Officers face life in prison for running diamonds, drugs for fake Mafia
By Brian Haas and Vanessa Blum
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 24 2007
Assistant Hollywood Police Chief Louis Granteed, left, Assistant Chief Chadwick Wagner, Chief James Scarberry, Hollywood City Manager Cameron Benson and U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta appear at Friday’s news conference.
It started with one Hollywood police officer interested in doing the bidding of a New York crime family for cash, authorities said. As the stakes grew, they say he enlisted what he called some "old school" cops he knew would want in.
Federal authorities on Friday released detailed charges against four Hollywood officers in an investigation dubbed "Operation Tarnished Badge," accusing the four of protecting and transporting stolen diamonds, artwork, bonds and heroin for undercover FBI agents pretending to be involved in organized crime.
The officers face up to life in prison for accepting sums of money authorities concede instead could have easily and legally been made with overtime. But the officers kept taking on riskier off-duty jobs for larger payouts, according to the federal complaint against them. Authorities said the four joked about being in the Mafia, promised to use their clout as police officers if they ran into trouble, and used police equipment and techniques to help the agents they thought were mobsters.
Identified as the ringleader was Detective Kevin Companion, 41, who met with undercover FBI agents in late 2004. He recruited Sgt. Jeffry Courtney, 51; Officer Stephen Harrison, 46; and Detective Thomas Simcox, 50. All are charged with extortion by using their public positions, and conspiracy and attempted possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.
In total, the complaint says, Companion was paid $42,000; Courtney $22,000; Simcox $16,000; and Harrison $12,000. They each make between $66,000 and $89,000 a year in their police jobs.
Companion, Courtney and Harrison appeared before U.S. Magistrate Lurana Snow in federal count in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning. All three looked dejected. Companion, hands cuffed, dabbed at tears with his sleeves. Snow set bond at $350,000 for Companion; $375,000 for Courtney; and $300,000 for Harrison. None of them had posted bail early Friday night, detention officials said. Simcox has not yet been arrested.
Companion's attorney René Sotorrío called the charges "a horrible tragedy" for his client's family, which has a tradition in law enforcement, but he declined to comment on the charges. Courtney's and Harrison's attorneys could not be reached for comment later Friday.
Simcox may turn himself in to federal authorities as soon as Monday, said his attorney, Bruce Udolf. Udolf declined to comment on the charges or say whether Simcox is cooperating with authorities.
The FBI received "information based on reliable sources" about illegal activity at the department about 21/2 years ago, U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta said at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale. Authorities declined to describe the information, but said Companion first met with an undercover agent in December 2004. The jobs were small at first: collection of an illegal gambling debt, protecting the sale of stolen watches.
To pull off more lucrative deals, agents told Companion he needed more muscle, according to the federal complaint. Companion replied he knew some "old school guys" willing to do the jobs, the complaint says.
Companion recruited Courtney, according to authorities, and Courtney helped in April 2005 to escort $400,000 in stolen money through Broward County with his Hollywood Police Department-issued motorcycle. Two months later, authorities said, Companion and Courtney drove $400,000 in stolen bonds to New York City. On the way, the duo passed a car with a license plate that read "mafia guy." The two later joked to agents that the officers "should have been riding in that vehicle," authorities said.
Companion brought in Simcox and Harrison in November 2005 and in the following months the officers protected an illegal, high-stakes gambling operation, delivered $1 million in stolen diamonds and artwork to Atlantic City, N.J., and helped steal a truckload of cigarettes, authorities said.
On Nov. 29, 2006, the officers agreed to escort several kilos of heroin from Miami Beach through Broward , the complaint says. Authorities said that at a meeting with an agent at a Miami Beach hotel, Simcox would only discuss the deal on the balcony. One officer, who was not named, wanted them to use the codeword "jewelry" for drugs.
The deal took place without a hitch the next day, authorities said.
Authorities said they had video and audio recordings of nearly every meeting and job the officers did. Acosta said no one was hurt during the sting.
Hollywood police officers openly wept when they heard of news of the arrests Thursday, said Police Chief Jim Scarberry. Three of the four officers have faced departmental scrutiny before.
"They're as sickened about this as I was when I first heard about it," Scarberry said. Scarberry, who was named chief in 1999, said later, "We know there have been some problems, but we've worked hard to change the culture here, and there is a big difference."
Companion was named in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 1994, which the city settled with a woman for $205,000. Courtney's hiring came under fire after a 1995 department-wide investigation revealed he had been arrested twice. He also accidentally shot a sergeant in 1991 while working as a Pembroke Pines officer.
Simcox was convicted of battery in 1996 for grabbing and slapping a 9-year-old boy who mocked him at a Boynton Beach daycare center while the officer was off duty. The incident led to a one-month suspension from the department without pay and he was kicked off a countywide organized crime taskforce.
Douglas K. Haas, a former Fort Lauderdale lieutenant and Broward Sheriff's Office lieutenant colonel, ran the now-disbanded Metropolitan Organized Crime Intelligence Unit and said Simcox was on the taskforce for less than a year.
"He wasn't in a position at MIU where he could have hurt us," Haas said. "But it's still disconcerting."
Staff Writers Paula McMahon and John Holland contributed to this report.
Timeline of the major events in the FBI investigationAccording to the federal complaint, four Hollywood police officers worked with undercover FBI agents who posed as organized crime members from late 2004 to 2006. Here is a timeline of what the FBI said are major events in the investigation:
Dec. 9, 2004: Detective Kevin Companion agrees to help two undercover agents collect an illegal gambling debt. Three days later, he and the two agents collect $20,000 from another agent.
Feb. 4, 2005: Companion provides the agents protection in the selling of $18,000 in stolen watches.
April 10, 2005: Companion and Sgt. Jeffry Courtney meet an agent at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel to discuss driving cash to New York. Courtney agrees to use his police department-issued motorcycle to escort a semitrailer truck with the cash out of the county. Companion suggests he and Courtney personally drive the money in the future.
April 11, 2005: Companion meets two agents at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood to protect the sale of $400,000 worth of stolen diamonds. Courtney, in uniform and on his police motorcycle, escorts a truck with the cash to Oakwood Plaza in Hollywood. Companion is paid $3,000 and Courtney $800.
July 15, 2005: Companion meets an agent at the Westin Diplomat and is handed $400,000 in stolen bonds. Companion and Courtney arrive in New York the next day and hand the bonds to an agent. Companion makes $5,000 and Courtney $2,500.
Nov. 18, 2005: Companion, Courtney, Officer Stephen Harrison and Detective Thomas Simcox provide security for an illegal, offshore gambling operation with a rigged poker game on a yacht. The officers stay onshore. Companion is paid $4,000, Courtney $2,500, Simcox $1,500 and Harrison $500.
Dec. 12, 2005: Companion and Simcox meet an agent at the Westin Diplomat and are handed $1 million in stolen diamonds. Companion, Simcox and Courtney hand the diamonds to an agent in Atlantic City the next day. Companion is paid $5,000, Simcox $4,000 and Courtney $4,500.
April 7, 2006: Companion and Courtney escort an agent to western Miami-Dade County to steal a truckload of cigarettes. The cigarettes are taken near Oakwood Plaza in Hollywood, where the four officers oversee the transfer from one truck to another. Simcox and Harrison escort the cigarettes to the north Broward County line. Companion is paid $6,000, Courtney $4,000, Harrison $2,000 and Simcox $3,000.
June 7, 2006: Companion and Harrison meet an agent at the Westin Diplomat to transport stolen artwork. The two deliver it the next day in Atlantic City. Companion is paid $6,000 and Harrison $4,000.
Nov. 29, 2006: The four officers meet two agents at the Ritz Carlton in Miami Beach to coordinate escorting heroin through the county. The next day, Harrison watches for law enforcement at Oakwood Plaza in Hollywood as Companion, Courtney and Simcox escort the drugs there. All four escort the drugs out of the county. Companion is paid $10,000, Courtney and Simcox get $8,000 each and Harrison gets $6,000.
Source: U.S. Attorney's Office
so basically the FBI creates crime and then busts other cops? seems like they could find something better to do.
thats just mean
It is called a Sting Operation. It is used all the time by both Federal and Local Law Enforcement Authorities to catch criminals as well with people who have criminal intent.
Its no different than baiting a hook and throwing it into an ocean to see what kinds of fish you can get.
There are plenty of criminals who wear a badge.
sounds like entrapment
Ooh. Party foul.
Entrapment is when you get someone to do something they wouldn't normally do. Or force them to do something they don't want to.
Tell it to the Judge.
everyone has a price, even the best of us I am sure could be corrupted if somethign of enough value was dangled in front of us
though the price for these officers seemed REAL low
I don't want to know what my price is, ignorance is bliss
Agreed. It reminds me of the CSI where the deputy killed the guy for $100K, and told Grissom "It's more money than I'd make in a career"...
Hmmm.... 20 years at $40k = $800,000... Looks like the TV deputy failed math as well as forensics.
These guys went for the quick buck and got pinched.
As I told a friend of mine when we were discussing a bank robber who got a measly $1200 and were musing about crossing "the line"... if it ain't worth eating institutional food and being away from your life for a stint, it ain't worth taking.
they wouldn't normally smuggle diamonds unless FBI agents offer you cash...
Well..hell...much crime has to do with economic incentives...
from:The New York Post
DRUG COP GETS 15 YEARS
By KATI CORNELL
February 1, 2007 -- A crooked cop nabbed in a brazen scheme to steal $450,000 and 10 kilos of heroin from a drug dealer was sentenced yesterday to 15 years behind bars.
Porfirio Mejia, 31, was snared during a Bronx sting operation after undercover agents posing as drug dealers lured the disgraced former detective and his crew to a Burger King parking lot on Dec. 9, 2004.
"This was extremely serious conduct. He betrayed his oath as a police officer," Assistant U.S. Attorney John O'Donnell Jr. told Manhattan federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain.
Mejia faced between 171/2 and nearly 22 years under his guilty plea to robbery and drug-conspiracy charges, but Swain cut him a break after noting considerable "shame and remorse."
Here's another one...except this guy is on the Run
of course we ARE talking about CHICAGO here...and Corrupt Cops and Chicago go together as well as....a Burger and Fries..
FBI Offers Reward For Crooked Chicago Cop
CHICAGO (STNG) -- The FBI on Tuesday announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a former Chicago Police officer sought for more than three years.
A police officer for more than 30 years, Eddie C. Hicks, 58, of Chicago, has eluded a nationwide manhunt since June 2003, according to a release from the FBI.
Hicks was first arrested in February 2001 on charges of racketeering, extortion and violation of federal drug laws, the release said.
Along with five other men, Hicks was charged with scheming to rob drug dealers of cash and drugs over the course of a 10-year period, according to the release.
In June 2003 Hicks failed to appear for the start of his trial after being released on bond following his 2001 arrest, the release said.
Hicks is a black male, described as 5foot-9 and 165 pounds with medium build, black/grey hair, brown eyes and a slight mustache. He has used the alias Clarence Jenkins and wears eye glasses, the release said.
Hicks is considered armed and dangerous, and as a retired sergeant, has extensive training and experience in the use of firearms and other law enforcement tactics. He’s been known to travel to Brazil, but his current whereabouts are unknown, according to the release.
Anyone with information should contact the Chicago Office of the FBI at (312) 421-6700.
Thank God that only Cops (and criminals) are allowed to have handguns in Chicago..
Criminals with badgers? How the fuck did they get badgers?
Ban badgers for the children!
I'm always amazed that when it happens to a JBT it's entrapment. But when it happens to the civi's it's a sting and a good bust.
Hope those dumbasses get the book thrown at them.
Sounds just like "New York's Finest Taxi Service" from The Usual Suspects.
Sounds like the FBI did a good job this time. I wonder what crimes they would commit for money, murder. I bet they could have recruited more crooked officers if given more time. That should slow the crooked cops down in that city for awhile. They give the honest cops a bad name.
As a well known gun owner and a tool maker at least once a year I am asked to manufacture a machinegun. My stander answer is I could make you one but then I would half to kill you. One time I was asked to shoot a drug cop, they would provide the gun and provide details as to his daily routine. When I called him up and told him a scum bag meth head just tried to hirer me to shoot him he did not seem to concerned. He asked what I had said and I said if I would have wanted him dead he would already be dead.