Customs Agent Devon Samuels Charged With Drug Trafficking
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ATLANTA - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent was charged Thursday with using his badge to smuggle money and guns into the world's busiest airport, part of an undercover investigation authorities said led to more than a dozen other arrests and the dismantling of one of Georgia's biggest drug rings.
Devon Samuels, 45, is charged with laundering drug money, smuggling cash to an undercover agent in Jamaica and attempting to bring weapons onto an aircraft by using his clearance at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He's also accused of taking a $500 bribe to help convince immigration officials that a sham marriage was legit.
The undercover investigation led authorities to a suspected drug house in suburban Atlanta, where they seized 700,000 tabs of Ecstasy worth more than $2.8 million.
A confidential informant gave law enforcement a tip about Samuels, said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. Officers then launched two separate investigations -- one into Samuels' behavior and another into a drug smuggling group they say he helped.
The investigations led to the arrests of 13 other people in a drug ring, charged with firearm violations and conspiracy to traffic Ecstasy and marijuana. Samuels' wife Keisha Jones, a Delta Air Lines employee, also faces laundering and smuggling charges. And two more people are charged with seeking Samuels' help to commit marriage fraud.
A judge granted Samuels' request for home confinement at an initial hearing Thursday, but prosecutors are appealing that decision. An attorney representing Samuels could not immediately be reached.
Prosecutors said Samuels accepted money three times in November from an undercover officer posing as a drug money launderer, and said that each time he used his badge to avoid the airport's security screening. He traveled twice to Jamaica to deliver the money to an undercover police officer there, once bringing his wife along for the ride, they said.
Prosecutors also said he accepted five firearms and about $20,000 in drug money from an undercover officer Nov. 30. They said he bypassed security and gave the weapons and money to a second undercover officer who told him he was going to bring it to a meeting with members of a Mexican drug cartel.
At the same time, authorities were building a case against another drug smuggling ring that was linked to Samuels. They said Samuels ran illegal computer checks to determine whether Jerome Bushay, the group's suspected leader, and his associates were under a federal investigation.
Authorities started dismantling Bushay's ring in October, seizing some 700,000 ecstasy pills from a home in Chamblee, Ga. that were found hidden in insulation, crawl spaces and other out-of-reach places. Bushay and 12 others were arrested and charged with firearms violations and conspiracy to traffic ecstasy and marijuana.
Prosecutors also charged Samuels in a fraud marriage scheme. They say he was paid at least $500 help Carlton Ferguson and Dahlia McLaren deceive immigration officials into believing their marriage was genuine.
Authorities said the charges were a signal of how law enforcement can work together to unmask corruption.
"The law enforcement community here in Atlanta and around the country are committed to weeding out those whose acts tarnish the image of the many officers and agents who work tirelessly to keep our communities and country safe," said David D'Amato of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2010
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Federal Officer Indicted with 13 Others for Smuggling Guns and Money in the Airport
“Operation Rude Beast” Leads To One of the Largest Ecstasy Pill Seizures in United States History and Charges in Multiple Criminal Schemes
DEC 16 -- ATLANTA, GA – DEA and other law enforcement officials today announced that a federal customs officer based at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been arrested and charged along with 13 others for alleged drug trafficking in a large-scale investigation code-named “Operation Rude Beast.” At least four locations in the metro Atlanta area were the targets of search warrants executed today, as part of the investigation.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration is dedicated to working with federal, state and local law enforcement, not only to rid the streets of drugs, but to also to ensure the integrity of those who dedicate their lives to protecting the citizens of the United States,” DEA Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson said. “Today's arrests show the continuing efforts by law enforcement to combat corruption and dismantle a major drug organization.”
“This investigation involved a corrupt federal law enforcement officer at the airport who allegedly acted as a paid revolving door for drug money and criminal activity,” Ms. Yates said. “The amount of ecstasy in this case is staggering. It appears to be one of the largest such seizures in the country. The criminal activity was allegedly so spread out that our law enforcement partners formed a task force just for this case. It ranges from large scale drug distribution to an illegal marriage fraud scheme.”
“Today's indictment reflects the outstanding law enforcement cooperation in this case that unmasked the illicit acts of a CBP officer,” said David P. D'Amato, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for the Southeast. “The law enforcement community here in Atlanta and around the country are committed to weeding out those whose acts tarnish the image of the many officers and agents who work tirelessly to keep our communities and country safe.”
In Jamaica, Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Felice of the Jamaican Constabulary Force, Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) said, “This case demonstrates the strong partnership between law enforcement agencies in the United States and Jamaica to combat corruption and bring those who would tarnish their public oaths to uphold the law to justice. The citizens of all countries need to know international cooperation between U.S. law enforcement agencies and the ACB is essential to reduce levels of transnational crime and maintain public confidence with law enforcement. Integrity is non-negotiable.”
“This investigation demonstrates the effectiveness and commitment of law enforcement agencies to prevent drugs from continuing to infiltrate our communities. The multi-jurisdictional cooperation exhibited in this investigation is evidence that pooled resources can make significant inroads in identifying and prosecuting individuals violating the law,”said DeKalb County Police Chief William O'Brien.
CBP Director of Field Operations Robert Gomez said, “Vigilance, Service to Country and Integrity are the core values central to carrying out our mission. One corrupt officer is too many. I applaud the great cooperation of all agencies who worked this case.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael D. McDaniel said,
“The indictments handed down on Operation Rude Beast are another testament to what can be accomplished when all levels of law enforcement work together. Allegations involving the laundering of drug proceeds constitute a serious threat to our community, to the integrity of our financial system, as well to our national security.”
A federal grand jury has returned three indictments related to “Operation Rude Beast,” which were all unsealed on Thursday, December 16, 2010.
In the first indictment, the following individuals were charged with offenses including conspiring to launder drug money, with bulk cash smuggling, and with attempting to bring a weapon on to an aircraft:
- DEVON SAMUELS, a/k/a “Smokey;” 45, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, of Stockbridge, Georgia;
- MARK TOMLINSON, a/k/a “Supa,” 36, of Stone Mountain, Georgia; and
- KEISHA JONES, a/k/a “Platinum,” 30, a Delta employee, of Stockbridge, Georgia.
In the second indictment, the following individuals were charged with offenses including conspiracy to traffic MDMA (ecstasy) and marijuana, and firearms violations:
- JEROME BUSHAY, a/k/a “Romey;” 32, of Norcross, Georgia;
- FNU LNU, a/k/a “Otis,” age and place of residence unknown;
- CHRISTOPHER DIXON, a/k/a “Yardman,” 37, of Lithonia, Georgia;
- MARK TOMLINSON, a/k/a “Supa,”36, of Stone Mountain, Georgia;
- ROSHAUN HOOD, a/k/a “Shaun,” 29, of Atlanta, Georgia;
- CURTIS HERNANDEZ, a/k/a “Kurt Hernandez,” 38, of Decatur, Georgia;
- NIGEL EDWARDS, a/k/a “Nigel the Barber,” 33, of Stone Mountain, Georgia;
- JERMAINE CAMPBELL, a/k/a “Fatman,” 30, of DeKalb County, Georgia;
- RICARDO DUNCAN, a/k/a “Ricky,” 27, of Lithonia, Georgia;
- DAVE GRANT, a/k/a David Clarke, a/k/a “Scratchy,” age unknown, of Lithonia, Georgia;
- CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, a/k/a “Eric Washington,” “Bobby,” “Beagle,” and “Apachee,” 33, of Snellville, Georgia;
- DAMIEN AARONS, a/k/a “Damage,” 35, of Covington, Georgia; and
- FNU LNU, a/k/a “Fowley,” age and place of residence unknown.
In the third indictment, the following individuals were charged with offenses including conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and making false statements on immigration documents:
- DEVON SAMUELS, a/k/a “Smokey,” 45, of Stockbridge, Georgia
- CARLTON FERGUSON, a/k/a “Fergie,” 35, of Decatur, Georgia; and
- DAHLIA MCLAREN, a/k/a “Dahlia McLaren Ferguson,” 29, of Decatur, Georgia.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In November 2010, SAMUELS, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, was allegedly involved in three undercover sting operations to smuggle alleged drug money and guns through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
On November 3, 2010, an undercover officer, posing as a drug money launderer, gave SAMUELS approximately $22,000 in money represented to be from the sale of drugs. With the alleged assistance of his associate, TOMLINSON, and by unlawfully utilizing his badge to bypass security and avoid screening, SAMUELS smuggled the money through Atlanta's airport to Jamaica. Once in Jamaica, SAMUELS delivered the money to a Jamaican undercover police officer, who was posing as an international drug trafficker.
On November 19, 2010, SAMUELS allegedly accepted $50,000 in alleged drug money from another undercover officer. SAMUELS and KEISHA JONES (his wife, a Delta Airlines employee) then traveled from Atlanta to Jamaica, where SAMUELS and JONES delivered the money to Jamaican undercover police officers. The indictment alleges that while in Atlanta's airport, SAMUELS unlawfully used his badge to bypass security and avoid being screened.
On November 30, 2010, SAMUELS allegedly accepted five firearms and approximately $20,000 in alleged drug money from an undercover police officer. SAMUELS went directly to the airport with the firearms and money and unlawfully used his badge to bypass security again, smuggling the money and guns into the airport. Once inside the airport, SAMUELS allegedly gave the firearms and money to a second undercover officer who was allegedly going to transport the firearms and money to Arizona for a meeting with members of a Mexican drug cartel.
The indictment also alleges that on several occasions, SAMUELS unlawfully used his access to government computers to determine whether he or his associates where under federal investigation. SAMUELS allegedly ran a computer check on an individual involved in a separate drug investigation named JEROME BUSHAY.
In a related investigation beginning in approximately February 2010, federal law enforcement officers began investigating a specific MDMA (ecstasy) and marijuana drug trafficking organization operating in the metro Atlanta area and elsewhere. This organization was led by JEROME BUSHAY and an individual known only as “OTIS.” BUSHAY and OTIS allegedly used several distributors, brokers, and couriers to facilitate their drug distribution, including: DAMIEN AARONS, MARK TOMLINSON, CURTIS HERNANDEZ, CHRISTOPHER DIXON, RICARDO DUNCAN, CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, and ROSHAUN HOOD. These individuals then distributed the drugs to various individuals throughout the United States. On October 1, 2010, pursuant to a search warrant, law enforcement officers seized approximately 700,000 tablets of ecstasy in one of the largest domestic seizures of MDMA (ecstasy) in U.S. history. The tablets were seized at a house at 1855 8 th Street, in Chamblee, Georgia. Agents found the pills hidden in various places throughout the house, including in the insulation of the walls and in a crawl space near a bedroom. Those tablets have been held for evidence by the DEA. The street value of the ecstasy is estimated at $2.8 million.
Law enforcement agencies investigating the alleged criminal activity by SAMUELS began to follow evidence of the officer allegedly using his position to further a marriage fraud scheme. Beginning in November 2009, and in exchange for a fee, SAMUELS allegedly used his knowledge of immigration practices to assist CARLTON FERGUSON and DAHLIA MCLAREN in deceiving U.S. immigration authorities into believing that FERGUSON's and MCLAREN's sham marriage was genuine. Further investigation revealed that FERGUSON and MCLAREN married simply so that MCLAREN could obtain United States citizenship. The indictment alleges that SAMUELS was paid at least $500 for his assistance in that scheme.
The indictments also contain forfeiture provisions seeking to forfeit any and all ill-gotten gains from the criminal activity, including properties, vehicles, and weapons:
- 6746 Grey Rock Way, Lithonia, Georgia;
- 4425 Amy Drive, Snellville, Georgia;
- A 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac;
- A blue 2007 Audi Q7, 4.2 Quattro Prem S-line;
- A silver 2007 Mercedes Benz S550;
- A white 2007 Audi Q7; and
- One Springfield XD-40 .40 caliber handgun one Glock 26 handgun
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility; U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General; U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Anti-Corruption Branch, Jamaican Constabulary Force; DeKalb County Police Department; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs ( I.N.L.) U. S. State Department, and the United States Marshal Service, with assistance from Delta Airlines Corporate Security.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis, Cassandra Schansman, L. Skye Davis, and Michael J. Brown are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.usdoj.gov/usao/gan.