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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

15 officers caught in FBI drug sting

"I ain't always been in law enforcement," a Harvey cop allegedly bragged to the drug dealer whose business he was paid to protect. "I sold a lot of weight at a young age, I just never got caught."

His luck ran out Tuesday, though, as federal authorities unsealed charges against the Harvey police officer and 14 other law-enforcement officers.

The drug dealer was an undercover FBI agent who secretly recorded his conversations. Two civilians were also charged.

The FBI said it launched the yearlong sting after widespread reports from informants and other cops that law-enforcement officers in southern Cook County were engaging in robbery, extortion and distribution of narcotics and weapons.

"When drug dealers deal drugs, they ought to be afraid of the police—not turn to them for help," U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said during a news conference announcing the charges.

Authorities charged 10 Cook County corrections officers and sheriff's deputies, four Harvey police officers and one Chicago officer with providing protection for what they thought were a dozen large-scale shipments of cocaine and heroin.

The transactions took place from August 2007 to August 2008 in parking lots throughout the south suburbs, as well as one at DuPage Airport.

Assigned to ferret out police corruption, the undercover FBI agent took a job at the Skybox, a strip club in Harvey, sources said. Posing as a big-time drug broker, he convinced Ahyetoro "Red" Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both corrections officers, to assist him and reach out to friends to work security as well.

The officers were told to carry their weapons and badges and use them to fend off anyone who might try to interfere in the deal, including other dealers or suspicious police officers, authorities charged.

The 15 officers shared in a combined $44,000 in payoffs for their illicit security work, a total of $400 to $4,000 for each deal, according to the charges. [Mark Godsey]

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