Friday, September 25, 2009

Officer Mark Lunsford Charged with Stealing Money & Jewelry

A Baltimore police officer assigned to a federal drug task force was arrested by the FBI and charged Thursday with stealing money and jewelry from houses hit on drug raids and with embezzling from funds used to pay confidential informants, according to the Maryland U.S. attorney's office.

Officer Mark J. Lunsford, 40, who has been on the force for six years, was placed by a federal judge on home detention with electronic monitoring during an appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. He had been assigned to Baltimore's Drug Enforcement Administration, which conducts high-end narcotics investigations.

"These allegations represent an egregious abuse of trust," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an interview. FBI agents arrested the officer Wednesday night after he left work. He was charged with making a false claim, making a false statement and embezzlement.

Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said Lunsford is being suspended without pay. "The department doesn't tolerate any behavior that undermines the integrity of the agency or the hard work of our police officers," he said.

Neither Lunsford, who earned $97,196 with overtime in fiscal 2008, nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Authorities said a confidential informant used by the DEA and city police tipped them off to the allegations. One of the items stolen from a drug raid at a hotel room, according to court documents filed Thursday, was a stainless steel Aqua Master diamond watch that retails for $18,000. The source told the FBI that Lunsford ordered him to "repair the watch and sell it and share the proceeds with him," according to the affidavit. The watch was sold for about $4,200 in New York.

The court documents describe the informant as unreliable because of his "inability to follow instructions and candor issues." The FBI dropped him as an informant, but court papers said the DEA and Baltimore police continued to use him for information.

After the informant came forward to FBI agents, prosecutors said in court documents, they secretly recorded conversations between Lunsford and the informant.

The affidavit alleges that Lunsford listed the informant on drug cases that the informant hadn't worked and would then tell his superiors that the informant deserved bonuses. In one case, he falsely linked the informant to a secret wiretap on a drug case "in the county" and then got the informant a $10,000 bonus from the DEA, according to prosecutors.

The prosecutors said Lunsford then split the money with the informant.

On July 1, the FBI said, agents caught Lunsford meeting with the informant outside a federal office in Elkridge and discussing a drug case: "I put in there that you gave me the information about ah ... what's the guy's name? That's that [expletive] house we're gonna hit. Who knows? We might get lucky," Lunsford told the informant, according to the court documents.

During that same conversation, prosecutors said, Lunsford told the informant "that he stole three [PlayStation] video games from the residence of a person [federal agents] had interviewed," according to court documents.

Lunsford then told the informant, "Me and you are the only ones that know we split that ten grand, right?" the documents say. The informant answered, "Oh yea, nobody knows."

Later, authorities said, Lunsford arrested a man during a raid and seized $17,490. Prosecutors said Lunsford put the informant, who had nothing to do with the case, in for a 20 percent bonus.

According to prosecutors, Lunsford wrote that "without the valuable intelligence provided by the [informant], the [suspect] would not have been arrested." Prosecutors said, "As Lunsford well knew at the time he submitted the claim for an award to DEA, the [informant] had provided no intelligence to him."

Prosecutors said the DEA allowed the informant to receive a $3,498 bonus and cut a U.S. Treasury check to the informant. The informant cashed the check and handed the money back to a DEA supervisor, who gave the informant marked $100 bills. Prosecutors said the informant then met with Lunsford to give him his share of the bonus in a parking lot in Sykesville. The FBI said agents had that meeting under surveillance.

Officer Francis Brevetti Faces Drug Charges

A Waterbury police officer has been charged possessing cocaine and marijuana with intent to sell, but insists he seized the drugs during an investigation and just forgot to turn them in at the police department.

Twenty-nine-year-old Francis Brevetti of Wolcott was arrested by Watertown police Thursday. Officers say Brevetti crashed his pickup into a tree Sunday and police found the drugs in his truck.

Police say they found nearly 2 ounces of marijuana, less than 3 grams of powder cocaine and a digital scale.

Brevetti has been suspended with pay pending an investigation. He posted $100,000 bail and is to be arraigned in state court Tuesday.

Brevetti's lawyer says his client seized the drugs while on duty and put them in a bag that he forgot to turn in at the police station.

Former Sgt Faron White Sentenced to 16 Months

A federal judge has imposed a 16-month sentence on a former Decatur police officer who staged his apparent abduction, stole $50,000 from the department and fled to Las Vegas.

The judge in Huntsville sentenced former Decatur police Sgt. Faron White for theft on Tuesday. A co-defendant was to be sentenced afterward.

White already has been in jail for eight months.

White admitted stealing money from his office safe, staging his disappearance and fleeing to Las Vegas in January. Authorities said he had debts from gambling and normal family expenses.

The judge ordered White to pay about $50,000 in restitution to Decatur police.
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Former Officer Robert Miller Charged with Scamming People

A former South Charleston police officer now finds himself in trouble with the law. Charleston Police arrested Robert Earl Miller Thursday and charged him with impersonating a police officer.

It has been more than ten years since Miller served on the South Charleston force but Charleston police say he is guilty of scamming people out of money.

If you think you may have been a victim of one of Miller's possible scams you are asked to contact the Charleston Police Department.


Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss May Face More Charges

The attorney representing a Broward sheriff's deputy charged with sexually assaulting an undocumented immigrant on multiple occasions said Tuesday that ``there was no reason to believe any of the accusations.''

``Everyone should sit back and take a deep breath,'' said Eric Schwartzreich, an attorney who represents the Police Benevolent Association. ``We're hopeful that when all the ink dries, everyone will see that there's more than meets the eye.''

Jonathan Bleiweiss, 29, who joined the Broward Sheriff's Office in 2002, was arrested Monday morning on 14 charges, including sexual battery, false armed imprisonment and stalking. Detectives said Bleiweiss stopped a 30-year-old man waiting for a ride to work. After discovering he was an undocumented migrant, Bleiweiss groped him during a pat-down, detectives said.

According to the arrest warrant, the victim told BSO that he was forced to allow the deputy to perform oral sex on him on four occasions. Detectives said the incidents took place during traffic stops or inside Bleiweiss' marked police car.

Schwartzreich and Bleiweiss appeared in Broward Circuit Court on Tuesday, during which the judge ordered that Bleiweiss be placed in protective custody. Schwartzreich said the deputy was ``dismayed and upset'' by the allegations.

Bleiweiss, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and is openly gay, is being held without bail.

Prosecutors and detectives said Tuesday that their work was only beginning. Charges are being prepared in at least seven other cases in which Bleiweiss allegedly fondled or performed sexual acts on undocumented migrants.


BSO was alerted in April that at least two men claimed to have been victimized by a deputy, but Bleiweiss was allowed to continue on his job until last month. During that period, detectives said, there was at least one additional incident, which raised concerns that BSO did not work swiftly enough.

``I gotta believe that if the police department had allowed someone to work when they had information that he touched a woman, the roar of objection would be deafening,'' said Howard Finkelstein, Broward's chief public defender, whose office is not involved in the case.

A BSO spokeswoman would not respond to Finkelstein's remarks, but Sheriff Al Lamberti said Monday the office needed to ensure the allegations were not a response to a vendetta against the deputy.

Bleiweiss was known as being an enforcer, and his supervisors often commended his high number of arrests and investigative skills.


Bleiweiss, who graduated from Great Neck High School in Long Island and majored in history at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, also received the Oakland Park BSO District's employee of the year award for 2008.

Court documents released Tuesday also detail at least three encounters in which witnesses said Bleiweiss denied their requests that he stop molesting them, reported Tuesday night. The victims identified Bleiweiss in a police line-up, the records show.

Meanwhile, prosecutors must determine what to do with three traffic cases for which the accused deputy is listed as a witness.

Deputy Sidney Binkley Arrested for Stealing Items from Accident Scenes

A former Greene County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with three counts of theft after he was accused of stealing items from accident scenes.

The charges were filed this week against 28-year-old Sidney Robert Binkley of Paragould. Binkley was arrested June 15, five days after he resigned from the sheriff’s department.

Authorities accuse Binkley of taking a Glock 9mm pistol and a magazine clip worth $600 and a benchmade knife worth $250 from the scene of an accident in which the owner was allegedly a convicted felon. State police say the items were found in Binkley’s home.

Corrections Officer John Carrasquillo Arrested for Stalking

An Orange County corrections officer was arrested today on a stalking charge after Osceola deputies said he made crank calls to a friend of his wife.

The woman told investigators that someone with a blocked number called her cell phone several times, speaking inaudibly or not at all or making noises. One day last month, the person called four times but hung up when she answered, according to a a sheriff's report. Another day, the person called six times and once whispered, "How are you?"

Investigators traced the call to John Carrasquillo, 45, who told them he wanted the woman to stay away from his wife so he could get "some quality time" with his wife, the report states.

Carrasquillo was arrested on a stalking charge. A deputy wrote that he called the woman "willfully, repeatedly and maliciously."

Carrasquillo is being held without bail at the Osceola County Jail.