Oklahoma: LOL! Marijuana Smugglers Will Go Free Because Private Company Helped Arrest Them
By Steve Elliott
A Caddo County, Oklahoma judge last year dismissed 30 drug cases in a single day because employees of a private company helped arrest the defendants. Now, attorneys say more cases in other counties are likely tainted due to their involvement.
Employees of a company called Desert Snow were helping make drug busts until a judge put a stop to the practice, reports Abby Broyles at KFOR News Channel 4.
A couple of years ago, District Attorney Jason Hicks made the monumentally bone-headed move of hiring Desert Snow employees to help train officers make drug stops along I-40, well known among drug enforcement types as a "drug corridor."
But Desert Snow employees were doing more than just training. They were doing actual police work, including arresting people, on the stops, and making money while doing it.
"[They] seized him, seized some containers of marijuana coming in from Colorado, seized $13,000 in cash, seized his car," said attorney Irven Box of one of those defendants.
Desert Snow employees aren't CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) certified -- but police in Oklahoma are required to be.
DA Hicks broke ties with the company after a ruckus occurred over the arrests. Desert Snow, seemingly something of a fly by night operation, then moved out of its Guthrie, Oklahoma office building.
But their employees are still, er, "assisting" law enforcement agencies on Oklahoma's interstates.
"I have cases throughout Oklahoma right now where the discovery I've received has informed me they are still operating in Oklahoma," said attorney Adam Banner.
Judges will have to examine the extent of Desert Snow's involvement in the stops.
"If an officer stops and calls in to ask advice from that [Desert Snow] officer while he's doing it, I think that taints the case," Box said.
Law enforcement agencies keep the money they seize in drug busts; that's one reason, of course, they're so damned enthusiastic about making them. And get this -- in its arrangement with Caddo County, Desert Snow got to keep up to 25 percent of the money seized! Nice work, if you can get it.
"When you've got a private company with a vested interest in receiving funds from any asset forfeiture that occurs, it gives you a bad taste in your mouth," Banner said.
Similarly sleazy practices have been happening in other states, as well, and now a federal lawsuit against Desert Snow is pen ding.
Caddo County has had to give back more than $20,000 in a few of those drug cases which were dismissed because of Desert Snow's involvement.
Calls to Desert Snow went unreturned.