Fifteen Illinois law enforcement officers were charged Tuesday in an F.B.I. sting on counts that included accepting cash in exchange for providing armed protection for drug dealing operations in south suburban Chicago.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who described the charges as “particularly shocking,” said two of the officers helped an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent unload and deliver duffel bags stuffed with drugs that had been flown in on a private plane.
“Ideally, it should be hard to find one corrupt officer,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in a written statement, “and it should never be easy to find 15 who allegedly used their guns and badges to protect people they believed were dealing drugs, instead of arresting them.”
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and/or heroin in drug dealing operations that played out in parking lots at suburban shopping centers and hotels. They include 10 Cook County sheriff’s correctional officers, two of whom are on active duty with the National Guard in Afghanistan; four officers with the suburban Harvey Police Department; and one Chicago police officer. Two other men who were not affiliated with the law enforcement agencies were charged as well.
According to the United States attorney’s office, two of those charged, Ahyetoro A. Taylor and Raphael Manuel, provided protection in May for a man who they believed was brokering large-scale drug transactions but was an undercover F.B.I. agent.
Officials said Mr. Taylor and Mr. Manuel boarded a small aircraft at the DuPage airport, piloted by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages stuffed inside four duffel bags that were said to be carrying a total of 176 pounds of cocaine.
The officers then helped the undercover agent remove the duffel bags from the plane and carry them through the airport to the agent’s car, then watched in a nearby parking lot as another undercover agent took the bags and drove away, the United States attorney’s office said.
Officials said the agent posing as the drug broker then paid Mr. Taylor and Mr. Manuel $4,000 each. Officials said the agent paid a total of $44,000 to 16 of the defendants.
The sting also revealed police officers protecting a high-stakes poker game, providing security for the transportation of large amounts of cash and selling powder cocaine, according to Robert D. Grant, special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the F.B.I.
“The almost systemic corruption that this investigation uncovered is quite troubling, especially given that most of those charged are sworn law enforcement officers,” said Mr. Grant in a written statement. “One would have hoped that the many public corruption investigations that have previously been announced would have served to deter this type of conduct. Apparently, that is not the case.”
Efforts to find or contact lawyers for the suspects were not successful on Tuesday evening.
December 2, 2008
New York Times