Federal agents arrest 10 current and former local police in corruption probe
4:07 pm, February 12th, 2013
Federal authorities this morning rounded up 10 current and former metro Atlanta law enforcement officers after a federal grand jury charged them with taking thousands of dollars in bribes to provide protection for local gangs engaged in illicit cocaine sales.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia said during a news conference broadcast live on WSB-TV’s website today that when an informant who began cooperating with federal agents put word out on the street that he was looking for police officers willing to provide cover for illegal drug transactions for a price, “He got a lot of takers.”
“Each of the officers charged today engaged in multiple drug transactions and took thousands of dollars in payoffs,” she said. “Time and again, law enforcement officers sworn to uphold the law participated in drug deals. … Time after time they took cash from people who should have been arrested.”
The defendant officers, she said, were charged with crimes including drug trafficking, taking bribes, and using firearms during the commission of a felony. They included officers from the Atlanta, DeKalb, Forest Park, Stone Mountain and MARTA police departments; a contract officer with the Federal Protective Services; and two former jailers from the DeKalb County Sheriff Department. Federal authorities also arrested five civilians who were described as “associates” of the defendants.
The defendant police officers, Yates explained, often showed up at drug deals wearing their uniforms, driving police vehicles and carrying their police service firearms. One police officer suggested that future drug deals should be conducted in a local high school parking lot so that the transactions could be handled in backpacks that would not attract attention from casual passersby. Two others provided police escorts for drug dealers, she said.
“The breadth of corruption here is very disturbing,” she said.
The year-long corruption probe stemmed from an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of a metro Atlanta street gang that Yates declined today to identify. During that investigation, ATF agents received credible information that local police had been recruited to protect the gang’s criminal activities, specifically its drug trafficking operations.
When a cooperating witness put out the word that he was looking for police who would provide security for his drug transactions, he was given a list of officers willing to safeguard the illicit sales for cash payments.
Yates said that undercover agents recorded 40 to 50 separate transactions associated with the illegal protection racket. She said that officers were paid fees ranging from $2,000-$7,000 for each illegal job. As the investigation progressed, Yates said that, on occasion, “These law enforcement officers would bring in friends they knew of who were interested in providing protection” as well.
All but one of the transactions, she said, involved more than five kilograms of cocaine – and carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison.
Yates said the corruption probe remains an active investigation. “What is troubling to us is that it was widespread,” she said. “It was not just one bad group in one agency.”