Fault Lines
10 December 2017

Drug Trafficking: Everyone Wants a Piece, Even the Cops

November 7, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Imagine an industry so lucrative that it pays to both impede it and assist it. Clearly, the trafficking of illegal drugs must be the most profitable game around. While some may argue cops are underpaid, federal, state and local governments are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in law enforcement efforts to curb trafficking. At times it seems the budget never ends in the war on drugs. Even so, many cops are looking for additional profits as they actually increase and promote drug trafficking.

Just last week, U.S. Border Patrol agent Eduardo Bazan, Jr. was arrested and accused of working with drug traffickers to stage narcotics seizures. Apparently, no longer content with formal seizures, Bazan took to working with drug traffickers. He would arrange and stage seizures so that rival traffickers would believe their product had in fact been seized by authorities. Rather than simply report a fake seizure, Bazan would have to make the seizure believable so that the truly seized cocaine could be redistributed to other traffickers.

In what appears to be a rather elaborate plot, cocaine would be taken from rival trafficking organizations. Once the cocaine was stolen, a fake seizure would be arranged with the help of law enforcement, Bazan in this case. Fake or diluted cocaine would then be “found” and seized, assuring the rival organization that law enforcement had snatched up their product. Additionally, Bazan would make it look really good – in exchange for $8,000, Bazan would set up an abandoned car with 66 kilos of fake or diluted cocaine, call in the find, and run from the scene to lead other responding agents to believe the car had been occupied and that he had given chase to traffickers who otherwise eluded Bazan.

Though this incident occurred in 2007, it would not be discovered until last week. Now, lest you believe Bazan was charged for his role in the trafficking, he was not. At this point, some 9 years after the events, Bazan has only been charged with lying. As investigators followed up on cooperating witness interviews, agents interviewed Bazan. He originally told one story but then admitted he lied and took part in the fake seizure in exchange for the cash.

Being charged with just a lie, we are left wondering what other seizures might have been set up since 2007. It’s hard to believe this is a one-off, as the Rio Grande Valley has been plagued with convictions for official corruption including the former Cameron County District Attorney, the former Hidalgo County Sheriff, and various other public and law-enforcement officials.

It’s not just officials and cops in the Rio Grand Valley that have joined the trafficking game. As fellow Fault Lines contributor Mario Machado reported last week, Damacio Diaz and Patrick Mara, two Bakersfield cops, turned to trafficking meth to supplement their incomes. They would steal money, rip off drug dealers, and join other dealers to line their own pockets with cash. They became drug traffickers themselves. And their run lasted at least four years.

Also arrested last week, Sacramento police officer Isaac Knutila has been charged with felony possession of a controlled substance as well as four misdemeanor drug charges. Knutila was arrested at a local hotel known for prostitution. In his possession were cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and more than an ounce of marijuana. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what prosecutors always say about this type and quantity of drugs: it’s not for personal use. Now whether any ladies of the night come forward to admit purchasing drugs or trading sex for drugs has yet to be determined, but it’s safe to say all the signs are there.

Finally, last week former Mount Vernon (Ohio) police detective Matthew L. Dailey was sentenced to six years in prison after stealing money and drugs from the property room and recruiting a confidential informant to help him buy and sell drugs. Dailey suffered an injury that left him addicted to pain medication; an addiction that would lead him to trafficking other drugs to feed his habit.

Dailey, a sergeant who was in charge of detectives and the evidence room, said he suffered back injuries in a 1999 fight with a knife-wielding assailant. A doctor prescribed Percocet, an oxycodone and acetaminophen combination. Another doctor upped his prescription to six a day in 2014, then to nine daily last year after he had shoulder surgery. But he was using more than that.

To feed his habit, he stole cocaine, marijuana and bath salts from the evidence room for the informant to sell to buy Percocet.

It had been lucrative: Dailey was able to trade Ecstasy pills, marijuana, and even methamphetamines for his preferred oxycodone. At least until supervisors discovered drugs and money were missing from the property room. Habit or not, Dailey took to dealing other drugs.

All in all, it’s been a bad week for law enforcement and drugs. Officers are being accused and convicted of trafficking. All have a story, yet all are the same: trafficking is a lucrative business and cops can apparently make money on both ends of the spectrum. Paid to fight the war on drugs and paid to facilitate it. Imagine the insider’s edge. Take out the competition by arresting them. Thwart sales by stealing product. But above all, continue to feed the war on drugs. Provide drugs on the street and more people will use. More users mean more money for law enforcement. It’s a win-win. So lucrative that everyone wants a piece of the pie, even cops.

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