Ever so often, a case will come forward concerning rogue police officers who abuse their power to come up on folks through extortion. Such a case is transpiring right now in Detroit. Convicted drug dealers are coming forward, accusing members of the now-disbanded Detroit Police Department Narcotics Unit of robbing them of sizable sums of cash between 2011 and 2014.
On trial now are former officers Lt. Daniel Hansberry (the suspected leader of the scheme) and officer Brian Watson, along with Hansberry’s friend and alleged accomplice, civilian Kevin O. Brown. According to MLive.com, Hansberry has been charged with 18 felony federal crimes, Watson has been charged with 16, while Brown faces two. Former officers Arthur Leavelis and Calvin Turner have accepted plea deals for their roles in the conspiracy and wait to learn their sentences.
Eight witnesses have testified during the first three days of the trial. The stories of incarcerated trap associates have come forward with stories. One of them is Christopher A. Wilson, who “admits to spending nearly 15 of the last 21 years in federal prison for multiple convictions, including conspiracy to deliver cocaine and health care fraud.” He gave his testimony on Friday. MLive.com details his account:
“I was middle-manning drug deals,” he said. “Whoever was looking to buy drugs, I knew who had the drugs.”
One evening in November 2011, Wilson was doing just that, hooking up a man nicknamed “D,” and a buyer from Pittsburgh with some cocaine — lots of cocaine, 4 kilograms.
“I called D and said the deal was on,” said Wilson, who claims to have since shed his outlaw tendencies. “We sat there and counted $140,000.”
The cash came from a large suitcase brought by the man from Pittsburgh, Wilson said. They counted it together by hand on Wilson’s father’s kitchen table in Detroit.
Then Wilson, who was to make about $6,000 facilitating the deal called the supplier. That’s when things changed.
“He said he didn’t have 4 kilos,” Wilson testified. “All he had was one.”
The buyer had driven all the way from Pittsburgh expecting a full 4 kilos, but the group grudgingly pulled $44,000, enough for 1 kilo, out of the suitcase and told the supplier to bring the drugs.
When the supplier arrived, he handed a bulky, wrapped package to Wilson.
“I was like, ‘What is this?'” he testified. “It didn’t look right.
“Then … All I heard was ‘boom’, ‘Detroit police, Detroit police, everyone on the ground.'”
The guys from Pittsburgh ran to the basement, Wilson ran to the back door trying to grab some of the cash on the way and the cocaine supplier stayed in the front room where police initially entered.
“I knew he had set me up,” Wilson said. “All Detroit police (came in), dressed like SWAT or Narcos, all wearing masks.”
Eventually, the men surrendered and were handcuffed and questioned individually, he says by Hansberry, in the basement.
“I knew something was fishy,” Wilson said.
The officers searched the home and found the cash-gorged suitcase.
One of the officers pointed at it. “He was like, ‘We got it. We got it,” Wilson said.
Wilson, a habitual offender, said he thought he “was done.”
But the police let him and other men leave the house one by one. No one was arrested and there was no search warrant presented, nor a forfeiture receipt, Wilson said.
“I was like, ‘I just got robbed,'” Wilson testified, adding that his attorney said to “leave it alone.”
When assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley asked Wilson why he never reported the incident, he responded: “That was a drug deal that went wrong and I didn’t want to go to jail.”
The other is Amber Pickett, girlfriend of a high-profile Detroit D-boy. She is currently serving time after being busted in a raid connected to a Mexican cartel. Her story is as follows:
Pickett, another witness for the prosecution, talked about a raid at the west Detroit home she shared with her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas Simmons, a known drug dealer currently serving a nearly 14-year sentence for crimes related to a Downriver drug bust involving Mexican dealers.
He was indicted in 2012, according to online federal records.
That drug case isn’t connected with the incident Pickett testified about Friday.
Pickett said Simmons kept a duffel bag in their home, filled with cash. He told Pickett to grab $10,000 from it and throw herself a birthday party in April 2011, she testified.
Police busted into their home on April 19, 2011, and officers said in forfeiture documents they confiscated marijuana, heroin, cocaine, the duffel bag with $45,460 in cash and a Romanian-made, AK-47-style assault rifle.
Prosecutors in the initial criminal complaint said officers would divide money, property and controlled substances obtained from their victims, “and would sell the controlled substances in order to share proceeds of such sales.”
Pickett said she didn’t remember the gun and didn’t know what drugs police confiscated. Neither she nor Simmons were arrested.
After leaving their house, some of the same officers raided a home on Lancashire Street in west Detroit owned by Simmons’ stepmother, Charlotte Simmons.
Charlotte Simmons, who is married to Nicholas Simmons’ father, Roderick Simmons, another high-level convicted drug dealer, said Friday she didn’t have anything illegal when police broke down her antique front door that cost about $3,500 to replace.
The real estate agent said police questioned her about the cash — she claims it was between $6,000 and $7,000 — found in an envelope on her nightstand.
She claimed it was rent money paid to her by tenants at the nine properties she owns.
She never reported the incident until the FBI approached her during their Detroit police corruption probe in 2015, at which time, she now admits, she lied and told the FBI Detroit police took the cash.
She said the Detroit police who raided her home were “cocky” and she felt “violated,” so when the FBI questioned her, she lied because she was angry.
The trial continued at 8:30 this morning. Proceedings could stretch into July. In addition to the federal case going on, at least 11 Detroit cops have been named in civil suits for similar accusations since last summer. Hansberry is named in a few of them.