Monday, February 4, 2008

SHERIFF BUSTED FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING www.privateofficer.com


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. Feb 4 2008 -- Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long, already jailed in a federal bribery sting, was charged with cocaine trafficking Monday in a complaint that shows he confessed to the FBI.
Long, arrested Saturday on extortion, money laundering and firearms charges, attended a Monday initial appearance hearing where a prosecutor added the drug trafficking complaint.
U.S. Magistrate Bill Carter set a Friday detention hearing and ordered Long remain in custody.
An FBI agent's affidavit says the sheriff told agents he was knowingly involved in drug trafficking, and that before his arrest Saturday he had loaded 10 kilos of cocaine hydrochloride drugs into the trunk of a car.
Court records show the 55-year-old sheriff, a career law officer, was arrested after an investigation started by the FBI in April 2007. Long was not aware another man involved in the transaction, someone he knew to be a convicted felon, was working undercover with the FBI as a cooperating witness.
The affidavit shows the sheriff initially misled agents "by claiming he was doing his own investigation, although no one else at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department had knowledge of his investigation."
"He (Long) subsequently admitted his untruthfulness and admitted that he had made bad choices for which he was sorry," the affidavit states. "He admitted that he knew he was involved in drug trafficking and that he had loaded 10 kilos of drugs into" a cooperating witness's vehicle.
The affidavit said Long was in his government vehicle and followed as the cooperating witness delivered the cocaine. They then split $48,000.
Court records released Saturday after the sheriff's arrest show that between April and mid-December, Long also accepted $17,400 which he was told were payments from convenience store owners "to protect their video poker business and other illegal activity" such as products used to make methamphetamine.
The store owners, described as being from India, had failed to keep a pledge to give Long's 2006 campaign a total of $50,000, the affidavit states. The affidavit shows Long on Saturday also "admitted that he had threatened an Indian store owner who had failed to fulfill his campaign donation promise."
The affidavit said Long also accepted $6,550 in cash as "his payoff to a cooperating witness supposedly laundering $625,000 in drug trafficking proceeds." Long was told the drug money was being sent to a funeral home in Mexico hidden in cremation urns.
The affidavit said the sheriff in December gave the cooperating witness a loaded revolver, knowing the recipient of the gun was a convicted felon, and told him never to say where he got it and if he shot someone to get rid of it.
Long admitted that he knew the confidential witness was a convicted felon as he had personally checked his criminal record, according to the affidavit.
Jerry Summers, a Chattanooga lawyer, represented Long at the hearing Monday. Summers said he has not been hired for the case and declined comment about the charges.
Carter on Saturday ordered Long detained after federal prosecutor Gary Humble described the Democratic sheriff as a "danger to the community." Long is being held at the Bradley County Justice Center.
The agent was with the cooperating witness on March 20, 2007 when Long called the witness and that call led to "a trip by the confidential witness and Sheriff Long to shake down the owner of a store, an ethnic east Indian, and to coerce him" to pay what the sheriff contended was a promised campaign contribution, the affidavit states.
Humble said that phone call started the investigation, which involved the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.
"It's just called fortuity," Humble said of the agent's presence with the confidential witness when Long called.
Long was elected in 2006 after 31 years of law enforcement service. Several Republican Hamilton County commissioners have said he should resign. Democratic Commissioner Warren Mackey said the sheriff is "innocent until proven guilty."
Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said ouster proceedings could be started by the commission or by the district attorney.

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