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15 officers caught in FBI drug sting
Cops allegedly were hired by dealers for protection

Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Matthew Walberg and Jeff Coen

"I ain't always been in law enforcement," a Harvey cop allegedly bragged to the drug dealer whose business he was paid to protect. "I sold a lot of weight at a young age, I just never got caught."

His luck ran out Tuesday, though, as federal authorities unsealed charges against the Harvey police officer and 14 other law-enforcement officers.

The drug dealer was an undercover FBI agent who secretly recorded his conversations. Two civilians were also charged.

The FBI said it launched the yearlong sting after widespread reports from informants and other cops that law-enforcement officers in southern Cook County were engaging in robbery, extortion and distribution of narcotics and weapons.

"When drug dealers deal drugs, they ought to be afraid of the police—not turn to them for help," U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said during a news conference announcing the charges.

Authorities charged 10 Cook County corrections officers and sheriff's deputies, four Harvey police officers and one Chicago officer with providing protection for what they thought were a dozen large-scale shipments of cocaine and heroin.

The transactions took place from August 2007 to August 2008 in parking lots throughout the south suburbs, as well as one at DuPage Airport.

Assigned to ferret out police corruption, the undercover FBI agent took a job at the Skybox, a strip club in Harvey, sources said. Posing as a big-time drug broker, he convinced Ahyetoro "Red" Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both corrections officers, to assist him and reach out to friends to work security as well.

The officers were told to carry their weapons and badges and use them to fend off anyone who might try to interfere in the deal, including other dealers or suspicious police officers, authorities charged.

The 15 officers shared in a combined $44,000 in payoffs for their illicit security work, a total of $400 to $4,000 for each deal, according to the charges.

A 61-page criminal complaint detailed much of the wrongdoing. On one occasion, Harvey Police Officer Dwayne Williams allegedly met the undercover agent at the strip club to discuss an upcoming deal involving a purported 30 kilograms of cocaine and several kilograms of heroin. The complaint quoted Williams as saying that if they were interrupted by other police, he would do the talking.

In another deal, Manuel allegedly told the undercover agent that he and Taylor could interdict any local law enforcement if necessary, according to the charges.

"We know how to politic with the local authorities in case they try to stick their noses in stuff like that," Manuel allegedly said. "Then that way it gives everybody else a chance to split."

Harvey Police Officer Archie Stallworth, 36, who also works as a Metra conductor, counseled the undercover agent to conduct the drug buys at train stations, the charges alleged.

"The best spot for ya'll to do that, believe it or not, is the train station," Stallworth allegedly said. "Fast food places, that's where we [law enforcement] be looking. Sit there all day or they set up surveillance cameras."

Authorities said he also told the agent to conduct the deals in Harvey.

"The only reason I say Harvey's the best [expletive] place to do it is because if anything's going down, we going to know about it," Stallworth told the agent.

Stallworth and the other three Harvey officers have been suspended without pay, and the village will seek their dismissal, Harvey Police Acting Chief Denard Eaves said.

Metra also suspended Stallworth without pay, Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

All 10 sheriff's employees have been suspended with pay until a hearing next week. Sheriff Thomas Dart said he will then seek to have them suspended without pay pending their firing.

The sheriff said his office began its own investigation in January after other employees notified department officials of their suspicions about some of the defendants. Dart said he backed off conducting an undercover probe at the FBI's request when he learned of the federal investigation.

Dart said his office has installed stricter hiring policies and background checks to try to weed out problem employees.

"We have put in all sorts of new hiring practices. Lie detectors, psychological testing—all these things to head these issues off at the pass. Are we still weeding out some bad characters? Yeah, but is there widespread corruption? No."

mwalberg@tribune.com

jcoen@tribune.com



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