CHICAGO (CN) - Ten Cook County Sheriff's officers, three policemen and two other men who claim to be cops face federal charges of acting as hired muscle in drug deals staged by undercover FBI agents. "Ideally, it should be hard to find one corrupt police officer, and it should never be easy to find 15 who allegedly used guns and badges to protect people they believed were dealing drugs instead of arresting them," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
The 15 men face a welter of charges, including conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine or heroin, serving as protection for drug deals, transportation of cash and standing guard over a high-stakes poker game held by undercover agents.
Ten Cook County Sheriff's correctional officers were charged, along with two City of Harvey cops and one Chicago cop. Two other defendants claim to be police officers, but the FBI has not been able to confirm that they are.
According to a 61-page FBI affidavit, Cook County Sheriff's Officers Ahyetoro Taylor and Raphael Manuel recruited the other cops for the operation. Taylor allegedly was paid $15,000 for his role and Manuel got $14,500.
The investigation began after federal agents received information from numerous sources concerning corrupt officers in southern Cook County.
The defendants were charged in eight complaints that were unsealed Tuesday, along with the FBI affidavit detailing the undercover investigation.
According to the FBI affidavit, audio and video recordings were taken of the FBI-organized deals, which took place in retail and hotel parking lots in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Some of the cops allegedly used their law enforcement training to serve as hired protection, offering advice on the best place for deals and promising to act in the event of local law enforcement intervention.
Manuel allegedly told agents that he and his partner, Taylor, knew "how to politic with the local authorities in the case they try to stick their noses in that stuff like that."
The agent in charge of the Chicago FBI agent said, "The almost systemic corruption that this investigation uncovered is quite troubling, especially given that most of the charged are sworn law enforcement officers. 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."
A conviction of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine and/or 1 kilo of heroin is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
Charged along with Ahyetoro Taylor and Raphael Manuel were Harvey Police Officer Dwayne Williams; Harvey Police Officer Antoine Dudley; Cook County Sheriff's Officer Jermaine Bell; Chicago Police Officer Kyle Wilson; Cook County Sheriff's Officer Timothy Funches Jr.; Cook County Sheriff's Officer Diallo S. Mingo; Cook County Sheriff's Deputy Antwon Funches; Cook County Sheriff's Deputy Julius Scott; Cook County Sheriff's Officer Richard O. Hall Jr.; Cook County Sheriff's Officer Robert Kelly; Harvey Police Officer James E. Engram; and Tavis Ramsey and Antonio McKaskill, who claim to be a law enforcement officers, though the FBI does not believe it.
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