Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Scott Meiner, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Recent tales of asset forfeiture abuse in Tennessee sparked my curiosity as to how Tennessee law enforcement departments are handling (or mishandling) seized property. I am looking for credible accounts (relevant to asset forfeiture) of misappropriation of funds, stolen drugs, improper accounting, et cetera… I’ve concentrated my search on smaller departments with the thought that a couple of bad apples in Memphis do not (statistically) imply a great deal. However, I welcome any articles or reports contributors suggest. Blatant malfeasance in small departments strikes us as more descriptive of the problem and more supportive of the argument that permitting law enforcement to self-appropriate the fruits of seizures abrogates the power of the purse (castrating the electorate’s power to compel responsive government).

Contact @ scott[at]forfeiturereform.com

Initial findings:

3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force: Pervasive accounting deficiencies.

4th Judicial District Drug Task Force: DTF agent indicted for two counts of theft of Drug Task Force funds after $5,700 goes missing.

10th Judicial District Drug Task Force: $4,500 shortage in evidence and confidential funds. A  In excess of $17,000 in 10th Judicial District DTF credit charges lacked adequate documentation including $6,800 with no documentation. Quality reporting from Judy Walton of the Times Free Press reveals that, between 2008 and 2010, 10th Judicial District DTF agents spent more than $100,000 of seizure proceeds on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. Walton also reported that former “DTF Director Mike Hall’s drug task force credit card was used to charge more than $50,000 between 2008 and 2010 on meals for himself, task force members and guests at local restaurants, as well as gifts, flowers and goodies for co-workers and office secretaries, credit card receipts show.”

12th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Failed 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim reveals that local DTF paid 20% ‘referral fees’ to at least one informant for seizures leading to DTF forfeiture proceeds as a bounty.

13th Judicial District Drug Task Force: An employee improperly charged personal expenses to Drug Task Force accounts resulting in a cash shortage of $10,000.

17th Judicial District Drug Task Force: At a motion to suppress hearing, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger notes: ”Essentially, all of [17th Judicial District Interdiction Agent] Daugherty’s traffic stops are pretextual attempts to find illegal drugs.” [Incidentally, Daugherty was the 2008 national runnerup for interdiction officer of the year-based on numerical measure of of productivity.] Under oath, Daugherty admits that DTF funding is reliant on seizure revenues. When asked by defense counsel: ‘”Is it a fair statement that part of the reason that you were up by the Kentucky border at least 100 miles away from your four counties was the fact that it’s better hunting grounds up there?” Daugherty agrees that the drug-related activity in that area is “better.”” Judge suppresses Daugherty’s testimony after noting that she finds his testimony unconvincing and speculates why Daugherty does not employ available equipment to document cause for stops.

23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force: Sloppy accounting and a missing $54,000 in seized currency. NewsChannel 5 Investigates reports that “that officers with the 23rd have been paid thousands of dollars in bonuses, some years higher than others.” DA denies bonuses are tied to drug busts or amount of money officers seize. NewsChannel 5 Investigates presents evidence that motorists are being pulled over for fictitious traffic violations after the Dickson Police Chief, who serves as chairman of the board for the 23rd Judicial District DTF, claims: ”Every time they stop somebody it is a legal traffic stop.”

24th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Cash, guns, drugs, jewelry, and equipment under the control of the Drug Task Force were misused, stolen, and/or lost. Falsified records. Theft and smoking of crack cocaine stored in evidence, missing marijuana, etc. Drug Task Force Director at the time of the offenses “charged with one count of theft, one count of official misconduct and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.” DTF’sAdministrative Assistant charged several days later with “one count of theft and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.”

Crump Police Department: Multiple unauthorized removals of various seized drugs.

Dickson County Sheriff’s Office: Missing drug money. Fraud. Forgery.

Etowah Police Department: Seized drugs, cash, and guns missing.

Gallaway Police Department: Missing guns, guns issued to non-law enforcement, allegations of duplicate pay for police chief.

Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff’s Office employees alleged misconduct results in $14,000 cash shortage from missing commissary funds and use of an unofficial receipt book.

Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy initially “arrested and charged with one count of burglary, one count of theft and one count of tampering with evidence” after narcotics go missing from the evidence room. Charges grow to 68 counts.

Henry County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff and sheriff’s office business manager indicted after audit finds $162,000 shortage and falsified records, mail fraud, conspiracy, etc.

Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office: “A Lauderdale County deputy sheriff repeatedly spent undercover funds for unauthorized purposes and falsified documents to cover his tracks, a report by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit has found.”

McMinn County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy indicted for one count of official oppression. Deputy accused of stealing prescription drugs from motorists.

Monterey Police Department: Guns and some $30,000 gso missing. Former police chief pleads guilty to theft. Allegations that the current police diverted asset forfeiture funds to pay for the use of a bulldozer on his property leads local District Attorney to call for an investigation.

Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Office: Missing commissary funds and missing cash taken from inmates at processing.

Trenton Police Department: $73,000 in cash goes missing from police department. Police chief and his secretary are purportedly the only individuals with access. Town officials have no explanations.

Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff  indicted on multiple felony charges including “six counts official misconduct, one count of theft over $1,000, one count of tampering with evidence, one count of criminal simulation and one count of attempted aggravated assault.”

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff’s office sells vehicles for cash. Cash never recorded. Cash goes missing.

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office: Former Lieutenant accused of, among other things, falsely claiming to witness a drug deal between two men, holding the men at gunpoint, falsely arresting them and seizing their vehicles and cash, forging documents in an attempt to claim ownership of (several) other vehicles seized by the sheriff’s office, checking out unknown amounts of marijuana from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office evidence room and arranging for its sale at personal gain, selling confidential information to the target of a drug investigation, burglarizing the residence of his former girlfriend to give the stolen items to his wife as gifts, and attempting to poison his wife. Bunch of other stuff gone too-including disappeared cocaine.

Whitwell Police Department: former police chief and former city recorder arrested for theft.

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12 Responses to “Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs”

  1. #1 |  derfel cadarn | 

    I make note of the phrase a few bad apples made in your article. Allow me to point out after reading this it would be exponentially more time/labor efficient to search for the few good apples.

  2. #2 |  Burgers Allday | 

    The bulk of this entry suggests that TN actually investigates when LEO’s skim the seizure money. That is not entirely bad news at all.

    I did think that one actually-intereting tiddle-bit was buried in this tl;dr post, so I will quote that one here:

    17th Judicial District Drug Task Force: At a motion to suppress hearing, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger notes: ”Essentially, all of [17th Judicial District Interdiction Agent] Daugherty’s traffic stops are pretextual attempts to find illegal drugs.” [Incidentally, Daugherty was the 2008 national runnerup for interdiction officer of the year-based on numerical measure of of productivity.] Under oath, Daugherty admits that DTF funding is reliant on seizure revenues. When asked by defense counsel: ‘”Is it a fair statement that part of the reason that you were up by the Kentucky border at least 100 miles away from your four counties was the fact that it’s better hunting grounds up there?” Daugherty agrees that the drug-related activity in that area is “better.”” Judge suppresses Daugherty’s testimony after noting that she finds his testimony unconvincing and speculates why Daugherty does not employ available equipment to document cause for stops.

  3. #3 |  el coronado | 

    New State mottoes for nearby, less-than-stellar reputation neighbors:
    “Arkansas: Not as bad as Tennessee!”
    “Mississippi: home of slightly less crooked cops than Tennessee!”

  4. #4 |  MikeV | 

    How much of the corruption is specifically related to asset forfeiture, and how much is just routine, pervasive corruption?

  5. #5 |  Yeah, that guy... | 

    You’ll always have corruption where you have unchecked power but asset forfeiture gives new incentive for those that had integrity. Some want to serve/protect, some want to bully and NOW you have those that want in on the cash cow.

  6. #6 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Recent tales of asset forfeiture abuse in Tennessee sparked my curiosity as to how Tennessee law enforcement departments are handling (or mishandling) seized property.”

    Not very well, by the looks of it…

  7. #7 |  MingoV | 

    The police in Tennessee (and many other states) act like the privateers of the 18th century: They have “letters of marque” (government authority) allowing them to stop any vehicle and take whatever they wish, including the vehicle itself. Privateers were little better than pirates. Police in the USA are little better than armed robbers.

  8. #8 |  Personanongrata | 

    Sickening.

  9. #9 |  Marty | 

    pirates!

  10. #10 |  Marty | 

    the second to the last guy- Wilson County Lt.- he’s quite the over-achiever…

  11. #11 |  Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs « When Tennessee Pigs Fly | 

    [...] http://www.theagitator.com/2012/09/10/tennessee-tales-a-review-of-misappropriations-missing-funds-im… Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  12. #12 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Isolated incidences?

    You don’t seem to be buying it.

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