Sunrise, Fla., Cops Take Forfeiture Abuse to the Next Level by Becoming Cocaine Dealers

"I'd like a camomile tea with soy milk and bring more Stevia packets, please."Credit: insider_monkey / Foter / CC BY-NDRemarkable reporting from the Sun Sentinel of Broward County in Florida details the amazing lengths the narcotics unit of Sunrise, Fla., (population: 88,843) pursue in order to rake in both overtime and the revenue from seizing property. Simply put, they are dealing cocaine, using paid informants to lure in desperate wanna-be “middle men” from across the country with the promise of profits for their involvement in the drug trade, then arresting these people and taking all their belongings:

Undercover detectives and their army of informants lure big-money drug buyers into the city from across the United States, and from as far north as Canada and as far south as Peru. They negotiate the sale of kilos of cocaine in popular family restaurants, then bust the buyers and seize their cash and cars.

Police confiscate millions from these deals, money that fuels huge overtime payments for the undercover officers who conduct the drug stings and cash rewards for the confidential informants who help detectives entice faraway buyers, a six-month Sun Sentinel investigation found.

Police have paid one femme fatale informant more than $800,000 over the past five years for her success in drawing drug dealers into the city, records obtained by the newspaper show.

Some relevant bullet-points:

  • The police set up the deal locations where the busts take place, not the alleged crooks. They are the ones arranging potentially dangerous confrontations outside of places like McDonald’s and T.G.I. Friday’s, where people take their families:

In a 2010 deposition, one defense attorney asked a Sunrise cop: “Would you take your wife shopping in that plaza if you knew a deal was going down that afternoon?”

The reply: “Probably not.”

  • Only seven of the 190 arrests from these operations since 2009 were of people who lived in Sunrise. All the rest were lured into the city from elsewhere by this operation.
  • Forfeiture cases are frequently decided before criminal cases are even resolved. For example, Sunrise has been awarded $23,000 in cash from one of these busts even though the criminal case hasn’t even yet gone to trial.
  • Of all the busts in this operation, only two received the mandatory-minimum 15-year sentence for actual cocaine trafficking. Despite police claims, they do not appear to be snagging big drug war players, and the juries are realizing it:

Sunrise police, in many of their affidavits and arrest reports, state that they are apprehending significant members of drug trafficking organizations who want large sources of cocaine to expand their illegal businesses. But those same reports quote culprits saying they were recruited to be lookouts or mules or brokers — middlemen earning only hundreds or a few thousand dollars to deliver the money or collect the cocaine.

Defense attorneys say the stings have swept up people who are not in the drug trade but are down on their luck, persuaded by informants to do a deal to earn fast money in hard times.

Sunrise informants “tend to go after people who they know are in financial distress and they offer them a deal that they can’t resist,” said Broward defense attorney Kevin Kulik, who has represented defendants arrested in Sunrise stings. “They offer them the deal of a lifetime.”

One of Kulik’s clients busted in these reverse stings was an unemployed real estate agent who had filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Now he has even less, obviously.

  • Most of the detectives in the narcotics unit are pulling in annual overtime payments in the five figures. One sergeant has pulled in $240,000 in overtime in three-and-a-half years. His total compensation during this time frame was $630,000.

There is so much more in the Sun Sentinel’s very thorough reporting. Reporters reviewed hundreds of documents and had to sue the city to get some information. Read the whole story here and how they got it here. In April, the newspaper won a Pulitzer prize for detailing widespread and dangerous speeding by southern Florida law enforcement officials. Looks like they’re angling for another one.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    I foresee many paid vacations over this scandal.

  • Drake||

    What about my OT? How am I supposed to make my boat payment?

  • Pro Libertate||

    If you vacation more than forty hours a week, you get overtime. Union rules, you know.

  • Brett L||

    Hopefully, this can be used to revisit asset forfeiture in the Sunshine State. Realistically, not a fucking chance.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's so obviously unconstitutional, yet, once again, the Supreme Court gave it the stamp of approval, anyway. I think because it's a tax or something.

  • Brett L||

    We could forbid it somewhere in our larded-up state constitution, right?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Sure. Get it on the ballot, then the Florida Supreme Court will remove it as improperly limiting government's fundamental right to govern.

  • Brett L||

    I just... we really don't live in a free country anymore, do we? Fuck.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, it's free. So long as you obey the laws you know, don't know, and didn't even suspect you didn't know. Also so long as your politics match the federal administration's, and you do pretty much no business of any kind overseas.

  • sarcasmic||

    You're free to ask permission and take orders. What more do you want?

  • Pro Libertate||

    You're free to obey orders.

  • sarcasmic||

    Good catch.

  • Brett L||

    I was hoping for some actual self-ownership.

  • Pro Libertate||

    For the moment, you can think anything you want, provided that you do it secretly, without any outward manifestation.

  • Rich||

    This. Within three generations, actual thought monitoring will be routine.

  • Snark Plissken||

    I'm about to sit down and eat a sandwich at this amazing deli run by two faggtots in Chelsea.

  • Paul.||

    Remarkable reporting from the Sun Sentinel of Broward County

    Broward county? This is Bush's fault. I know it.

  • Andrew S.||

    Also from the article

    MOST MONEY
    Top cities in Broward and Palm Beach counties for forfeiture revenues, 2011 and 2012.
    1.Sunrise: $5,882441
    2.Fort Lauderdale: $1,830,164
    3.Coconut Creek: $1,516,229
    4.Coral Springs: $1,507,646
    5.West Palm Beach: $1,292,251
    6.Hollywood: $1,007,948
    7.Miramar: $695,857
    8.Pembroke Pines: $650,094
    9.Boca Raton: $516,300
    10.Boynton Beach: $424,057

    Reasonaly sure that all of these cities (except for maybe Coconut Creek) have larger populations than Sunrise.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, Sunrise is a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale.

  • Andrew S.||

    I am aware of that (I live in Pembroke Pines)

    Living near Sunrise also means that I spend a lot of time near the Sawgrass Mills mall with my wife and kid (and have eaten at that TGI Fridays several times). So eff these cops. I mean, even more so than usual.

  • Libertymike||

    Things jammed on the Sawgrass Parkway this morning?

  • Andrew S.||

    No clue. Work in downtown Fort Lauderdale, so it's 595 to work every morning. Which has been a nightmare with the construction.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I just realized everyone of those cities is in Broward or Dade counties.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Oops - Broward, Dade, or West Palm Beach counties.

  • Ross||

    I'm no lawyer but isn't this entrapment?

  • Butler||

    Probably, but the rules for entrapment are so narrow (and so narrowly applied) that it's a difficult defense. The defendant has to show that he was not already predisposed to commit the crime. Not an easy standard in this criminal justice/War on Drugs climate.

    That being said, it's the civil forfeiture that is really F'd up. That's what's driving the city to seek out offenders whose shit they can take. Why else would they want to lure criminals from OUTSIDE of their city INTO their city. Completely ridiculous.

  • sarcasmic||

    The clever thing about asset forfeiture is that it deprives the person of the ability to defend themselves, effectively forcing them into a plea bargain.

  • sarcasmic||

    Let's see. You lure people in with a prospect of a big payday. Then charge them with felonies, take away everything they own so they have no means of defending themselves, and provide a public pretender whose job is to get plea bargains for the DA. Looks like a nice racket.

  • thom||

    In 20 years, when whatever free places still exist on Earth have turned against the USA, it will be the kind of story they tell their children to convey the evils of tyrannical government.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Parents in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc aren't ALREADY telling their kids these stories?

  • pan fried wylie||

    (not to imply the freeness of those countries, but rather their terrorist-production capacity)

  • Loki||

    Not so much these exact stories. They're too busy teaching their kids to take cover when they hear a buzzing sound overhead because it may be a drone inbound to tell them "And oh yeah, by the way, stay out of Sunrise, FL because the cops are a bunch of assholes."

  • Invisible Finger||

    We used to do the same thing in this country.

    Then public schools.

  • playa manhattan||

    If I were TGIFridays or Mcdonalds, I would demand a cut of the action, say 20%...

  • Paul.||

    Cops that agree to this shit are no better than the drug dealers themselves. Arguably, they're worse.

  • sarcasmic||

    Solving murders is difficult and doesn't come with a payday. They're only responding to incentives.

  • Libertymike||

    "Arguably"?

  • Kaptious Kristen||

    Since most drug dealers aren't the nasty boogeymen you seem to think they are, yeah. The cops are not only "no better", they're much, much worse.

  • Paul.||

    Since most drug dealers aren't the nasty boogeymen you seem to think they are,

    I'm of course referring to the drug lords who mastermind the major distribution networks and are predisposed to killing their competition.

  • waffles||

    What percentage of people willing to drive to some Florida hellhole looking to turn around a small-ish volume of coke are some kind of drug lord?

  • Paul.||

    The cops.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I'm of course referring to the drug lords who mastermind the major distribution networks and are predisposed to killing their competition.

    Aka, The guys who will never get caught.

  • thom||

    Horrible people who kill each other while trying to stay off everybody else's radar?

  • ||

    Yeah, the only difference here between the police and any other armed gang are nicer uniforms and better PR.

  • Brett L||

    Having a Big Brother with more guns to call is nice, too.

  • Andrew S.||

    And as much as I like some of the Sun-Sentinel's stories on police misconduct, too often they still act as glorified PR flacks for the police department (as an example, this article http://www.sun-sentinel.com/ne.....0382.story about license plate cameras)

  • Kaptious Kristen||

    Old people love the cops, and old people really love the cops making war on drugs. Makes them feel safe for some illogical reason.

  • Drake||

    Until they start looking at prescription drugs...

  • Mr. Soul||

    Old people like TGI Fridays too.

    If one of these stings goes bad at 2pm during the Early Bird, it can turn a bunch of them on the issue.

    They'll take to the streets before they give up their tenderloin 'n potato for $4.95.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'm no lawyer but isn't this entrapment?

    It's only entrapment when a cop gets caught.

  • playa manhattan||

    Is being a paid informant an under-the-table gig, or do the police 1099 you every time you rat someone out?

  • pan fried wylie||

    1099. So when you don't file, or file wrong, they can confiscate your informant-pay then toss you in a cell with the guy you ratted out.

  • ||

    Foreshadowing in the alt-text, nicely done Shackford.

    I'm no lawyer but isn't this entrapment?

    Not if a judge and jury think you're a coke sniffing drug fiend that's a danger to our children.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Undercover detectives and their army of informants lure big-money drug buyers into the city from across the United States, and from as far north as Canada and as far south as Peru. They negotiate the sale of kilos of cocaine in popular family restaurants, then bust the buyers and seize their cash and cars.


    So, the cops in Sunrise are like the Craigslist killer? Luring unsuspecting idiots to their doom? Except with badges?

  • mr lizard||

    I bet none of these guys are actually hard core. The cops are not dumb enough to lure in truly dangerous people into oldie whitieVille. That and they don't want to piss themselves in a shoot out at TGIF.

  • Brandon||

    Semi-OT: The recently-revealed undercover cop riding with the bike mob that beat the guy in the SUV half to death last week was an active participant in the attack.

    http://investigations.nbcnews......v#comments

    Thugs with badges.

  • sarcasmic||

    And he's in deep trouble. Not for participating in the attack, or for doing nothing to stop it. No, he's in deep trouble because he didn't immediately inform his supervisors. Had he immediately informed his supervisors he would not be in any trouble at all.

  • Andrew S.||

    I'm shocked. SHOCKED!

    Okay, not that shocked.

    Wonder how awful his punishment will be. Will he get 2 weeks paid vacation suspension? Or will he just be on "modified desk duty" for a while, still getting union-mandated overtime?

  • Bryan C||

    Maybe they'll transfer him to the National Park Service. Guys like this are better suited to rural enforcement duty. Fewer witnesses.

  • some guy||

    I haven't seen the video, but can someone explain how a bunch of bikes managed to stop an SUV. If I were driving an SUV and some bikes started breaking my windows I'd start turning them into speed bumps.

  • Brandon||

    He got stuck in traffic and they slashed his tires. He did run over a couple of them before that.

  • some guy||

    I still don't see how you get stuck in traffic in an SUV. If people are assaulting you, traffic laws and right-of-way no longer apply.

  • Brandon||

    Not saying he handled it in the best way, but the articles say he got stuck in traffic and his tires got slashed. Besides, in Bloombergistan I don't think self defense overrides any kind of regulation. If he had jumped a curb he probably wouldn've been executed.

  • tarran||

    He was hemmed in on a road with no shoulder or breakdown lane.

    But if I were in his situation, I wouldn't have stopped in traffic.

    I would have reversed.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I would have reversed.

    Jesus people, it's only in every movie with a car chase.

    *chase-ee gets cut off, looks in the rearview, then burns rubber and reverses at 60mph before a quick twist of the wheel, some slick heel-toe action, and he's speeding off the way he came, passing the now-stunned pursuers.*

    Car-chase 101

  • Snark Plissken||

    The Rockford!

  • Robert||

    That's not how you do it. Do it the low-speed way as in The In-Laws.

  • Bryan C||

    The driver attempted to escape the rabid pack of bikers by leaving the highway. They followed him and assaulted them when he was forced to stop for cross traffic.

    And he also was driving on a shredded tire. Runflats are looking better and better.

  • KDN||

    He started turning them into speed bumps before they started breaking his windows. Once he got caught in the inevitable traffic up the road he had nowhere to go.

  • waffles||

    Differences between GTA and real life, traffic.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD detectives' union, the Detectives' Endowment Association, said the undercover officer had to make a difficult decision.

    "Compromising his identity could compromise all the work he's doing and his safety as well," said Palladino. "It's very difficult to lead a double life."

    He was forced to smash out the back window in order to keep his street cred, poor sap. It's a terrible price they pay, these heroes.

  • Robert||

    There's got to be a way I could work this from the other end and score a free Fla. vacation. You know, float word via shills that I've got some money but am desperate, get the cops to pay for my T & E.

    Maybe I could even work a version of the pigeon drop on the cops. Like during negotiations, I insist we put down deposits with a restaurant employee before I come back with the cash for the goods. Mine is a Michigan bankroll, but the restaurant employee who was "just selected" is a confederate of mine who counts my money and pronounces it all there. Then we disappear.

  • anon||

    You stupid teathuglicans just want our children to die from drug overdoses!!!111

  • pan fried wylie||

    hmmmm, drug overdoses or police bullets.

    Yeah, I'd rather the children die from the former, since lines of coke don't fly through walls and hit innocent bystanders.

  • anon||

    But if they did... how awesome would that be?

  • anon||

    Also, I really want someone to go down there with a small army and light those cops up the next time they try this shit.

  • some guy||

    It looks like these cops weren't trying to rope in real drug dealers. They were going after inexperienced people who were having financial trouble and needed money quick. If these cops ever thought their "mark" was the real deal they would have broken off contact immediately.

  • sarcasmic||

    On the one hand that would be beautiful to watch, but the aftermath would be terrible. Look at what they did in Boston to catch one guy, and imagine what they'd do to get a small army. And the resulting cries for gun registration and confiscation would be deafening. An event like that could very well lead to a revolution or a total police state.

  • some guy||

    Don't worry sarcasmic, the cops are smart enough to avoid interacting with the truly dangrous elements in our society.

  • sarcasmic||

    Interact with them? I thought they actively recruited them.

  • KDN||

    An event like that could very well lead to a revolution or a total police state.

    Why not both?

  • ||

    In the immortal words of NWA: Fuck tha police!

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