Tag Archives: FBI

First Amendment Audit: Imperial County Sheriff’s Sgt John Toledano Unlawfully Detains Videographers Filming in Public

California Guardian High Desert Community Watch First Amendment Audit Illegal Detention

Imperial County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Toledano handcuffed and illegally detained “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch” during a First Amendment Audit by order of the FBI for legally filming in public.

Note: The video and description included within this post were shared with Nevada Cop Block via an anonymous reader submission. If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

As is mentioned in the description, this video shows what is known as a “First Amendment Audit.” That consists of going out and filming government buildings and other public property. Oftentimes, the police, security guards, government employees, and even members of the public don’t understand that the First Amendment protects a citizen’s right to take photos and/or record video of anything that is within view of a public place.

Obviously, this video is very much an example of that (commonly referred to as an “audit fail” among those who do them). After initially confronting them and asking for ID, Sgt. Toledano (along with two other unidentified officers) handcuffed the two men who go by the pseudonyms “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch” publicly.

Both of them were then forced to sit in the back of a police vehicle and threatened with trespassing citations, although they never at any time entered private property. According to what Sgt. Toledago states on the video, this illegal detention was at ordered by the FBI. Eventually, they were both released without any charges.

As already stated, you obviously can legally film in public. Also, you are not required to identify yourself unless a police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe you have committed, are in the process of committing, or are about to commit a crime (the requirement to be legally detained). And legally they can’t seize your camera (or any other personal property) unless they have actually arrested you or obtained a warrant or subpoena for specific content on it.

One of the main reasons for doing First Amendment Audits is to test whether the police or security officers understand the law regarding filming in public spaces. Also, part of that reasoning is making them understand that it is legal and thereby deter them from harassing people filming in the future.

Date of Incident: April 11, 2017
Officer Involved: Sgt. John Toledano
Department Involved: Imperial County (CA) Sheriff’s Office
Facebook Page:
Imperial County Sheriff’s Office
Twitter Account:

Instagram Account:
Imperial County Sheriff
Department Phone No.:
(442) 265-2005
Department Email: Sheriff Raymond Loera

Adam (California Guardian) and Phillip (High Desert Community Watch) were down in Imperial County video recording when a Deputy Sheriff, Sgt Toledano, stopped them and unlawfully detained them on behalf of the FBI for the sole intent of identifying them with no suspicion that they had violated any crime.

Adam and Phillip were cuffed, placed in the back of a patrol vehicle and driven down around the corner to await the arrival of the FBI. Adam and Phillip never provided identification and were released after being given detention slips in the name of John Doe.

Both detention slips used Calif. Penal Code 647 (h) – “prowling” – as an excuse. Adam and Philip never entered any private property and remained on the public right of way (sidewalk) during their recording.

The men in the video frequently post First Amendment Audits and other videos to their Youtube channels: “California Guardian” and “High Desert Community Watch.” You can support them by making donations via GoFundMe: California Guardian and High Desert Community Watch News Network. Although they sometimes travel to other areas, as the psuedonyms they use indicate, these two auditors live in Southern California.

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New Years on the Las Vegas Strip: LVMPD Vice Detective Already Under FBI Investigation Accidentally Shot Tourist

Las Vegas Strip New Years Negligent Discharge LVMPD Det Al Beas

LVMPD Vice Detective Al Beas, who is already being investigated as part of an FBI corruption probe, was responsible for a negligent discharge that injured a man on the Las Vegas Strip during New Years.

NYE Negligent Discharge

It turns out that some of the fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip happened after New Years this year. An officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department managed to fire his rifle while moving barriers after the annual party on the Strip ended.

That round from his personal AR-15 (which Metro officers are allowed to carry while on duty) even managed to hit a bystander. Reportedly, two other people in the other thought they had been hit as well, but had no “visible injuries.”

Presumably, the injuries the unidentified man who was shot suffered were minor and resulted from the bullet bouncing off the pavement, rather than a direct impact. However, there are several interesting things about the negligent discharge involving Vegas’ local “Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight” (but does shoot early and often anyway). Prominently, among these is the lack of actual information that has been provided about it.

As mentioned in the video (by “What Happened in Vegas,” director Ramsey Denison) embedded below, the coverage of the incident itself initially received very little coverage locally. The post-NYE press release from the LVMPD didn’t mention it at all and it wasn’t reported by local news until two days later.

Note: If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

Even then, what coverage was provided didn’t even discuss the nature of the injury beyond describing it as “minor.” Early reports also failed to identify the officer involved. It wasn’t until that information was leaked and subsequently reported by independent media sources that some of those blanks started getting filled in.

An obvious reason for this is that attracting tourists to Las Vegas for New Years is one of the biggest cash cows for the casinos located on the Strip. The LVMPD, those casinos, and the city government all go to great lengths to prevent anything getting out that might make people feel unsafe or question whether they should come to Vegas.

That’s especially true after the shooting at the Route 91 Festival on October 1st. As also mentioned in the video below and illustrated within “What Happened in Vegas,” by and large the local media is more than happy to play along with and facilitate that, as well. (The fact that the award winning documentary about corruption and police brutality in Las Vegas has been kept out of theaters within the city is itself an example of that.)

The LVMPD’s Corrupt Vice Squad and the FBI Probe

Beyond that, there might be another reason for the silent treatment. The officer responsible for the negligent discharge is one of the many poster boys (and girls) for corruption in and around the police departments patrolling the Las Vegas area. That officer, Detective Al Beas, is already being investigated by the FBI as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe into the LVMPD Vice Squad.

Several years ago Beas, along with Detective Chris Baughman, Detective Warren Gray, and Lt. Karen Hughes, were praised locally and portrayed in media as a group of crusading heroes that were saving women who had been forced into prostitution. In reality, they themselves were victimizing women and participating in sex trafficking.

Eventually, it was exposed that they were working on the behalf of certain pimps, including record producer and hip-hop artist Mally Mall, to eliminate their competition. Not only were they arresting the rivals of their “clients” they were also sleeping with prostitutes and then coaching those women to act as witnesses against the pimps at trial.

Lt. Hughes and Deputy District Attorney Liz Mercer, the lead prosecutor who convicted those pimps, reportedly were also sexually involved with the detectives and even the prostitutes. Mercer is now married to Det. Baughman, which has been characterized as a tactic to avoid having to testify against him, via spousal privilege.

Several of those pimps, including Arman IzadiOcean FlemingRaymond Sharpe, and Micah Duncan (aka Wheelchair Mike) are seeking new trials based on the revelations from the FBI’s corruption investigation.  So, yet again, due to who is involved this unrelated incident carried the potential to shine a light on a much larger issue that the LVMPD would much rather keep quiet about.

BTW, in spite of stating, “Officers guarding a crowd without intending to use their weapon should not have a round in the chamber,” Metro spokesman Jay Rivera has indicated that Detective Beas is not expected to be disciplined for his negligent discharge. In addition, Las Vegas Police Protective Association President Steve Grammas said he is unaware of anyone ever being fired for an unintentional discharge.

I wonder how that would go if someone without one of those Magic Uniforms that renders its wearer impervious to meaningful consequences for their actions (upto and including murder) had fired off a round (and hit someone), unintentionally or otherwise, on the Strip during New Years.

What Happened in Vegas

As has been detailed numerous times here at NVCopBlock.org, What Happened in Vegas explores the extremely controversial killings of Trevon Cole, Erik Scott, Stanley Gibson, and Tashii Farmer-Brown by Las Vegas police and the cover ups that followed. Several other instances of violent, racist, and/or outright criminal acts by members of the LVMPD are also featured to illustrate the overall systemic corruption within the department.

What Happened in Vegas also addresses several unanswered questions and issues about the investigation surrounding the shootings from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock during the “Route 91 Festival” on Oct. 1st. What Happened in Vegas is currently available on iTunes as well as on VOD (Video on Demand) or DVD.

 

“What Happened in Vegas” Trailer

“What Happened in Vegas” Filmmaker Intro

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Harassed by Police, Secret Service, and FBI at University of Arizona Event Attended by Gov. Ducey, Pres. Trump

Harassment of Cop Blocker by University of Arizona Police

A man legally filming a public event on campus at the University of Arizona found himself being harassed by cops, secret service, and FBI agents.

Note: The video and description included within this post was shared with Nevada Cop Block via reader submission. If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

According to Anthony Potter, who submitted the video, he was attending an event commemorating the appointment of a new president at the University of Arizona. Although he wasn’t personally aware of this, the governor of Arizona and President Trump were also in attendance that day.

Although this event was open to the public and being held on the campus of a public university, the fact that he was not known to others in attendance and was (legally) filming it apparently aroused suspicion. As a result, he was approached by the university police officer, as well as the Secret Service and FBI agents assigned to President Trump. This included one (unidentified) officer who proceeded to position himself right next to Potter.

I was at a ceremony for the new University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins. I was there quietly filming, not aware that Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, and President Donald Trump were also there with various other government representatives.

However, I was quickly made aware of that by a University of Arizona cop. Along with numerous Secret Service and FBI agents, this campus police officer informed me that people in the crowd were “hyper sensitive” about me. His stated reason for that was because I’m a stranger that no-one knows and whom neither works at nor goes to school at the university, even though this was a public event.

In the video, you see our brief conversation regarding profiling and my constitutional rights.

– Anthony Potter

Related Content on NVCopBlock.org:

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  2. Help Wanted! How You Can Become Involved With NVCopBlock
  3. #FTP – How and Why You Should Always Film The Police
  4. Press Passes for Independent Media and Freelance Journalists
  5. How to File a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Request
  6. “Let Me See Your I.D.” Stop and Identify Statutes – Know Your Rights
  7. Beware of Gang Activity in Your Neighborhood!
  8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: The LVMPD’s Killer Reputation
  9. A Video Compilation of Las Vegas Area Police Brutality
  10. Donate to the Cause – Help Us Help You Fight The Power
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Seven Baltimore Police Officers Arrested on Multiple Federal Charges in Racketeering Indictment

Baltimore Gun Task Force Racketeering Indictments

Yesterday, seven cops from the Baltimore Police Department were charged with multiple federal crimes in a racketeering indictment. Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, and Maurice Ward were all accused of “shaking down citizens” for cash, as well as filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims. All seven were part of the “Gun Trace Task Force,” which worked to remove illegal guns from the streets in Baltimore.

In addition, Det. Gondo was also indicted on drug charges with five other people that are not police officers. That indictment included using inside information to tip off drug dealers regarding BPD investigations. Gondo was also accused of being directly involved in the drug operation itself.

The crimes were uncovered in the process of an ongoing probe by the FBI into a pattern of civil rights abuses perpetrated by members of the Baltimore police. That probe was initiated after attention was focused on the city by the murder of Freddie Gray in April of 2015 and the subsequent riots.

Via the Baltimore Sun:

(United States Attorney Rod J.) Rosenstein accused the officers of participating in “a pernicious conspiracy scheme” that “tarnishes the reputation of all police officers.”

“These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it,” he said. “These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

All seven officers appeared in handcuffs and street clothes for initial hearings in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. Each was represented by a court-appointed attorney. Each affirmed he understood the charges against him.

All of the officers were ordered held pending detention hearings. Hearings for Gondo, Hendrix, Hersl, Jenkins, Rayam, and Ward were scheduled for Thursday. A hearing for Taylor was scheduled for Friday.

Prosecutors and the officers’ attorneys will argue at those hearings about whether the officers should be released before their trials.

Family members of several officers were in the courtroom and voiced their support and love before the officers were taken away. Family members declined to comment.

Defense attorneys for the officers said they were still getting acquainted with the allegations in the indictment.

Police union President Gene S. Ryan said union officials were “very disturbed” by the charges against its members.

“These officers are entitled to due process and a fair trial in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our state,” Ryan said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment until the charges leveled against these officers are finally resolved.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said the involvement of federal authorities “confirms the inherent difficulties with the BPD investigating itself,” and warned the indictment would have “pervasive implications on numerous active investigations and pending cases.”

Her office was not involved in the investigation, and was not informed of it until Wednesday morning…

Some of the officers have long been accused of using excessive force or of other wrongdoing. The city has paid out more than $500,000 in settlements in cases involving the officers, according to a review by The Baltimore Sun.

Members of the city’s state legislative delegation called for a federal investigation into Rayam in 2009 after he was involved in three shootings over the course of two years. The city has settled multiple lawsuits involving Hersl.

“The majority of these officers have been known to my attorneys as having significant credibility issues,” Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar said. “We have aggressively been pursuing personnel records to be able to highlight the issues with their credibility on the force.”

Rosenstein said federal prosecutors quietly dropped five cases involving the Gun Trace Task Force while the officers were being investigated.

As recently as October, the Police Department was praising the unit in an internal newsletter for its work getting guns off the streets. The unit made more than 110 gun arrests in less than 11 months last year…

In one incident in September, federal prosecutors said in court papers, the officers stopped an individual leaving a storage facility and said they had a warrant to search his storage unit. They did not, authorities said. Hersl, Jenkins and Rayam then took a sock containing $4,800 and removed $2,000, prosecutors said.

Rayam was recorded telling Gondo that he had “taxed” the man, prosecutors said.

“He won’t say nothing,” Rayam was recorded saying, according to prosecutors.

A month earlier, prosecutors said, officers pulled a man over, detained him and took drugs and $1,700 from him. No incident report was prepared regarding the stop, prosecutors said.

In another incident in July 2016, prosecutors said, they stole $70,000 and divided the money up.

Prosecutors said the officers alerted each other to potential investigations into their activities, coached each other to give false testimony to internal affairs investigators, and turned off their body cameras to avoid recording their encounters.

The criminal activity occurred throughout 2016, prosecutors said. The Justice Department was investigating the department for much of the year.

Justice Department investigators reported that the department routinely violated individuals’ constitutional rights by conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, among other problems. They concluded that those practices overwhelmingly affected residents of poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

The Justice Department and the city agreed to terms of a consent decree in January outlining sweeping reforms to the department. That agreement awaits approval by a federal judge.

“We wouldn’t be under a consent decree if we didn’t have issues,” Davis said. “We have issues.”

Meanwhile, the officers’ work was celebrated by the department. Lt. Chris O’Ree wrote in October that the seizure of 132 guns in less than 11 months was “no small task.”

“Their relentless pursuit to make our streets safer by removing guns and arresting the right people for the right reasons has made our City safer,” O’Ree wrote.

Prosecutors also said the officers filed for overtime they didn’t work. On one day in July 2016, prosecutors said, one of the officers told another about being in the poker room at the Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County. The second officer said he was going to get a drink, prosecutors said. Both filed for overtime that day, prosecutors said.

Jenkins nearly doubled his annual salary of $85,400 with $83,300 in overtime in 2016, prosecutors said. Hersl was paid $66,600 in overtime on top of a base salary of $77,600. Taylor made an extra $56,200 on top of his $66,800 salary.

There’s several things that are interesting about this case. One is the fact that, just several months ago the Baltimore Police Department, who was not informed of the investigation until the indictments were ready to be filed, was praising the great work of these same officers. Despite that praise, even before these indictments, several of them already had a history of misconduct complaints, including allegations of violence.

Beyond that, the very nature of the case involves a bit of irony in the characterization of the crimes committed. In his speech while announcing the indictment, Rosenstein described what they were accused of this way: “These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it. These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

Of course, if they had limited themselves to finding an excuse to stop drivers out on the highway, oftentimes whose only “crime” is having out of state license plates, then they could have legally and without any recourse taken whatever cash those drivers had on them. Such cash seizures require no conviction or even so much as the filing of criminal charges. In reality, you could say that the only difference between what they did and drug forfeiture laws was the part about them personally pocketing the money.

In fact, in essence the only real difference between the officially sanctioned robberies by people wearing Magic Uniforms and the ones these guys will eventually be given probation and/or community service for was that they didn’t give the government its cut of the profits from their self described “taxation.”

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Arizona Chief Deputy Christopher Radtke Who Stole $500,000 Given Misdemeanor Plea Deal and Probation

Chief Deputy Christopher Radtke, the former second in command at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona, has admitted to stealing about $500,000 dollars over the course of six years from federal funds. According to Radtke’s confession, such thefts had been part of an ongoing practice by sheriff’s department personnel going back at least 18 years. Ironically enough, those funds were part of money allotted for RICO investigations and intended to be used for organized crime related offenses, such as embezzlement and money laundering.

Radtke’s thefts were discovered after an article in Arizona Daily Star exposed that a restaurant located within the department run by his niece, Nikki Thompson, had been receiving preferential treatment. That article revealed that the restaurant was allowed to run without legally required permits and that Thompson was not being required to pay any rent for the space where the restaurant was located. The FBI subsequently began an investigation into financial improprieties within the department.

Originally, Deputy Chief Radtke was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and seven other felony counts related to the theft of the funds. However, his plea deal called for him to plead guilty to just three low level misdemeanors, described as having stolen less than $1000 for each charge. When sentenced, his “punishment” will be limited to up to one year of probation. Previously, Radtke was also given the opportunity to resign from the department in order to avoid being fired. Part of his plea agreement is that he will never work as a police officer or within Pima County government, as well.

According to Tucson.com:

The investigation revealed that Radtke embezzled roughly $500,000 that had been seized from criminals under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

RICO funds are intended to be used for crime fighting and prevention, but the indictment says Radtke was misusing those funds, making purchases that didn’t fall under those requirements.

Radtke admitted that for 18 years personnel at the Sheriff’s Department would circumvent the strict restrictions on the use of RICO funds. The officers collaborated to make it appear the department was donating the RICO money to the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers , although the funds were being used by the Sheriff’s Department, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Radtke admitted that he became part of the practice about six years ago, the release said.

The three counts of theft Radtke pleaded guilty to were associated with purchases made in 2011, 2014 and 2015, U.S. Attorney David Backman said in court Friday morning when summarizing the factual basis for Radtke’s guilty pleas.

For all three incidents, Radtke admitted to knowingly converting funds to be used by the auxiliary volunteers with the intention of depriving the owner — the U.S. government — of the use or benefit of the money or property, Backman said.

In 2011, Radtke used a sheriff’s auxiliary volunteers’ check for $926 to reimburse the department’s award banquet. The rest of the check was used to pay for a restaurant bill and a new microwave for the break room at sheriff’s headquarters, Backman said.

Radtke also admitted to using the auxiliary volunteers’ credit card in 2014, to buy two model airplanes for himself and an unnamed colleague, at a cost of $599 plus $90 for shipping. Five days later, he used the card again to pay $50 rush shipping for the airplanes, Backman said.
In 2015, Radtke used another auxiliary volunteers’ check, this time to pay an artist $500 to make a menu for the chalkboard at sheriff’s headquarters, owned by his niece, Nikki Thompson, Backman said.

The FBI investigation began after a November 2015 Star story about Thompson running cafes inside the sheriff’s headquarters and the jail without a county contract and rent-free.

Public-records requests revealed the Sheriff’s Department spent more than $30,000 on renovations and equipment, the Star reported in November 2015.

While the indictment listed a conspiracy charge and mentioned “other persons known and unknown to the grand jury,” no one else has been charged in connection with the investigation.

“I’m a little concerned about the plea agreement being for three misdemeanors, when he was charged with seven felonies,” said Sgt. Kevin Kubitskey, chairman of the Pima County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and one of several department employees who came forward to the FBI to corroborate the allegations of misuse of funds. “The men and women of the PCDSA want to know why, and we’re hoping that some explanation is given to us.”

While it was a relief to finally hear Radtke admit wrongdoing and acknowledge this practice has been going on for 18 years, Kubitskey was also concerned the conspiracy wasn’t addressed in the plea.

“I hope that the U.S. attorney realizes the jeopardy people were in by giving all of this information,” Kubitskey said. “I worry that people may not come forward in future situations like this, because of this type of low plea.”

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier was disheartened by Radtke’s admission that the illicit financial practices had been going on for nearly two decades, and said that the department is working hard to move forward and restore the public’s trust.

“It’s disappointing that such a long-existing conspiracy involving criminal corruption is coming to and end with three misdemeanor convictions and a year of probation,” Napier said.

Of course, nobody else involved in this little scheme to turn public funds into a personal slush fund, during Radtke’s time or during the twelve years (at least) prior, have been charged or seemingly even investigated.

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Fourteen Members of “Law Enforcement” Charged As Result Of An FBI Drug Sting in North Carolina

Earlier this week, it was announced that after a two year long drug sting involving the FBI a total of fourteen members of law enforcement have been charged with drug crimes, including eleven within the state of North Carolina. According to WRAL-TV, all of the arrestees from North Carolina have confessed since being arrested. It wasn’t clear if that was part of a plea deal or if they simply chose to confess (my money is on door #1).

The arrests for charges related to cocaine and heroin included eight current or former police officers, three correctional officers, two Virginia prison employees, and one 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher, as well as all eight of the law enforcement  officers except one work or had worked for the Northampton County (NC) Sheriff’s Office. That includes five current and two former NCSO deputies.

Via WSPA News 7:

Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, said multiple people were arrested in a major sting of cocaine and heroin operations. Those arrested include five current members of the Northampton County sheriff’s office.

They were charged with trafficking cocaine and heroin up and down the I-95 corridor.

On Wednesday in court, prosecutors showed photos and video of alleged wrong-doing, WRAL reported.

“They all gave some sort of confession,” a prosecutor told the judge, according to the TV station. “Each of these defendants admitted to their involvement.”

Nine of the officers were not granted bail on Wednesday because the judge said he needed more time to review the case, according to WRAL.

Walker said there were arrests at an airport in Halifax County and a warehouse in Rocky Mount. A second group was arrested at a warehouse in Rocky Mount. The undercover operation, called “Operation Rockfish,” has been ongoing for about a year and a half…

Arrested were:

  • Ikeisha Jacobs, 32, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jason Boon, 29, a Northampton deputy
  • Jimmy Pair, 48, a Northampton deputy
  • Curtis Boone, 31, a Northampton deputy
  • Thomas Jefferson Allen II, 37, a Northampton deputy
  • Wardie Vincent Jr., 35, a former Northampton deputy
  • Cory Jackson, 43, formerly with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Antonio Tillmon, 31, a Windsor City policeman
  • Adrienne Moody, 39, a North Carolina correctional officer
  • Alaina Sue Kamling, 27, a North Carolina correctional officer
  • Kavon Phillips, 25, a North Carolina correctional officer
  • Lann Tjuan Clanton, 36, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections
  • Alphonso Ponton, 42, a Virginia correctional officer
  • Tohsa Dailey, 31, a 911 dispatch operator for Northampton County
  • Crystal Pierce, 31, of Raleigh

FBI Agent John Strong, who said he and the other agents involved were shocked (I tellya!) by the involvement of police officers, characterized it as “a breach of the public’s trust” in which those officers used their positions “to line their own pockets.”

Another guy who is shocked (I tellya!) is Northhampton County Sheriff Jack Smith, who saw roughly 15% of his 35 deputy department marched away in handcuffs, as a result of the case. He agreed with Agent Strong that this type of thing just cannot be tolerated, especially from members of law enforcement, stating:

“They’ve let me down. They’ve let the sheriff’s office down,” Smith said. “They’ve let the citizens down as well as their families. Most of them have children and they’ve let the down as well.”

For the record, guess who is not surprised at all by this and won’t be in any way surprised when they all get light sentences and possibly even just probation. (I’m talking about me, in case that isn’t really obvious.)

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Best Buy’s Geek Squad Accused of Being a “Branch of the FBI” Over Hard Drive Data Searches

A lawyer representing a man facing trial over data found on the hard drive of his computer while he was having it repaired at Best Buy has exposed the fact that the FBI maintains a policy of paying “Geek Squad” supervisors for reporting potentially illegal content they find on customers’ computers.

Beyond the simple breach of trust that this entails between a business and its customers this also poses some security issues, due to the fact that it has prompted Best Buy employees to probe beyond what would be necessary to perform the services they were contracted to conduct.

Within that context, the nature of the paid relationship between those supervisors and the FBI also raises many issues of the legalities of circumventing evidentiary rules that normally apply to searches. Defense attorney James D. Riddet even went so far as to say that Best Buy could be effectively acting as a branch of the FBI.

Via the Washington Post:

At a giant Best Buy repair shop in Brooks, Ky., Geek Squad technicians work on computers owned by people across the country, delving into them to retrieve lost data. Over several years, a handful of those workers have notified the FBI when they see signs of child pornography, earning payments from the agency.

The existence of the small cadre of informants within one of the country’s most popular computer repair services was revealed in the case of a California doctor who is facing federal charges after his hard drive was flagged by a technician. The doctor’s lawyers found that the FBI had cultivated eight “confidential human sources” in the Geek Squad over a four-year period, according to a judge’s order in the case, with all of them receiving some payment.

The case raises issues about privacy and the government use of informants. If a customer turns over their computer for repair, do they forfeit their expectation of privacy, and their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches? And if an informant is paid, does it compromise their credibility or effectively convert them into an agent of the government?

Best Buy searching a computer is legal — the customer authorized it, and the law does not prohibit private searches. But if Best Buy serves as an arm of the government, then a warrant or specific consent is needed. And a federal judge in the child pornography case against Mark Rettenmaier is going to allow defense attorneys to probe the relationship between Best Buy and the FBI at a hearing in Los Angeles starting Wednesday.

“Their relationship is so cozy,” said defense attorney James D. Riddet, “and so extensive that it turns searches by Best Buy into government searches. If they’re going to set up that network between Best Buy supervisors and FBI agents, you run the risk that Best Buy is a branch of the FBI.”The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment. Federal prosecutors argued in California that when a technician doing repairs “stumbles across images of child pornography” and the government wasn’t aware of the search, “the technician is clearly not performing the search with the intent of assisting law enforcement efforts.”

Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said in a statement Monday that “Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI. From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair.”

Shelman added, “Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior.” Court records did not detail how often or how much the technicians were paid, other than one $500 payment to one supervisor.

But emails between Geek Squad technicians and FBI agents in the Louisville field office indicate a long-running relationship. In revealing those publicly in a Dec. 19 order, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney required technicians and agents to take the witness stand this week. The ruling was first reported by Orange County Weekly.

Many of the documents establishing the ties between the FBI and the technicians are sealed, but Carney discussed some in his order. He noted that the FBI acknowledged it considered technician supervisor Justin Meade a confidential human source for all but a few months between October 2008 and November 2012.

Different agents handled the Geek Squad technicians, Carney wrote. In October 2009, Agent Jennifer Cardwell emailed Meade to express interest in meeting “to discuss some other ideas for collaboration,” Carney disclosed.

In an internal FBI communication in July 2010, Agent Tracey L. Riley told her supervisor that “Source reported all has been quiet for about the last 5-6 months, however source agreed that once school started again, they may see an influx of CP [child pornography].” Meade was later identified as the “source.” Other internal communications show the “source” referring possible cases to Riley from computers sent to the Geek Squad from across the country.

“This two-way thoroughfare of information,” Riddet, the defense attorney. argued in his motion to suppress the evidence, “suggests that the FBI considers [Meade] . . . to be a partner in the ongoing effort of law enforcement to detect and prosecute child pornography violators. . . . Here it is very clear that Best Buy, and specifically the supervisor who reports its technician’s discovery of ‘inappropriate’ content on customers’ computers, are not only working together, but actually planning to conduct more such searches in the future.”

Obviously, since this is a case that involves someone accused of possessing child porn, that obfuscates the issues a bit. However, the larger issue is that the government always expands their abuses, especially in relation to privacy issues. This is, in fact, a perfect example of that and of the ultimate dangers from it.

Originally, computer techs who came across things of that nature would report it, but they weren’t actively searching for incriminating data. Now however, the Feds actually have employees of computer stores on the payroll creating an incentive for them to look for a reason to report their unwitting customers to law enforcement.

As the Washington Post story points out, that includes evidence of an ambiguous nature that potentially wasn’t placed on the computer by its current owner. That sort of evidence would not hold up in court, but because it’s coming from a perceived third hand source it is now accepted as legitimate.

Big Brother has found his latest loophole and it won’t be long before they expand it to other information and potential thought crimes.

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Texas Judge Abel Limas Casually Discusses Accepting Bribes During Recorded Phone Calls

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader who goes by the pseudonym “The Poor & Unknown,” via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It details the case of a Texas District Court judge who basically put his services within the courtroom up for sale, accepting bribes from lawyers in civil rights lawsuits. In exchange for ruling in their favor during pretrial motions (thus avoiding having to present the case to a jury), Judge Abel Limas was payed kickbacks from portions of the damages awarded.

In order to facilitate this, some attorneys actually placed Judge Limas on the payroll of their firm and paid him a counsel fee. In the most prominent case mentioned below, he pocketed $250,000 from an award in a case involving a helicopter crash. Eventually, Limas was caught by the FBI, who recorded him talking about the deals he was making with those attorneys on the phone. (One of those phone calls is embedded below.)

Once he realized that they had enough evidence to convict him, Judge Limas made a deal to act as an informant. As a result of that ten other corrupt officials were also convicted. This included Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who accepted an $80,000 bribe to release a murder suspect without bail. That murder suspect subsequently skipped bail and is now a fugitive.

The details of that FBI deal showed that Judge Limas still has a gift for working out a deal to his benefit. Once Limas was finally sentenced for racketeering in 2013, he was allowed to serve his time at the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp in Florida. That prison has been described as one of “America’s cushiest” prisons. It’s anything but hard time as described by Valley Central.com:

Forbes Magazine once ranked the prison camp as No. 2 out of “America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons.”

According to a the magazine, inmates get to visit with their families in a tree-filled park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Forbes reported that because the prison camp is located on an outlying base of the Pensacola Naval Air Station allowing inmates enjoy better jobs and recreational activities than those at other federal prisons.

The magazine reported that one high-profile white collar crime inmate got an air-conditioned office job on the base and got to see movies at a theater for servicemen.

Ironically, in that recorded phone call embedded below judge Limas joked about “leaving the money to you and going to jail for five years.” His sentence for the racketeering conviction ended up being six years.

Public Corruption: Courtroom for Sale

Abel Limas, 59, a lifelong resident of Brownsville, Texas, served as a police officer and practiced law before becoming a state judge in Cameron County in 2001. He served eight years on the bench, during which time he turned his courtroom into a criminal enterprise to line his own pockets.

“The depth of the corruption was shocking,” said Mark Gripka, a special agent in our San Antonio Division who was part of the team that investigated the case. “What was more shocking was how cheaply Judge Limas sold his courtroom—$300 here, $500 there—in return for a favorable ruling.”

There was plenty of big money involved as well. Limas received more than $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks while he was on the bench. He took money from attorneys with civil cases pending in his court in return for favorable pre-trial rulings, most notably in a case involving a Texas helicopter crash that was later settled for $14 million. Referring to an $8,000 payment Limas received in that case, our investigators listened on the telephone as he described the cash to an accomplice as eight golf balls. “Their code language didn’t fool anybody,” Gripka said.

Evidence also showed that Limas made a deal with the attorneys in the helicopter crash case to become an “of counsel” attorney with the firm. He was promised an advance of $100,000 and 10 percent of the settlement—all while the case was still pending in his court.

Over a 14-month period beginning in November 2007, investigators used court-authorized wiretaps to listen to the judge’s phone calls. “That’s when we really learned the scope of what he was doing,” Gripka explained. The judge’s nearly $100,000 annual salary was not enough to support his lifestyle, which included regular gambling trips to Las Vegas.

In 2010, when Limas was faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he began to cooperate in a wider public corruption investigation—and our agents learned that the Cameron County district attorney at the time, Armando Villalobos, was also corrupt. The investigation showed, among other criminal activities, that Villalobos accepted $80,000 in cash in exchange for taking actions that allowed a convicted murderer to be released for 60 days without bond prior to reporting to prison. The murderer failed to report to prison and remains a fugitive.

Limas pled guilty to racketeering in 2011. By that time, he had helped authorities uncover wide-ranging corruption in the Cameron County judicial system. To date, 10 other defendants have been convicted by a jury or pled guilty as part of the FBI’s six-year investigation, including a former Texas state representative, three attorneys, a former investigator for the district attorney’s office, and Villalobos, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month on racketeering, extortion, and bribery charges.

“During the course of this investigation, FBI interviewed over 800 people, including many local attorneys in Cameron County,” Gripka said. The scumbags are all in it together the judges, cops, attorneys the whole lot of these devil’s.

– The Poor and Unknown

Abel Limas describes the bribery plot to an accomplice in a phone call that was recorded by the FBI via a wiretap. A transcript is also available here. Hear the judge for yourself explain how he steals money. He was caught in a recording red handed the RAT SNAKE.

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Iowa Police Chief Jeffrey Filloon Indicted For Selling Impounded Cars and Guns Stolen From Evidence

Chief Jeffrey Filloon, who resigned in August 2015 as the police chief in Tama, Iowa, was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 6th. He’s accused of selling several guns that were stolen from the department evidence room, as well as at least four cars that had been impounded. He also was charged with making false statements to an FBI agent during an investigation into the fraudulent sales.

Via the Courier:

Authorities allege Filloon took at least three firearms and four vehicles between August 2013 and March 2015.

One of the weapons, a Mossberg 12-gauge pump shotgun, had been held as evidence and was sold to General Store Pawn and Gun in Marshalltown for $200 in August. 2013.

Later that same month, Filloon sold a .45-caliber Keckler and Hoch UPS pistol to the same shop for $450, court records state. That weapon had been the duty gun of a Tama officer who surrendered it to the department when he retired in 2012.

Another firearm that was being held as evidence, a .44-caliber black powder revolver, was sold to the Marshalltown shop for $75 in Mach (sic) 2014.

Also in March 2014, Filloon allegedly sold a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix, a 1994 Ford Econoline F150 van and a 1994 Ford Explorer to Sandhill Auto Salvage for Tama for $650, court records state. He allegedly requested the check be made out to him instead of the city, records state.

That same month, he returned with a 1996 Chevrolet Silverado pickup and sold it for $250, claiming it was his person vehicle, record state (sic).

The false statement charges stem from statements Filloon allegedly made to an FBI agent who was investigating the weapons and vehicles in May 2016. He allegedly told the agent a relative of the shotgun’s owner told him he could keep the firearm instead of returning it to a family member, court records state. He also allegedly told the agent he had purchased the Silverado before selling it to the salvage company, records state.

Personally, I’m not sure why people are giving this Hero a hard time about all this. It’s been pretty well established that police evidence lockers are really just a slush fund for hardworking cops and that telling the truth is completely optional under their list of job requirements. This stressed out Good Cop, who was obviously just trying to do his job and following orders, should be reinstated and given some sort of officer of the year award immediately. At least we know he’ll get the typical Policeman’s Discount and in the end won’t have to face any sort of real consequences for his “illegal” actions.

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Customs Officer Convicted of Stealing Over $65,000 Worth of Checks From International Mail

Carlos Canjura, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the International Mail Facility in Torrance, California, was convicted of nine counts related to a mail theft ring he had set up. Canjura’s  job consisted of inspecting incoming mail from outside the country for contraband, counterfeit goods, and possible fraudulent financial checks or credit cards. Instead, he used that access to steal checks and money orders from the mail. He then had accomplices launder the money by depositing them using forged signatures.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of stealing three checks totaling $15,000. However, during the ensuing investigation it was determined that he had actually stolen more than a hundred checks with a cumulative value exceeding $65,000. He was convicted on all charges, which included multiple counts each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and possession of stolen mail.

Via a U.S. Department of Justice press release:

During the three-day trial, federal prosecutors proved that the defendant stole personal checks, traveler’s checks and money orders from international mail. Canjura then informed his co-conspirator about the stolen checks using messages with coded language like “centurions,” “troops,” “projects” and “cases” to refer to the checks. Canjura gave the stolen checks to his co-conspirator, who fraudulently endorsed the checks or altered them before depositing the checks at ATMs or through mobile phone applications. Canjura stole well over 100 checks with a cumulative value of at least $65,000.

“The public is entitled to use the mail system without fear that officials charged with safeguarding the mail are abusing it for their own benefit,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant not only abused his position as a federal officer by stealing international mail, he also used the stolen mail in an elaborate scheme to defraud banks. In so doing, he violated the public trust he swore to serve.”

Canjura is scheduled to be sentenced on March 6 by United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell. At sentencing, Canjura will face a statutory maximum sentence of 145 years.

That does sound like quite the elaborate code. Incidentally, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for him to be sentenced to 145 years. My money’s on a really hurtful period of probation and a very sore wrist.

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