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South Florida Cops Convicted of Questionable Felonies After Whistleblowing Complaint

 

Every day we read stories of cops gone bad, abusing the power of their badge, only to get free passes from their superiors, leaving us wondering why don’t the good cops, if there are any, ever speak up.

But if we look a little deeper, we will realize that those cops who do speak up end up getting retaliated against, their lives turned into a living hell, resulting in termination, hospitalization and even incarceration.

Police call it the Blue Code of Silence, that unwritten rule that you turn the other way when you see an officer abuse his power. Not much different than Omerta, the deadly code of silence within the mafia.

Take the case of New York City police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who had spent almost a year secretly recording conversations with superiors encouraging officers to meet arrest quotas, even if it meant making unlawful arrests on innocent citizens, while refusing to take valid complaints from citizens in order to keep crime stats down.

When he took the evidence to investigators, they began retaliating against him with intimidation tactics, eventually forcing their way into his home and dragging him to a hospital where he remained in the psychiatric ward for six days against his will.

The Village Voice has covered that story extensively, including posting audio clips of the chilling exchange between the officers and himself when they entered his apartment and forced him to go to a hospital as well as clips of the original recordings that he brought before investigators.

Schoolcraft, whose is still suspended without pay, has filed a suit, which is still pending.

Then there’s the case of Florida Highway Patrol officer Donna Watts, who made national news in 2011 when she pulled over a speeding Miami police officer for speeding, handcuffing him in an incident captured on her dash cam.

While many of us applauded her, police officers from various departments retaliated, not just against her, but against any FHP officer, including covering a patrol car in excrement. Police officers throughout the state logged onto a database to obtain her personal information, including her home address and social security number.

Watts responded by suing various departments, so far collecting more than $66,000, but she is no longer on road patrol, believing fellow officers will not back her up if she ever needed help. An outcast within her ranks.

She would probably make a good internal affairs investigator, except they would not appreciate her adherance to the law.

And there are many more cases of cops filing lawsuits claiming retaliation after blowing the whistle on illegal practices, including from New Jersey, Chicago, Maryland, Washington DC and St. Louis.

And in a separate case from New Jersey, Atlantic City police officer Mark Benjamin says he has received death threats from fellow officers after reporting police abuse.

“It was like the masses turned against me,” Benjamin said. “I reported things in reference to police misconduct and with that came the hostilities.”

And down here in Miami, we have a case of two cops facing prison sentences after one of them reported illegal activities within her department.

Ralph and Tammy Valdes, a married couple who were convicted this year for selling guns without a license, transporting stolen gun parts from a police department and filing illegal tax returns, will be sentenced in January. They face up to seven years.

All because, they say, Tammy reported six fellow cops for double-dipping; charging the Golden Beach Police Department for hours worked while working off-duty security for a private security company owned by another cop named Pedro Vila, who also happened to be on a federal task force.

That got her fired, so she filed a lawsuit and won a $233,000 settlement.

Soon after, her husband, who was a Hialeah police officer, started noticing they were being followed by cops in unmarked cars, who would also park outside their home, video recording them as they stepped out.

Ralph and Tammy Valdes

They reported it to the FBI, thinking they were being stalked by local cops, but it turned out, they were being investigated by federal ATF agents that were apparently using their muscle on behalf of their friends at the Golden Beach Police Department.

“Two of the Golden Beach officers who were identified as subjects in the investigation of my complaint by the state attorneys office were assigned and still currently work out of the same building where the ATF investigators who prosecuted our case work out of,” she explained in a Facebook message.

Through a local newspaper account, the story of their conviction comes across as justice catching up to a pair of corrupt cops, something we rarely see.

But if you take some time and listen to their story, a story that’s much too convoluted and long for the Miami Herald, you will begin to see a very strong case of injustice.

After talking to them on several occasions for more than a month, I invited them on the new PINAC TV show, hoping to keep their story under 20 minutes.

But that turned out to be impossible as we only got to skim the surface in an hour.

It’s a long video, but I hope you guys stick it out because you will see how two career police officers, who’ve never been accused of abuse, become convicted felons under federal gun laws that are selectively enforced, not to mention a glaring lack of evidence in two tacked-on charges.

They not only have lost all their cop friends, they are frequently trashed on LEO Affairs, a police forum that usually defends cops in all their transgressions.

The former firearms instructors were avid gun collectors, so they would go to the gun shows that are regularly held down here and sell their guns as many gun owners do. The transactions of guns down here is very loosely regulated, which is the way residents have preferred it for decades.

But they were arrested for selling more than 600 guns over seven years without a license. The feds allow the sale and purchase of gun, and there is no specified number of guns sold that make it illegal, so it’s a confusing situation for many gun owners who sell guns, as you can read in this gun forum.

But essentially, it boils down to if the vendor’s livelihood was dependent on the gun sales as you can read below:

as applied to a dealer in firearms, as defined in section 921 (a)(11)(A), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms;

The couple say that they were each working two full-time jobs, as officers and as firearms instructors, so the gun sales were just a hobby and far from their main source of income.

They also say it is customary for ATF agents to issue warning letters to vendors who may be inadvertently skirting the law through their gun sales, but that never happened to them.

And as far as the tacked-on charges, transporting gun parts from the Hialeah Police Department and filing false tax returns?

There was never a report of missing gun parts from the police department and the IRS didn’t begin auditing them until after they were charged with the tax charge, which means there was no evidence to charge them with, but they were convicted nonetheless.

Their case is similar to one out of Texas a few years ago in which an FBI Agent named John Shipley was arrested on the same federal charges of selling weapons without the proper license, including a gun that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers.

The gun rights website Ammoland describes the case as being just as convoluted at this case in a very detailed report with several links:

My initial assumption, that a crooked cop got caught, was challenged within hours by a trusted source, who told me all was not as it appeared. What follows is a summation of my coverage of the story of John Shipley. The details are confusing, and often times appear to make no sense, and even today, years after my initial report, more questions remain unanswered following the strange twists and turns this case has taken.

The FBI press release ignores the irony of the ATF scandal in which guns were allowed to cross the border for five years in a lubricous attempt to eventually trace them to cartel leaders. Shipley’s family has set up a website explaining more details about the case.

While there is no indication Shipley was a whistleblower, the one gun that ended up in Mexico was actually sold to an El Paso corrections officer. And transcripts from a full-day hearing were discovered to be destroyed when he tried to prepare for his appeal.

Perhaps Shipley got on the wrong side of his superiors when he came to the defense of a woman of Iranian descent who was kicked off an airplane in 2003 during the post-9/11 hysteria, in which the woman won a $27.5 million settlement.

A Texas jury has awarded $27.5 million to a woman who says Southwest Airlines flight attendants had her arrested in 2003 because they were overly aggressive in enforcing post 9/11 security.

The charges against Samantha Carrington, a U.S. citizen born in Iran, were dropped the next day when an FBI agent investigating the case came to her defense. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles woman says, she is now subjected to heightened security while flying and cannot clear her name from watch lists.

Carrington’s lawyer, Enrique Moreno, says the case is an example of how post-Sept. 11 security measures can unfairly target innocent people, especially those with Middle Eastern backgrounds.

“It started with profiling, perhaps a stereotype, and it escalated to something much more sinister,” Moreno said Tuesday. “This particular incident has some role in that greater national discussion about balancing security with individual rights.”

The woman was extremely grateful and wanted to give Shipley money for clearing her name, but he declined and reported the offer. He was investigated for that, but they found nothing.

Instead, they turned his life into a living hell, throwing him in prison where he served two years and is currently out on supervised release where he is trying to appeal to get the conviction reversed.

But in the Valdes case, at least the six cops she initially reported are no longer there, right?

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“Three were arrested and three relinquished their police certifications in lieu of prosecution,” she said. “Two are still working there and the third was just given a disability retirement compliments of the citizens he stole from.

“All three were arrested in 2011 and still have not gone to trial.”

“By the way, the attorney who was representing them was just convicted on his involvement in a $1 billion dollar Ponzi scheme and is looking at life in prison when he is sentenced on February 21.”

Please check out the above video to hear how cops who raped citizens on duty and stole from taxpayers were allowed to stay on the force while the Valdes’ were fully prosecuted on gun laws that are selectively enforced.

 

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.