‘Dark Chapter’ at Fort Myers Police Department ends as new details released in Freeh report

Additional information about a report that described the failure of Fort Myers police to combat a growing problem of gang and drug-related violence in the city has come to light.

However, some layers of information remain largely redacted.

Last year, the department said the US Department of Justice was allowing it to release everything not related to an ongoing federal prosecution over the release of Schedules A and B.

Both annexes were withheld until their release last year, four years after the Freeh report was published.

At that time, Appendix B was heavily edited.

The initial report led to disciplinary action against four members of the police department.

Original reference: Police corruption, toxic culture detailed in FMPD audit

Four years later: Four years after Freeh’s report, former FMPD officers will not face federal charges

Found guilty: Federal jury finds Fort Myers man who led drug ring guilty of killing FBI informant

Appendix A states that the Freeh Team was informed that several individuals reported that a Fort Myers Police Department supervisor and two officers leaked information to the city’s major suppliers of heroin and cocaine.

Kristin Capuzzi, spokeswoman for the Fort Myers Police Department, told The News-Press on Saturday that the confidential informant remains the one piece of the puzzle they will never solve.

Those suppliers had been unsuccessfully targeted by the department and other agencies for more than a decade, according to previously released information.

Since 2001, investigators have repeatedly been told that officers warned drug dealers before executing search warrants, the report shows.

The Freeh Group’s International Solutions Report also said a supervisor was related by marriage to one of the city’s “most important” drug suppliers.

In response, the department isolated units and information to prevent information from “flowing up the chain of command,” the report states.

“(The Freeh Team) noted that the department’s decision to let the supervisor in charge, and its official and unofficial efforts to withhold information from him about investigations that his detectives were responsible for solving, was a significant obstacle to dealing with crime problem. Dunbar community’, it states in Appendix A.

In the recently released new version of Appendix B, some of the people involved in the investigation are now named.

The report shows that Robert Lee Ward, 53, was the biggest trafficker in the city, who had previously been picked up.

Ward was married to a Fort Myers police supervisor, the report shows.

A federal jury found Ward guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and falsifying an informant by killing after a trial in US District Court in Tampa.

Ward, who was indicted on Nov. 27, 2018, faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.

During the summer of 2012, a deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office developed a confidential informant, whose identity remains protected in the document.

The report shows the sheriff’s office introduced the informant to the FBI, which later brokered the sale of two kilograms of cocaine to Sarasota-based traffickers on behalf of Chris Smith, Ward’s second-in-command.

The FBI seized the cocaine from the buyers and later in 2012 approached Smith about cooperating against Ward, the report said.

Smith agreed to cooperate and arranged a transaction for Ward to deliver 5 kilograms of cocaine to the FBI and the sheriff’s office.

During that time, Smith told Ward that the FBI had approached him and Ward had murdered Smith, the report said.

Five people, including James Broomfield, the leader of a drug-trafficking organization in Fort Myers, were present when Ward ordered his subordinates to kill Smith.

Broomfield was federally prosecuted for violations of federal firearms law and sentenced to 15 years in prison, the report said.

During interviews with Fort Myers police investigators, Broomfield admitted to arranging Smith’s killing at Ward’s direction, officials said.

That prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reconsider opening a federal investigation, according to the report.

After the informant brokered the 2-pound transaction used to bring down Smith, the informant continued to work for the sheriff’s office.

The informant continued to sell drugs while the sheriff’s deputy protected him.

According to the document, it was reported that the informant was not a documented informant with the sheriff’s office, but reported directly to the deputy, even after the deputy was promoted.

The lawmaker, whose name is not disclosed in the filings, retaliated against subordinates who shared their concern about the relationship, the report said.

The deputy was caught protecting the informant while delivering cocaine from Miami to Fort Myers, as well as the fact that the deputy allowed the informant to use one of the sheriff’s office cruisers to deliver the drugs.

The MP was he was later allowed to retire without consequence, the report said.

The report further stated that the deputy and a Fort Myers police supervisor were reported to be good friends and that investigators were concerned that the Fort Myers police supervisor provided information to the former deputy about efforts to target the informant.

A detective with the sheriff’s office assigned to the FBI Task Force is attempting to target the informant, according to the report.

Investigators were also concerned that a supervisor at the police department was protecting Ward and that the supervisor used a second supervisor to keep him informed of Ward’s investigation.

Additional details about the chain of events are still being processed.

Citing security concerns, the police department’s joint investigation with the Drug Enforcement Administration was made separate, and only the former police chief was briefed.

A Fort Myers police supervisor continued to ask investigators for information until a DEA supervisor told him to stop, the report says.

The FBI was unable to investigate the police superintendent because the FBI special agent refused to authorize the investigation unless former Chief Doug Baker was notified, according to the report.

“Investigators believed that his role as Ward’s supervisor and his failure to take action against the FMPD supervisor presented safety concerns,” Appendix B reads in part. “As a result, the information gathered by these investigators they were kept in a file cabinet in the form of notes, but never officially reported.”

Freeh original report: Police Department prioritized ‘fake’ city as safe place

A scathing 72-page report published in 2017 outlined a toxic culture at the Fort Myers Police Department that prioritized maintaining “the illusion that the city was a safe place and that FMPD was effectively policing the city,” while doing little to combat a growing problem. of gang and drug-related violence.

The Fort Myers City Council paid Freeh Group International Solutions, a Delaware-based consulting firm, $150,000 to conduct the audit in May 2016.

It began weeks after a News-Press investigation revealed ongoing allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation against officers who complained.

The consultants had unrestricted access to the department and all its members for several months. He promised the officers anonymity to ensure a frank discussion.

They came up with 32 recommendations. The first was to investigate allegations of officer misconduct that surfaced during the audit.

The report cited a buyout program offered in 2008 as the start of the department’s problems. Fort Myers was just beginning to feel the effects of the Great Depression and budget cuts were coming to the table.

The takeover led to a sudden departure of FMPD’s most experienced officers, investigators and leadership, and in many ways the department never recovered, the report said.

The former officers will not be charged federally

Four Fort Myers police officers charged with crimes following a 2016 audit of the department will not face federal charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Last year, each officer’s attorney was contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, informing them that prosecutors would not file charges after a federal grand jury found no substantial evidence of a crime.

All of them were placed on paid administrative leave and one of them was promoted to lieutenant.

Within the last four years, all of them have retired, Capuzzi said.

Fort Myers police response

“The 2017 Freeh Report outlined a dark chapter in the history of the Fort Myers Police Department, but it was also the impetus for major change in our agency,” Acting Police Chief Randall Pepitone wrote in a statement released Friday. “We are pleased to have permission from the US Attorney’s Office to release the final two documents and close the door on this chapter.”

Pepitone said the officers involved are no longer with the police department. He added that the previous narcotics unit had been disbanded and that they had created a new Narcotics Agents Unit which now operates with the “highest level of accountability and oversight”.

Capt. Melvin Perry, Sgt. Rick Notaro, Sgt. Michael Forbes and Officer Jason Jackson were placed on leave after allegations of corruption and a lack of resources at the Fort Myers Police Department.

“Once the FBI decided they would not proceed criminally, that’s when Jason Jackson was reinstated,” Capuzzi wrote in a text message to The News-Press on Saturday morning.

Capuzzi added that at that time they were able to finally review the documents, and Jackson was subsequently placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

By the numbers, they’ve seen murders and violent crimes drop over the past six years, and that officer training has increased by 400 percent.

“We accomplished this by working side-by-side with our community members, which shows that we have rebuilt the public’s trust in our organization,” Pepitone wrote.

Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News reporter for the Naples Daily News and the News-Press. Tomas can be reached at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Follow him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran.

This article originally appeared in the Fort Myers News-Press: Freeh report ‘dark chapter’ at Fort Myers Police Department

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *