Three former East Cleveland police officers have been charged in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy in which they kept thousands of dollars from alleged drug dealers, much of which was seized through illegal searches and fabricated reports, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office.
According to Federa Bureau of Investigations release, Torris Moore was arrested Thursday morning following the unsealing of a five count federal indictment, which charged Moore with one count each of conspiracy against rights, Hobbs Act conspiracy and false statements to law enforcement and two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.
At the same time, a criminal information was filed in U.S. District Court. Antonio Malone and Eric Jones were both charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy.
“The three officers charged today—unlike the overwhelming majority of police officers—did not protect and serve, but rather pillaged and plundered,” Dettelbach said. “They viewed the drug trade as an opportunity to enrich themselves, and lied to the court, their fellow officers and the citizens of East Cleveland to pull off their criminal conspiracy.”
“These three officers acted like cunning criminals rather than honorable public servants that are sworn to protect and serve,” Anthony said. “They will be held accountable for their reprehensible conduct.”
Moore, 42, of South Euclid, was a sergeant at the East Cleveland Police Department, where he supervised the Street Crimes Unit. Malone, 33, of Cleveland, and Jones, 38, of Cleveland Heights, were detectives assigned to the Street Crimes Unit. The unit, including Moore, Malone and Jones, were familiar with several drug traffickers, according to the indictment.
The defendants, between 2012 through June 2014, conspired to unlawfully enter premises and exceed the scope of lawful entry, thereafter conducting unlawful searches and seizures, used their power to seize money and property for themselves under the guise of legitimate search warrants, and created and approved false reports, affidavits and other documents to conceal their illegal searches and seizures, according to the indictment.
These illegal searches took place in East Cleveland but also outside city limits, in various locations throughout Greater Cleveland, according to the indictment.
The conspirators placed false and inaccurate information in police reports, which Moore reviewed, knew was incorrect, but she failed to correct the inaccuracies. This false information was used to obtain search warrants, according to the indictment.
The conspirators seized money and property during these searches, and diverted some of the seized money and property for their own use. Malone provided false information to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office about certain investigative techniques in order to conceal their illegal conduct, including attributing information to a confidential informant that did not exist, according to the indictment.
For example, on Sept. 10, 2012, Jones presented an affidavit to an East Cleveland Municipal Judge, which the conspirators knew contained false and misleading statements. The judge, unaware of false information, issued a search warrant for a home on Sheldon Avenue. Moore, Malone, Jones and another officer then executed the search warrant and seized $20,000. On Sept. 11, Moore, Malone and Jones met at a park in East Cleveland and divided a portion of the $20,000, which each officer receiving between $2,000 and $3,000. Jones then authored a report reflecting that they had seized a total of $11,173, according to the indictment.
On June 20, 2013, SCU officers, including Moore, searched a home on East 85th Street. Malone, without a search warrant, forced his way into a room that was secured by a padlock and seized approximately $100,000 in cash. Moore, Malone and Jones removed a portion of the cash before causing the remainder to be secured in the East Cleveland Police Department’s evidence room. Later that day, the three officers met at an East Cleveland park and divided the money, with each receiving about $10,000. Malone later wrote the search resulted in the recovery of $74,670, according to the indictment.
On June 19, 2014, Malone encountered a parked car driven by a known drug trafficker, identified in the indictment only as M.M. Malone arrested M.M., who told the officer he had approximately $11,000 or $12,000 in the car’s glove box. Malone agreed to release M.M. but insisted on towing the car. Malone said: “I looked out for you. You gotta look out for me,” before instructing M.M. to get the cash from the glove box but to leave behind $3,000. Malone removed $3,000 from M.M.’s car but did not list the money when he completed the vehicle’s inventory form, according to the indictment.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Antoinette T. Bacon and Edward F. Feran following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation—Cleveland Division, with assistance from the East Cleveland Police Department and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.