Category: 20. Crime, criminal justice, and law
Operation Tarnished Badge
Operation Tarnished Badge is an investigation focusing primarily on misconduct related to the investigation of drug trafficking by officers in the Robeson County Sheriff's Department. The investigation was requested by Sheriff Glenn Maynor (who retired December 31, 2004) in 2002. Maynor requested the investigation when two deputies with drug investigation duties were charged with misconduct. The investigation was rumored for over three years before the first arrests were announced in June, 2006. The grand jury indictment of the three deputies—C.T. Strickland, Roger Taylor and Steve Lovin—lists alleged crimes that occurred between 1995 and 2004. The charges include theft from programs that receive federal funding; racketeering; conspiracy to commit racketeering; and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In November 2006, two of the three deputies were charged with illegally programming satellite cards and selling them. Later charges against other deputies have included robbery, kidnapping, arson, assault, and drug trafficking. In October 2006, two deputies pled guilty to federal fraud charges for doing private work on Glenn Maynor's house and yard while on duty as deputies.
The investigation is a federal one, involving the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the United States Secret Service, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. It focuses on alleged federal crimes committed by deputies during the time when Maynor served as sheriff.
As of May 19, 2007, sixteen deputies had been charged in the investigation and all had pled guilty.
The information used in this summary comes from the sources cited below. The sources below provide a chronological record of news accounts of the investigation. This list, and the summary, will be updated as new information becomes available.
Witten, Scott. “Sheriff's office searched.” Robesonian March 21, 2005. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2005/03/21/news/news/story01.txt
Witten, Scott. “Lawmen paint ugly picture, stay silent on what's next.” Robesonian June 12, 2006. Full text at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/06/12/news/news/story01.txt
“Another shoe hangs [editorial].” Robesonian June 12, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/06/12/news/editorials/editorial04.txt
Elofson, Matt. “Trio accused of crimes spanning 10-year period.” Robesonian June 13, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/06/13/news/news/story05.txt
Elofson, Matt. “Hunt pleads guilty.” Robesonian July 28, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/07/28/news/news/story01.txt
Barnes, Greg. “Department under scrutiny for years.” Fayetteville Observer August 26, 2006. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers—North Carolina (NCLIVE)
Barnes, Greg. “Supporters can't believe corruption tarnishes the badges of C.T. Strickland, Steven Lovin and Roger Taylor.” Fayetteville Observer August 26, 2006. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers—North Carolina (NCLIVE)
Barnes, Greg. “Deputy scandal could free gang.” Fayetteville Observer September 3, 2006. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers—North Carolina (NCLIVE)
Weigl, Andrea. “Corruption plagues Robeson.” News and Observer [Raleigh, NC] September 11, 2006, page A1. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers—North Carolina (NCLIVE)
“Deputies guilty of helping Maynor.” Robesonian October 16, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/10/16/news/news/story15.txt
Elofson, Matt. “Deputies face new federal charges.” Robesonian November 13, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/11/13/news/news/story07.txt
“Former Robeson County deputy sheriff enters guilty plea.” Press release. United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina. Monday, November 27, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce/press/2006-Nov-27_2.html
Elofson, Matt. “Another deputy takes plea.” Robesonian November 30, 2006. Full text available at: http://www.robesonian.com/articles/2006/11/30/news/news/story01.txt
Barnes, Greg. “Tarnished Badge convict changes mind.” Fayetteville Observer January 10, 2007. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers—North Carolina (NCLIVE)
Barnes, Greg. “Robeson lawman pleads guilty to federal charges.” Fayetteville Observer February 1, 2007.
C. T. Strickland pled guilty to theft of federal money seized in drug raids. In exchange for this guilty plea, other charges were dropped. Strickland, who resigned from the Robeson County Sheriff's Department in 2003, was suprvisor of the drug enforcement unit when around $70,000 was allegedly stolen by Strickland and other deputies in the unit. The sentencing date has not been set.
Elofson, Matt. "Strickland takes plea deal." Robesonian Monday, February 5, 2007.
Eleven other counts against Strickland were dropped. Under his plea agreement, his maximum sentence for the single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering would be up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised probation and a fine of $500,000. He will not be eligible for parole. Lt. Ricky Britt, also part of the Operation Tarnished Badge investigation, pled guilty Thursday to pirating satellite television signals. Britt resigned from the Robeson County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday, having worked there nearly 20 years. Thus far, eight deputies have pled guilty to federal crimes as part of the Operation Tarnished Badge investigation.
Barnes, Greg. “Deputy exodus strains Robeson Sheriff's Office.” Fayetteville Observer Saturday, February 10, 2007.
Reports that at least 15 employees have left the Sheriff's Department since June 2006, when Operation Tarnished Badge was publicly announced; six of the fifteen have left since January 1, 2007. Those who have left this year include Major Randal Patterson, chief of detectives, and Major Billy Strickland, who was to resign on Friday, February 8. The article adds that there have been reports of low morale in the department, lack of experience, an impact on the court system, and expectations that more deputies will be targeted in the investigation of alterations of sastellite television cards.
“Clarification: Ex-officers not tied to 'Tarnished Badge.'” Fayetteville Observer Sunday, February 11, 2007.
Corrects the graphic that accompanied the February 10, 2007, story (see above). The graphic lists 15 individuals who
have left the Robeson County Sheriff's Department since Operation Tarnished Badge became public. The following individuals left for reasons not connected to the investigation: Jimmy “Lance” Thompson, David Cox, Joseph Cain, Rudy Locklear, and Robert Dial.
“Untarnished badges [editorial].” Robesonian Monday, February 12, 2007.
Recalls that although this federal investigation is ongoing, it has already shown that corruption in the Robeson County Sheriff's department occurred for years, was widespread, and ranged in severity. A positive (though unintended) outcome will be that corrupt deputies will be purged. The editorialist concludes, “Seldom has a Sheriff's Office been more scrutinized. We trust that soon enough there will be no one left with anything more to hide.It will take time, but when that has happened, this county's residents should have more - and not less - confidence in their Sheriff's Office.”
Elofson, Matt. “Departures test Sheriff's Office.” Robesonian Monday, February 12, 2007.
Provides details on the number of employees who have left the Robeson County Sheriff's Department in the last two years, with quotations from current sheriff Kenneth Sealey about how key responsibilities are being handled and from Randal Patterson, a sheriff's major who just retired after 33 years in the department. The department has 120 positions, and 38 people have left since February 2005. Thirteen of 23 deputies detectives have been lost during this period. Sheriff Sealey explains that almost all current vacancies have been filled and that when a key position becomes vacant, another experienced employee is moved into it.
“Another former Robeson County sheriff's deputy pleads guilty [Vincent Sinclair].” Press release. United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina. Monday, February 12, 2007. Full text available at:
Barnes, Greg. “Former Robeson County deputy pleads guilty.” Fayetteville Observer Tuesday, February 13, 2007.
Vincent Sinclair pled guilty in U.S. District Court to charges related to a February, 2004 incident in which he and four others kidnapped two alleged drug dealers at gunpoint. He also admitted to abducting and beating a drug dealer in 2003, then calling the dealer's girlfriend and demanding cocaine and $150,000. The three charges to which he pleaded guilty could receive a maximum sentence of two life terms and fines of over $2 million. The article explains each of the three charges, with their possible sentences. The U.S. Attorney's Office has stated that Sinclair pled guilty to these charges in exchange for testimony against others being investigated in the operation. Sinclair will be sentenced later.
Barnes, Greg. “Former sheriff's major enters pleas.” Fayetteville Observer Tuesday, February 13, 2007.
Strickland, whose maximum sentence for satellite piracy could be five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, was chief of operations, the highest ranking sheriff's department employee after the sheriff and the chief deputy. Court dcuments indicate that Strickland is helping with the prosecution of Steven Lovin, who faces charges related to theft of money seized in drug crimes and providing drug informants with drugs.
Elofson, Matt. “Two more ex-deputies plead guilty.” Robesonian Wednesday, February 14, 2007.
Discusses pleas by former deputy Vincent Sinclair and former major Billy Wayne Strickland. Describes the federal crimes to which Sinclair has admitted guilt and explains that several state charges which have been filed against him are pending. Strickland, formerly chief of operations for the Robeson County Sheriff's Department, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit satellite piracy.
Barnes, Greg. “Ex-Robeson deputy to be jailed.” Fayetteville Observer Wednesday, February 14, 2007.
Steven Lovin was jailed because a federal judge revoked his pre-trial release. A State Bureau of Investigation agent testifed that Lovin contacted four potential witnesses in the case against him, a violation of his pre-trial release order. Lovin has been indicted on twelve federal counts. His attorney told Judge Boyle that he never received a copy of the prosecution's witness list.
“Lovin returned to jail.” Robesonian Thursday, February 15, 2007.
Barnes, Greg. “Ex-Robeson deputies have releases reviewed.” Fayetteville Observer Thursday, February 15, 2007.
U. S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle reviewed the conditions of the presentencing releases of Kevin Meares, Patrick Ferguson, Joey Smith and Gary Odum. Their releases are now conditional on their not contacting potential witnesses and their undergoing periodic drug tests. All have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with investigators in Operation Tarnished Badge.
Barnes, Greg. “Former deputy told to surrender.” Fayetteville Observer Thursday, February 15, 2007.
Vincent Sinclair, one of eleven former Robeson County sheriff's deputies who have pleaded guilty as part of the Operation Tarnished Badge investigation, will be imprisoned until he is sentenced. None of the other deputies awaiting sentencing have been imprisoned thus far. Sinclair said he needs to be on release until sentencing to get his affairs in order and to work inorder to support his family. The article contains several comments from Sinclair.
“Under fire: Robeson County leaders must protect residents, restore trust [editorial].” Fayetteville Observer Wednesday, February 14, 2007.
The editorialist states that Operation Tarnished Badge “has been a public relations nightmare,” and the deputies implicated have damaged the morale of the current Sheriff's Department employees and tainted their reputation. Because there are a large number of inexperienced employees now in the department, the editorialist maintains that “in Robeson County, police malfeasance has created a public safety problem.” Robeson County leaders must require extensive ethics training of new Sheriff's Department employees, and—most importantly—implement an internal affairs division in the Sheriff's Department. Robeson County leaders “have to institute the kind of policy changes that will make it less likely for law-enforcement agencies to sink to this level again.”
Barnes, Greg. “Ex-Robeson deputy decries treatment inequity.” Fayetteville Observer Friday, February 16, 2007.
Vincent Sinclair feels he is being treated unfairly by being ordered to report to a U.S. Marshals' office by 5 pm today to be taken to prison. Sinclair feels he is being singled out and that his treatment is particulary unfair, given the crucial information he has provided for investigators. The article discusses the crimes Sinclair has admitted to and his comments on his role in them.
Tolley, Brian. “Hiding behind a badge [editorial].” Fayetteville Observer Sunday, February 18, 2007.
Tolley decries the lack of openness on the part of judges, clerks of court, and the U.S. Attorney's Office, making it difficult both for the media to report the results of the investigation and for the legal system to restore the public trust. Tolley states, “In the past two weeks, reporter Greg Barnes has found an alarming string of obstacles, from what appears to be routine sealing of court filings to last-minute docket additions that effectively exclude the public from hearings.”
Elofson, Matt. “Britt won't drop 'victim' cases because of probe.” Robesonian Monday, February 19, 2007.
This article discusses the impact the Operation Tarnished Badge investigation has had on pending court cases in Robeson County. District Attorney Johnson Britt explains that although around 300 drug cases have been dismissed because they would rely on testimony from deputies implicated in Operation Tarnished Badge, 'victim' cases will no longer be dismissed. The latter are robberies, rapes, and murders—cases for which there will be other witnesses and for which the credibility of the officer will not be as crucial. Angus Thompson of the Public Defender's office is reviewing cases that Ricky Britt had worked on. Britt, who pled guilty to pirating satellite television signals, was one of the county's two homicide investigators. Thompson expressed concern about the delays caused by the investigation and defendants' constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Mims, Bryan. “Robeson takes a hit from Operation Tarnished Badge.” WRAL.com [Raleigh, NC]. Posted Feb. 20 6:48 p.m. Includes brief video clip. http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/1209275/
Barnes, Greg. "Robeson: Three more former deputies face charges." Fayetteville Observer Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Full text available: NewsBank: America's Newspapers--North Carolina (NCLIVE)
Lawrence "Randal" Patterson, formerly chief of detectives, as well as Lester Floyd and Herman Madden, former patrol deputies, were charged with conspiring to pirate satellite television signals. Their plea hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 30, in U.S. District Court in Raleigh.
Elofson, Matt. "Patterson, former chief of detectives, among 3 charged." Robesonian Wednesday, March 28, 2007.
The three were charged with conspiracy to pirate satellite television signals between January 2000 and December 2003. Their sentence, if convicted, could be up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Patterson retired January 31, 2007, as a major and chief of detectives; he had served the sheriff's department for 33 years. Madden served as a deputy from 1993-2001. This brings the total number of deputies charged since Operation Tarnished Badge began to 16.
"Tarnished Badge hearing postponed." Fayetteville Observer Saturday, March 31, 2007.
The hearing for Patterson, Madden, and Floyd to plead guilty to the federal charges brought against them in the Operation Tarnished Badge investigation was posponed until Monday, April 2, at 10 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Raleigh.
Woolverton, Paul. "3 ex-deputies plead to satellite TV charges." Fayetteville Observer Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Full text available:
NewsBank: America's Newspapers--North Carolina (NCLIVE)
On Monday, April 2, Randal Patterson, Lester Floyd, and Herman Madden pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to the felony charge of conspiring to pirate satellite television. They will remain free until they are sentenced. Jerry Leonard, the attorney representing Patterson and Floyd, said that his clients used altered DirecTV receivers to get more channels than paid for; Madden altered the receivers.
Elofson, Matt. "Taylor in court Monday." Robesonian Friday, April 27, 2007.
This article announces that Roger Hugh Taylor is scheduled for a change of plea hearing in federal court next week. He had pled not guilty to 12 charges
that included money laundering, assault, satellite piracy, arson, and stealing money seized during drug busts. His federal court hearing is scheduled for May 3 before district court judge Terrence Boyle at the Terry Sanford Federal Building in Raleigh. Before his suspension, Taylor worked as a drug task force lieutenant and supervisor of the communications division in the Robeson County Sheriff's Department.
"Special report: Operation Tarnished Badge." NBC17.com [Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill] Thursday, April 26, 2007.
NBC17 talked with several people about this operation, including Donnie Douglas, editor of the Robesonian; defense attorney Carlton Mansfield; Bobby Marring, a neighbor of former deputy Roger Hugh Taylor; and Timothy Jacobs, one of two Tuscarora Indians responsible for the Robesonian hostage-taking on February 1, 1988. [The report includes a brief video interview with Jacobs.] Jacobs commented, "It's a sad reality to know that so many people who were charged with protecting the community have been terrorizing the community, but the reality is, it was known and it's been known since the 1980s." Defense attorney Mansfield stated, "Back as early as the mid 1990s I was getting reports from clients that they were either taking money and not reporting the full amount, or taking money and not reporting that they had taken any money."
Barnes, Greg. "Former Robeson County deputy pleads guilty." Fayetteville Observer Thursday, May 3, 2007.
Roger Taylor pled guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to violate federal racketeering charges by illegally using money seized during drug raids. He also pled guilty to a charge related to stolen satellite television cards. His prison sentence could be
as long as 20 years.
"Robeson County sheriff's deputy pleads guilty to RICO violations." Press release. United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina. Thursday, May 3, 2007. Full text available at:
Barnes, Greg. "Former Robeson lawman pleads guilty." Fayetteville Observer Saturday, May 19, 2007.
Steven Lovin pled guilty in U.S. District Court to stealing money from drug interdiction stops on Interstate 95 and to pirating satellite television cards. His maximum prison sentence would be 20 years for the racketeering charges and five years for the satellite television piracy charges. Had he not agreed to cooperate with investigators, his maximum sentence would have been life in prison. He has been released from jail while he awaits sentencing. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Wes Camden, Lovin stole money from six drug interdiction stops and used money for his "own private benefit."
Elofson, Matt. "Tarnished Badge: Lovin pleads guilty." Robesonian Monday, May 21, 2007.
Lovin is the last of the sixteen deputies charged in Operation Tarnished Badge to plead guilty. This article contains quotations from Lovin's attorney, Jeff Welty. According to Welty, Lovin will not be sentenced for at least three months. Welty also explained that Lovin did not participate in some of the activities that were alleged at the beginning of the operation, such as engaging in violence and distributing drugs. He also stated, “As part of the plea, Steve has agreed to provide any information regarding criminal activity and to testify truthfully. . . . Steve is proud of the service he gave as a deputy sheriff but is ashamed of the things he did that did not live up to his own standard.”
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This page was updated on
May 23, 2007 10:23 PM