Cocaine smuggling among the charges. Nice.Story
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Federal officials arrested eight people, including four current or former law enforcement officers, on drug and money laundering charges after a three-year undercover sting operation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that undercover agents had posed as members of a Chicago-based drug ring in an operation code-named "Tarnished Shield."
The operation started by offering the subjects a chance to defraud insurance companies by submitting fictitious body shop invoices, officials said. But as the investigation continued, agents learned some law enforcement officers in Putnam County were willing to transport drugs and drug money.
Cookeville police officer Reno Martin was indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine, while fellow officer Jason Blythe was charged with transferring a firearm.
Former Algood police officer Steven Bert Williamson was charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine, and former Putnam County jailer Gregory Dale Scott was charged with conspiring to commit money laundering.
The owner of a body shop in Cookeville, Ronald Middlebrook; his sister, Robin Blaskis; and two other men, Troy Bell and Darrell Thomas Jones, were also indicted on drug or money laundering charges.
"Should the allegations prove to be true, it is a sad chapter in the history of the Cookeville Police Department," said Cookeville Police Chief Robert Terry in a released statement. "Officers of the Cookeville Police Department work hard to earn this trust and are both shocked and dismayed that two fellow officers have been accused of abusing the trust."
Martin, one of the Cookeville officers, allegedly agreed to transport $250,000 from Florida to Nashville in March 2004, and one month later carried drugs for the undercover agent who was posing as a drug dealer. Martin is also accused of transporting 30 kilograms of cocaine from Nashville to Chicago in July 2004 for $15,000.
Williamson and Bell are accused of transporting 20 kilograms of cocaine from Nashville to Chicago. In November 2004, former Putnam County jailor Scott transported $50,000 from Nashville to Cookeville.
Scott, who sheriff's officials say worked as a jailer for Putnam County nearly two years ago, helped transport drug money "that was subsequently laundered by a co-conspirator," authorities say.
Middlebrook -- who owns Ron's Body Shop in Cookeville -- and his sister Blaskis, a certified public accountant, laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars in what they believed was drug money, authorities said.
Jones and Middlebrook allegedly offered to assist in transporting or to recruit law enforcement officers to transport drug money.
In February 2004, Jones introduced the undercover agent to Middlebrook, the body shop owner.
Between April and November of 2004, Middlebrook and Blaskis allegedly accepted $650,000 from what they believed was a drug trafficking organization and laundered the money.
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