundred felony charges including four counts of embezzlement; four counts of obstruction of justice; four counts of altering, destroying or stealing criminal evidence; four counts of obtaining property by false pretense; 28 counts of uttering forged papers; 28 counts of forgery; and 28 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge. Another 40 counts of trafficking opium or heroin and 21 counts of possession of a controlled substance were dismissed. LeBlanc admitted forging the names of local judges and assistant DAs to obtain the prescriptions.
A suburban St. Louis cop spoils his department's first day in operation, a Minnesota jail guard gets charged with slinging meth, and Denver cops have to pay out big time for a bad drug raid. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In New Flordell Hills, Missouri, a New Flordell Hills police officer was arrested last Wednesday< on charges he was pilfering pills from the evidence room. Officer Jeremy admitted stealing the tranquilizer after he was involved in a crash the following day and the pills were found in his possession. He is charged with stealing and possessing a controlled substance, and has now resigned. It was the first day for the new suburban St. Louis police force.
In Minneapolis, a Hennepin County jail guard was indicted last Friday on charges he was part of a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. Guard Ashley Mariakas, 26, was one of 11 people indicted in the case, which involved the distribution of 26 pounds of meth. Mariakas is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute meth and two counts of actual distribution. She is not accused of peddling meth at the jail.
In Denver, a jury awarded $1.8 million to a family in a wrongful prosecution case on September 26. The case stemmed from a 2009 raid on a home previously occupied by drug dealers and prostitutes, but into which a new family had moved. Denver Police entered the home without a warrant, then arrested the family on trumped up charges of interference with a police officer and misdemeanor assault. All the charges were later dropped.
A Florida police chief gets caught with online pills, a North Carolina jail guard gets caught peddling pills, a former Pennsylvania cop heads to the slammer for cooking meth, and a Seattle-area former deputy gets even more prison time for lying during sentencing. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Atlantic Beach, Florida, the former police chief was arrested Tuesday on numerous drug charges just a week after he resigned in the middle of a state investigation. Former Chief Michael Classey went down after federal Homeland Security agents told the Florida Department of Law Enforcement they had intercepted a package of drugs from India addressed to Classey. He was arrested when he went to pick up the package, and a subsequent police search of his home turned up more drugs. He is now charged with 18 counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, one count of trafficking in a controlled substance, one count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, a York County jail guard was arrested last Friday after he was seen selling prescription drugs in a gas station parking lot. Guard John Strait allegedly admitted he stole Xanax pills from family members. He is charged with distribution of a controlled substance and is now out on bail. And looking for a new job.
In Brookville, Pennsylvania, a former Brookville police officer was sentenced last Thursday to five years in state prison for running a meth lab. April Ann Novak was convicted of criminal conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance and manufacturing methamphetamine.
In Seattle, a former King County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Tuesday to more prison time after he was found to have lied during his sentencing hearing. Darion Holiwell had been convicted in August of pimping his estranged wife, stealing ammunition from the department, and dealing drugs and was sentenced to a year in prison. During his original sentencing hearing, Holliwell's lawyer told the court the ex-deputy was broke, but investigators found that he had just cashed in a $180,000 retirement package. That earned him an additional five months in the clink.