Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Two Corrections Officer Arrested for Misconduct

In less than a week, authorities in Cumberland County have arrested two corrections officers accused of misconduct on the job. Both face serious charges in unrelated cases.

Last week, an officer was charged with smuggling drugs in to the jail, and a second officer was accused Tuesday of having sex with an inmate.

Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion said he is disappointed over what he called "two corrupt corrections officers" at the Cumberland County Jail.

"It's a terrible feeling. I mean, we take an oath. The community grants us a responsibility and, more importantly, they trust us to do the job," Dion said. "We're supposed to be on the right side. So, when we discover our own is on the wrong side of the law, it's discouraging, it's embarrassing."

Gerald Gilbert Jr., 41, of South Portland, faces two charges of gross sexual assault following an internal investigation by the sheriff's office. Gilbert is accused of having sex with a female inmate at the Cumberland County Jail.

Dion said the same female inmate was receiving drugs from Toby Post, 38, of West Gardiner, who was charged last week with two felony counts of trafficking in prison contraband. Investigators determined Post was the middleman in delivering drugs to an inmate.

Dion said he has enough evidence to recommend to county leaders that both men lose their jobs.

"They have a common link with that particular inmate; however, they weren't necessarily working in concert," Dion said.

"We're supposed to be on the right side. So, when we discover our own is on the wrong side of the law, it's discouraging, it's embarrassing."

"The men and women who work in that facility are disgusted that two of our own have fallen to that level, but bad apples don't spoil the bunch," said Will Russell, president of the correction officers' union. "The men and women who work in that facility hold their heads up high, and rightfully so."

"Should there be some policy changes? We don't re-write the code for traffic court just because there are accidents out there and people are speeding. We just pay more attention and we will," Dion said.

Post is free on bail and has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Gilbert, who has been a corrections officer at the jail since January 2007, is on paid administrative leave pending a pre-termination hearing. He was released from jail on unsecured bail of $5,000. News 8 spoke with Gilbert at his home Tuesday night but he had no comment.

Both Gilbert and Post are due to be arraigned in court on March 10.

Deputy Danny Stenger Accused of Sleeping with Informant

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength tells 26 News a deputy has resigned after accusations arose about him sleeping with an informant.

Strength tells 26 News an internal affairs investigation was opened at the beginning of this month after the informant’s attorney notified the Sheriff’s Office of the relationship.

26 News has learned Danny Stenger first arrested the suspect and her boyfriend during a meth case back in August. The boyfriend was arrested for drug charges, and she was arrested for disorderly conduct. Strength says an internal affairs investigation revealed the affair began four months later.

Stenger was questioned about the incident on Friday and has since resigned.

Stenger was already on suspension for allegedly taking open case files and property receipts out of the office and leaving them in his car. During a routine inspection of his car, sources allege he took the files out and hid them in a washing machine.

Strength says this is an ongoing investigation. Once it is complete, it will be handed over to Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council or P.O.S.T. The council will then decide whether or not Stenger can stay in law enforcement.

Stenger started working with the Sheriff’s Office in 1996. He was with the Narcotics division for four years before he resigned.

Former Sgt. Walter McWilson Pleads Guilty to Receiving Stolen Property

A once-lauded Oceanside police sergeant will do jail time after pleading guilty Wednesday to three counts of receiving stolen property.

Before striking a plea bargain with prosecutors, Walter McWilson, 37, a 10-year Oceanside police veteran, had been facing 14 felony charges, including grand theft and conspiracy for allegedly asking his office manager girlfriend to use her construction company's credit cards to buy gift cards, electronics and home improvement materials.

Prosecutor Anna Winn, who handled the case, said police officers are "heroes" and "protectors," so McWilson's fall was painful to many.

"Anytime a police officer commits a crime, it betrays all police officers and it betrays the public trust," Winn said.

McWilson is scheduled to be sentenced June 15 to 365 days in county jail, Winn said. But if he repays Oceanside-based Royal Pacific Construction $22,000 by that date, he will get a sentence of between 180 and 270 days.

Under state guidelines, McWilson will probably be required to serve half of any sentence he receives.

McWilson has three children and lives in Murrieta with a son and his elderly mother.

His now ex-girlfriend Aimee Rich, 34, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and is expected to be sentenced April 22 to between 120 and 365 days in jail, Winn said.

Before he was placed on leave in August, McWilson gained the praise of department leaders as the supervisor of the Neighborhood Policing Team and for his work on the Crisis Negotiations Team and the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team.

With an earnest but friendly demeanor and what department leaders said was a sincere concern for the community, one Oceanside police captain called McWilson a "rising star."

Detectives from his own department discovered McWilson's crimes by accident as they investigated Rich, police said.

She refused to tell investigators whether her embezzlement had benefited any friends, but a receipt for a mattress seized from her Murrieta apartment had McWilson's name on it, police said.

Oceanside police Chief Frank McCoy on Wednesday said McWilson's arrest and guilty plea showed the department's commitment to justice.

"A clear message was sent that regardless of if someone is a police officer or whatever their profession is, our department will conduct a thorough and fair investigation," McCoy said.

Oceanside's probe showed that Rich had used company checks and lines of credit to embezzle about $160,000 between 2004 and 2008, court records show.

Winn said McWilson admitted that Rich used her company's credit to buy him about $22,000 worth of goods, including four TVs, one of which he sold to a neighbor, an Apple notebook computer, a high-end mattress, Thomasville mahogany flooring and $4,000 in Home Depot gift cards.

As a convicted felon, McWilson will never be able to work in law enforcement again, Winn said.

But it is not McWilson's first time on the wrong side of the law. In 1993 he was convicted of evading a police officer, Winn said, but had the charge expunged after establishing a record of good behavior.

Officer Jason Deason Pleads Guilty to Steroid Charges

Former Canby Police officer Jason D. Deason pleaded guilty to steroid and misconduct charges Wednesday.

Deason pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally possessing anabolic steroids and two counts of official misconduct for buying the drugs while on duty and in uniform.

He will be sentenced Feb. 25 in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

Each of the three counts is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, said Deputy District Attorney Mike Wu.

But as part of a plea agreement, the district attorney’s office will ask the judge to limit his jail recommendation to 120 days, Wu added.

Deason, a member of the Canby police force since 1999, resigned in July 2008 during an FBI investigation of his alleged steroid use.

The Canby Police Department’s failure to properly investigate complaints about Deason led to an internal investigation and the resignation of Chief Greg Kroeplin.

The controversy also generated criticism of Canby City Administrator Mark Adcock, who was ultimately fired by the city council Aug. 26, 2009. The council terminated Adcock for failing to make satisfactory progress on a work improvement plan and a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to manage the city’s business.

William J. Traverso of Canby, accused of being one of Deason’s suppliers, will go on trial March 30 on theft and unlawful possession of steroids charges.

Officer Jeff Brown Being Investigated Again

Oregon Police Officer Jeff Brown, who was suspended last year following an internal affairs investigation involving several women, was put on paid administrative leave late last month.

Mayor Mike Seferian said police are looking at whether Brown, the son of former Mayor Marge Brown, violated department rules, but would not disclose details because the matter is under investigation.

“Pending the outcome of the investigation, we just put him on administrative leave,” said Seferian.

It is the latest police department investigation of Brown.

He received disciplinary action last year as the result of an investigation that stretched back seven years. He was suspended for 20 days for his repeated and illegal use of the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) to gain information about an ex-girlfriend over a two year period.

In addition to the 20-day suspension, Brown received a verbal reprimand for interfering in the private business or affairs of another woman, Vicky Ferris, a teacher at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Elementary School. Ferris contacted police to complain that Brown had allegedly portrayed her as a convicted felon.

Brown was blocked from using the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System (NORIS) and LEADS for six months and was suspended from the Special Response Team (SRT) for six months.

Allegations that Brown had sex with a woman while he was on duty in 2002 were substantiated by the investigation, but were dismissed because of the absence of a report on the matter.

Nichole Rhoades had alleged she and Brown had sex in Fire Station No. 2 on Wheeling Street, at the Comfort Inn, in the playground area of New Harvest Church on Seaman Road, and in the parking lot of Coy School on Wheeling Street while Brown was on duty.

The report, issued last September 4, couldn’t have come at a worse time for Brown’s mother, who ran against Seferian for a third term last November. She said at the time that the investigation had been politically motivated. Seferian said he had nothing to do with the investigation, which was started by Stager several months before the election.

Seferian, a long time councilman, beat Brown 61.17 percent to 38.83 percent of the vote and in each of the city’s 19 precincts.

Officer James John Hoffman Arrested for Drunk Driving

A Bethlehem police officer has been placed on administrative leave while he faces drunken driving and careless driving charges in Bucks County.

James John Hoffman, 28, of Warminster Township was charged Jan. 17 with three counts of drunken driving and careless driving by Warminster police, according to criminal court records.

Hoffman joined Bethlehem police in 2007 and most recently served as a patrol officer.

He surrendered his badge and gun and is on paid administrative duty pending the outcome of his case and an internal investigation, police Commissioner Stuart Bedics said.

Bedics declined to comment on any details surrounding the incident, but said the department was notified within hours of Hoffman's arrest.

Bedics said appropriate discipline will be administered, based on the outcome of the case. That discipline could range from a suspension to termination.

Hoffman is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Feb. 19.

The investigating officer in Hoffman's arrest, Warminster officer Chad Vargo, could not be reached for comment.

Former Officer, Son, and Others Arrested on Drug Charges

A former Burlington police officer, his son, and five additional defendants have been arrested in connection with a large scale drug ring operating out of Burlington,said Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone today.

The seven defendants were arrested today after search warrants were executed and nearly 200 grams of cocaine and 28 grams of heroin were seized.

The seven defendants are identified as:

* Michael Reynolds, 26, of Burlington, charged with trafficking heroin over 14 grams, conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, possession of a firearm, and possession of ammunition. He was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail.
* Kenneth Reynolds, 45, of Burlington, charged with conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. He was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail.
* William Najjar, 21, of Woburn, was charged with trafficking in cocaine over 100 grams, conspiracy to traffic cocaine over 100 grams, distribution of cocaine (11 counts), use of firearm in commission of a felony, possession of firearm, and, possession of ammunition. He was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail.
* David Medur, 27, of Wakefield, was charged with trafficking heroin over 28 grams, conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, possession of a firearm, and possession of ammunition. He was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail.
* Matthew Basile, 38, of Stoneham, was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams. He was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail, as well as a probation detainer.
* Coleen Cosgrove, 27, of Waltham, was charged with trafficking heroin over 28 grams, trafficking heroin over 14 grams (4 counts), and conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams. She was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail.
* Derek Clemetson, 28, of Woburn, was charged with conspiracy to traffic heroin over 28 grams and possession of an electrical weapon. He was ordered held on $750 cash bail.

Their next court date is March 8 for pre-trial conference.

“These were significant arrests that resulted in today's seizures of guns and a large amount of heroin and cocaine that were being distributed on our streets. We know that heroin specifically has been responsible for a number of overdose deaths, including young people, which we’ve seen in our county in the last year,” Leone said. “Illegal drug trafficking and weapons charges are serious offenses that are often at the root of many additional and violent crimes. These allegations are made all the worse in that a former police officer is alleged to have disgraced the badge that he once wore, and impugned the good reputation of law enforcement personnel everywhere. We will continue to actively investigate and prosecute drug crimes and I want to thank the Woburn Police Department for their cooperative effort in this investigation."

According to authorities, in December 2009, and January and February of this year, Massachusetts State Police troopers assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office conducted court-authorized wiretap surveillance of several telephone lines that were identified as being used by a large-scale heroin distribution ring operating in Middlesex County. Pursuant to those wiretaps, troopers were able to discover evidence of numerous sales of cocaine and heroin to an apparent large number of customers.

Michael Reynolds was identified as a ringleader of the distribution organization. He was repeatedly intercepted negotiating prices and methods of delivery for heroin and conducting sales of heroin in varying amounts to Matthew Basile, Derek Clemetson and David Medur on numerous occasions.

Michael Reynolds was also identified as a cocaine distributor and was repeatedly intercepted negotiating prices and weights for cocaine. Reynolds made numerous large purchases of cocaine, in quantities consistent with re-distribution, from William Najjar.

During the course of the investigation, Kenneth Reynolds, a former Burlington police officer who retired in 2002, was repeatedly observed driving Michael Reynolds to heroin transactions and was intercepted discussing past and future acts of heroin distribution with Michael Reynolds and others.

On Feb. 10, a search warrant was executed at the Reynolds’ home at 14 Evelyn Road in Burlington. As a result of the search warrant, authorities recovered a firearm, customer lists, and cash money.

During the course of the wire surveillance, Medur was repeatedly intercepted planning and carrying out purchases of large quantities of heroin. On Feb. 10, a search warrant obtained from the Middlesex Superior Court was executed at Medur’s residence at of 31 Melvin St. in Wakefield. Recovered during the search was over 20 grams of heroin, approximately 3.5 grams of cocaine, a firearm, and a variety of prescription pills.

Wire surveillance revealed William Najjar to be a major supplier of cocaine in the Woburn area. He was repeatedly intercepted negotiating sales of cocaine in large quantities to Michael Reynolds, who in turn would repackage and sell the cocaine to generate additional profits. On Feb. 10, a search warrant issued by the Middlesex Superior Court was executed at Najjar’s residence of 31 Waltham St., Woburn. Found during the course of the search was approximately 195 grams of cocaine, a large quantity of U.S. currency, and a firearm.

During the course of the wire surveillance, Derek Clemetson was identified as a heroin and cocaine distributor for the Reynolds Organization. A search warrant obtained from the Middlesex Superior Court was executed at Clemetson’s residence of 9 Middle St., Woburn on Feb. 10. Recovered during the search were numerous small plastic bags consistent with packaging for illegal narcotics and a portable electrical weapon designed to deliver a powerful electric shock.

During the course of the wire surveillance, Basile was identified as a heroin distributor who acquired heroin from the Reynolds organization and re-sold it for profit.

Basile was repeatedly intercepted purchasing heroin from Michael Reynolds and from other sources, often in large quantities that were consistent with redistribution.

Cosgrove was also identified as selling large quantities of heroin to the Reynolds Organization. A search warrant was obtained from the Middlesex Superior Court and was executed at Cosgrove’s residence at 22 Underwood Park in Waltham on Feb. 10. Discovered during the course of the search were numerous controlled substances of Class E.

The investigation continues into the reach and scope of the drug operation and further arrests may be made. The Burlington Police Department has cooperated fully with the investigation.

The Middlesex PACT Unit is a team of prosecutors and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of cases of public integrity, anti-terrorism, corruption, technology, and high-level narcotics.

These charges are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney's PACT Unit and the Woburn Police Department. The Assistant District Attorneys assigned to this case are David Solet and John Verner, Chief of the MDAO’s PACT Unit.
Other Information

Lt Scott Gardner Arrested for Embezzlement

A sworn police officer working for California's Porterville Developmental Center claimed overtime in 2008 for days he was supposed to be on vacation and on occasions that he was out of town, an 18-month Porterville Police Department investigation has revealed.

Lt. Scott Gardner, 37, a resident of Camp Nelson, was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of embezzling of public funds.

Porterville resident Jeff Bradley, commander of the state police force at the center — a hospital that, among other tasks, helps to determine whether criminal suspects are mentally competent to stand trial — was arrested on similar charges.

The indictment charges Bradley with being complicit in helping Gardner illicitly receive more than $121,000 during calendar year 2008 by "claiming overtime for hours he had worked when he was not actually working — and being compensated for regular working hours in which he was not at work," Porterville police reported.

Porterville police were involved only because the hospital is within their jurisdiction, officials said.

All information was turned over to the Tulare County District Attorney's Office and a grand jury, which decided to indict Gardner and Bradley.

Neither suspect — booked Tuesday at Tulare County Jail on $60,000 bond each — was immediately available for comment.

The investigation took 18 months and involved analysis of 19,000 documents and the execution of 12 search warrants. It might yet take a wider scope and lead to future arrests, officials reported.

"In an investigation of this size, there's always the possibility of more charges and more arrests," Porterville administrative Sgt. Jake Castellow said.

Nancy Lungren, assistant director of communica-tions for the state Department of Developmental Services in Sacramento — which oversees the Porterville facility and its police force — confirmed that the state office had cooperated with the Porterville Police Department in the investigation but declined to comment further Wednesday.

Gardner claimed overtime for "multiple trips to Las Vegas and [to] various California cities, including the Central Coast," Porterville police reported. The investigation also showed that Gardner:

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Probation Officer Michael Ayer Charged with Delivering Heroin

A Stoughton man who works as a probation officer for juveniles in Rhode Island was arrested Tuesday afternoon after police say he sold heroin to an undercover officer, the Providence Journal is reporting.

Michael Ayer, 49, of 46 Frank Road, faces two counts of delivering heroin to a police officer. He was scheduled to be arraigned in Kent County District Court on Wednesday.

The Providence Journal is reporting that Ayer was arrested around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Rhode Island police say he was driving a state-registered vehicle and using his state cell phone to sell drugs.

The State Police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force began the undercover operation last month, acting on a tip from an informant.

Ayers has been a probation officer with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families for 14 years, the newspaper reported. Police said there is no indication that Ayers sold drugs to anyone he was supervising.
A Rutland City police officer is under investigation after evidence of child pornography was found on his work computers. A 31-page warrant and accompanying affidavit released Tuesday revealed that information but not the identity of the officer, whose name was redacted at least temporarily by order of a Rutland District Court judge.

Less than a week after The Rutland Herald asked for the warrant, which was executed at the city police department in September, Judge Thomas Zonay followed through Tuesday with his order to make the contents public while withholding the officer's name to consider a pending motion that his identity be permanently sealed.

What Zonay did release revealed a state police investigation overseen by the Attorney General's office which began in August, after technicians working on a laptop issued to the unidentified officer found images of what appeared to be child pornography.

The officer told computer technicians in the department that he was searching online for information about hidden cameras and police videos when pornographic images began "popping up" on the machine, which stopped working altogether soon thereafter, according to state police Detective Sgt. Jason Letourneau. The officer under investigation told police the incident occurred while he was on duty.

Further analysis of the computer revealed 150 possible images of child pornography, Letourneau wrote, which were all added to the computer in a 13-minute time span on July 23. The detective said he also found more than 100 pornographic files of adult subjects.

In a search of the officer's desktop computer, investigators found more cause for concern, including files created for a media player that seem to refer to children's ages through characters such as Y11 YRLD and Y11 next to sexually explicit labels.

In an interview with state police, the city officer under investigation at first said he was simply researching clip-on video cameras for use in the field when pornographic images began swamping his computer.

But Letourneau said he and another investigator didn't believe that account.

"We further explained that the evidence collected during the examination of the computer clearly reveals that he visited pornographic Web sites, that they did not just pop up on his screen," he wrote. "(The officer) then told us that he may have clicked on a few adult pornographic Web sites not knowing they were pornographic Web sites. We again explained that the titles of the Web sites he visited were clearly pornographic by the titles alone."

Letourneau wrote that the officer eventually admitted to purposely visiting the pornographic sites, but he told investigators the visits were for research into the clip-on cameras he was seeking — not to view pornographic material.

"He said he visited the pornographic Web site to see what type of cameras they used," the detective wrote. "He later advised he also wanted to see what angle the cameras were used and the quality of the images/videos."

A search warrant executed at the department on Sept. 22 seized evidence from the officer's desk, locker and other belongings at the department.

Among other things, police seized a rack of 20 pornographic DVDs, four VHS tapes listed with pornographic titles, three DVDs identified as "teen porn" and a DVD titled "midget porn."

Since the warrant was executed no charges have been brought, but Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell said Tuesday the criminal investigation is continuing.

Treadwell argued last week against the Herald's request to unseal the search warrant, which was closed to the public upon its return to Orleans District Court on Sept. 29.

In the information released by the court on Tuesday, Zonay said Treadwell argued in a written motion and in a closed-door hearing on Feb. 3 that releasing the contents of the warrant would jeopardize the criminal investigation.

"The state asserted that the investigation is ongoing and that investigators have continued to interview individuals with knowledge of the matter as well as to investigate the suspect's home Internet use," Zonay wrote. "(Treadwell) further sets forth that the state has attempted to obtain probable cause to obtain additional warrants. It also asserts the investigators wish to again speak with the suspect concerning the findings they made since they last spoke with him and that any disclosure of certain information in the warrant records would impede the investigation."

In particular, the judge wrote that investigators want to locate a removable media component — such as a disc or memory stick — used on the officer's computer, which is one of the missing links in the investigation.

While the judge found no harm in releasing the documents, Zonay decided Tuesday to withhold the officer's name and identifying information until he had a chance to consider arguments made by Rutland attorney Matthew Harnett, who argued in court that his client — the officer under investigation who was identified during the hearing as "John Doe" — would suffer irreparable harm if his name was included.

"The subject matter itself is dynamite — the most stigmatizing of all types of charges. Once published, his reputation would be ruined," Harnett said, adding that his client has not been charged with a crime.

But the Herald's attorney, Robert Hemley of Gravel & Shea in Burlington, said the public interest in a transparent government and judicial system outweighed the privacy interests of John Doe.

"The public has a big interest in knowing what the operations of the police are," he said. "How are we to monitor the operations of the government? We need the press to inform us about both sides."

Zonay said he would issue a decision after considering the arguments.