November 02, 2006
Contact: SA Susan Wolf
Phone Number: (202) 305-8500
Sheriff, 12 Deputies Among Those Arrested On Drug, Racketeering Charges In Southern VA County
20 Defendants Charged With Stealing Guns, Obstructing Justice, and Selling Drugs
NOV 2 -- (WASHINGTON D.C.) – The Drug Enforcement Administration announced the arrest of 16 defendants, including Henry County Sheriff Harold Cassell, in the culmination of a five-year investigation into a major drug, weapons, and money laundering operation which also involved several current and former law enforcement officials. Four individuals remain at-large.
A major break in the case came as a result of Operation Cyber Chase when in 2005, DEA agents made a controlled delivery of 2 kilograms of ketamine to defendants in Henry County.
According to the 48-count indictment returned by the Grand Jury in Abingdon, Virginia, 20 defendants, including Sheriff Cassell, have been charged for their roles in a racketeering conspiracy that included the distribution of illegal drugs, theft of drugs and firearms under the custody of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Thirteen of the defendants are current or former employees of the Henry County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office.
“As a public servant, I am deeply disturbed by the actions of these individuals, especially the law enforcement officers arrested today,” said Shawn A. Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington D.C. Division. “Those who betray the public trust insult the integrity and honor of all police officers who risk their lives upholding the law. DEA joins with the Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service to send a clear message that their disgraceful acts will never be tolerated.”
“The members of this conspiracy took advantage of the trust placed in them as law enforcement officers. Their illegal activities included drug distribution, money laundering, and stealing property that was in the custody of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. Then, when they were confronted by investigators, the defendants lied in an attempt to cover their tracks,” said United States Attorney John Brownlee.
According to the indictment, since 1998, sworn officers, employees, and associates of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office engaged in a continuous scheme to distribute the date rape drug Ketamine, cocaine, crack and marijuana. Members of the conspiracy would use their connections with the Sheriff’s Department to obtain these drugs and to avoid arrest. Members also allegedly took firearms for their own personal use that were seized by and under the custody of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.
The indictment alleges that Cassell was advised by authorities of the drug transactions going on in his department but he chose not to take any action. Furthermore, it is charged that Cassell covered up several of the illegal activities by making false statements to federal investigators and by adding and abetting the money laundering aspect of the operation.
In addition to Cassell, a deputy who served as a school resource officer, the supervisor of a vice unit, and a canine handler were also arrested.