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 off-load 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.
From the press release issued by the US Attorney's office:
A six-passenger, twin propeller engine aircraft flew on May 13 this year into west suburban DuPage Airport where three men awaited its arrival. Two of them - Ahyetoro A. Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both Cook County Sheriff's Office Correctional Officers - accompanied an individual whom they believed brokered large-scale drug transactions but, in fact, was an undercover FBI agent. They boarded the aircraft, which was operated by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages of what was purported to be at least 80 kilograms of cocaine stashed inside four duffel bags. Taylor, Manuel and the undercover agent they accompanied removed the duffels from the plane and took them through the airport lobby to the trunk of the agent's car in the parking lot. Taylor and Manuel, in a separate car, followed the agent to a nearby retail parking lot, where the agent parked and got into the officers' vehicle.
Together, the trio watched as yet another undercover agent arrived, removed the duffels from the trunk of the parked car, placed them in a Mercedes and drove away. The FBI agent posing as the drug broker then paid Taylor and Manuel $4,000 each - allegedly their most profitable payday in the corrupt relationship they began with the undercover agent at least a year earlier.
The undercover agent, while posing as an employee of a business in south suburban Harvey,
was the hub in multiple spokes of police corruption in which Taylor and Manuel - often together with other officers they recruited - allegedly provided armed security for purported cocaine and heroin transactions throughout the south suburbs in 2007 and 2008. The investigation resulted in the unsealing today of federal charges against 17 defendants - 15 of them sworn law enforcement officers, including 10 Cook County Sheriff's Office Correctional Officers , 4 Village of Harvey police officers and a Chicago police officer. The defendants allegedly accepted between $400 and $4,000 each on one or more occasions to serve as lookouts and be ready to intervene in the event real police or rival drug dealers attempted to interfere with any of a dozen different purported transfers of kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin.
Watch Patrick Fitzgerald discuss the arrests:
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