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15 lawmen accused of protecting ‘drug dealers’

Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Chicago Defender
by Mike Robinson

Fifteen law enforcement officers and two others were charged Tuesday with providing security for drug shipments and other crimes that actually were staged as part of a series of elaborate FBI sting operations.

In two cases, the officers met planes arriving at a suburban airport believing they were piloted by drug runners and guarded duffel bags of supposed narcotics as they were taken to drop-off points for collection by “dealers.”

But the pilots were federal agents - as were those who presented themselves as drug dealers.

Those charged included 10 Cook County sheriff’s correctional officers, four suburban Harvey police officers and one Chicago police officer.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald expressed dismay at the number of law enforcement officers who allegedly participated in the staged crimes, calling “particularly shocking” the fact that some helped offload and deliver what they believed were drugs.

A 61-page FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court said some officers also protected what they believed to be a high-stakes poker game as well as the transport of large shipments of cash. Two also allegedly sold cocaine.

All 17 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine or heroin or both.

Fourteen were arrested or surrendered Tuesday, and were being immediately brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason. Two - Ahyetoro A. Taylor, 28, of Joliet and Jermaine E. Bell, 37, of Lynwood, both Cook County sheriff’s officers - are on active duty with Army National Guard units in Afghanistan. Warrants were issued for their arrest.

The prosecutors’ affidavit details the staged crimes.

On May 13, during the first of two fly-ins, three men awaited the arrival of a six-passenger, twin-propeller plane at west suburban DuPage Airport: Taylor, Cook County correctional officer Raphael Manuel and an FBI agent posing as someone who specialized in brokering large-scale drug transactions, the affidavit said.

The men allegedly boarded the aircraft, flown by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages of what was supposed to be cocaine stuffed in duffel bags.

They then put the duffel bags in the trunk of the agent’s car and the two officers followed him to a nearby parking lot, the affidavit said.

They then watched while still another agent arrived, put the bags in the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz and drove off with them, it said.

The agent posing as the broker then allegedly paid the two officers $4,000 each for guarding the supposed drugs.

If convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine or one kilogram of heroin, those charged would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life.

The maximum fine would be $4 million.  AP



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