0

Ex-lawmen protected drug dealers, sent to federal prison

ATLANTA — Two Jonesboro men — former police officers — are going to federal prison for using their positions to protect drug dealers.

Marquez Holmes, 45, a former MARTA police officer, was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Victor Middlebrook, 44, a former Forest Park police sergeant, was sentenced to seven years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the men are two of 13 defendants sentenced to federal prison this week for accepting thousands of dollars to provide protection during staged deals that were part of a federal undercover operation.

“This case sent shock waves through Georgia law enforcement offices, both local and federal,” she said. “Certainly, these departments are filled with dedicated officers who literally risk their lives every day to make our communities safe. But this case revealed a troubling number of officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies who betrayed their oaths to protect and serve, taking cash from the very criminals they should have been arresting.”

Between August and November 2012, Holmes provided protection for what he believed were four separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine, said Yates. Holmes and a co-defendant accepted cash payments totaling $9,000 for the protection.

“During the transactions, Holmes was dressed in his MARTA police uniform and carried a gun in a holster on his belt,” she said. “In two of the transactions, Holmes patrolled on foot in the parking lots in which the undercover sales took place and monitored the transactions.”

During the other two deals, Yates said Holmes drove to the site in his MARTA patrol car and parked next to the vehicles in which the undercover drug sale took place.

Holmes pleaded guilty to one of those deals that occurred Nov. 8, 2012.

Between October and December 2012, Middlebrook provided protection for what he believed were six separate drug deals in the Atlanta area, each involving multiple kilograms of cocaine, said Yates. Middlebook accepted cash payments totaling $13,800 for the first four transactions.

During these transactions, Yates said Middlebrook wore plain clothes, but displayed his badge and a firearm in a holster on his belt. He patrolled on foot in the parking lots nearby the vehicles in which the undercover sales took place and appeared to be monitoring the transactions.

Middlebrook pleaded guilty to one of those deals that occurred Dec. 7, 2012.

An Ellenwood man was sentenced on federal charges of impersonating a Clayton County police officer offering protection for what he took to be three drug deals. Alexander B. Hill, 22, was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Yates said between December 2012 and January 2013, Hill falsely represented himself as a Clayton County police officer while providing security for what he believed were three separate drug transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine.

“During an initial meeting, Hill wore a uniform that appeared to be from Clayton police,” said Yates. “But during the transactions, he wore plain clothes and, for at least the first deal, a badge displayed on his belt. For these services, Hill received payments totaling $9,000 in cash.”

Hill pleaded guilty to one of those deals that occurred Dec. 20, 2012.

Yates said the testimony and evidence revealed that the undercover operation arose out of a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation of an Atlanta area street gang in August 2011. ATF agents learned from someone associated with the gang that police officers were involved in protecting the gang’s criminal operations, including drug trafficking crimes, she said.

According to this cooperating individual, the officers—while wearing uniforms, driving police vehicles, or otherwise displaying badges—provided security to the gang members during drug deals, said Yates.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officers serve the public with honor and distinction,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Ray Brown of the Atlanta ATF Field Office. “Officers like these unfortunately tarnish the badge of the committed men and women of law enforcement. These individuals will now have to face the consequences for their deplorable actions. ATF will remain on the front line of preventing violent crime through the dynamic level of law enforcement cooperation with our partners.”