Tag Archives: undercover

Hooker Arrested for Prostitution

brianna hooker

Brianna Hooker

Lee County ran an undercover prostitution sting over the weekend and picked up a hooker… Brianna Hooker. There were 14 more arrests from the operation, in addition to Ms. Hooker. The undercover detective invited her to a location where he was staying, whereupon she agreed to have sex with him, then asked if she could smoke up before she performed for him. She has an extensive history of drugs and theft related offenses, and is facing drug possession charges as well as a violation of her earlier probation for this new charge. As is so often the case, the drug abuse likely led to the theft and prostitution as she tried to feed her addiction. That’s likely the case for several of the co-defendants from this operation.

Now Charlotte County is Getting in on the Online Sex Offender Sting Bandwagon

Charlotte County, which apparently doesn’t understand news cycles, released info this afternoon of their online sex-offender sting operation. They only caught 11 people, and since they were willing to bring in people from out of county, suggests that the actual sex offenders have wisened up, or that the investigators were actually taking precautions to avoid entrapment situations. Experience tells me the former is more likely the case, which represents a fail all around.

Where did they do that press conference? Is that the county commission chambers? What is that… that’s ghetto law enforcement. If this is anything like the last round of sex offender stings, poor law enforcement technique will leave these arrests open to challenge by defense attorneys…

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/26233761/11-arrested-in-north-port-child-sex-sting#.U-VdZPldXVU

Florida’s Sex-Sting Operations Have Gone Statewide

The Florida Sheriff’s Task Force, a statewide joint effort of many sheriffs, held a press conference today announcing arrests across the state spanning several months. Most of the arrests have already been made public, but the leaders of this operation hadn’t had enough press conferences yet,  and held another one. Like with most of them, they had to come up with a catchy nickname, this time it’s “Operation Cyber-Vigilance”.

There isn’t much detail available online, but these operations likely used the same problematic procedures that have become commonplace in sex-offender stings across Florida. In the past, investigators have made mistakes that have allowed defense attorneys like myself to capitalize and defeat some of these charges: errors that have caught up non-perverts of entrapped people that might have actually been looking to do something nefarious. Until the investigators change their tactics, these arrests will be attacked and questioned. While the article above doesn’t give much counter information, it does point out that some charges have already been dropped by prosecutors. That alone should signal a red flag.

The Dirtiest Trick Used to Entrap Internet Sting Targets

Like clockwork, the commenters on the Operation Safe Summer are wholeheartedly in support of locking up these “perverts” and throwing away the keys. Some on Facebook suggested we dispense with due process and just take them out and shoot them. I doubt the general public realizes that many of those arrested in these type of sting operations are not the “real monsters and real scary, creepy people” that the Sheriff suggested they were the last time around, when LCSO did Operation Spider Web. Half a dozen people from that operation were acquitted. Several of the targets arrested were only teenagers, themselves, and this operation tagged several men who were barely over 20.

I discussed how these operations are set up for a high risk of entrapping people in my post yesterday, but I didn’t include one of law enforcement’s favorite tricks to entice non-criminals into being arrested. Law enforcement, including the task forces that usually propagate these internet sting operations like to claim that their decoys are acting as 14 or 15-year-olds. That sounds creepy when 70-year-olds are arrested fro trying to meet with them, but not so much when its other teenagers. What’s worse, and this is the really outrageous trick that law enforcement uses, is that they will send photographs of OLDER undercover agents in place of the supposedly younger decoys.

That’s right, agents will send their targets pictures of older, more developed decoys than they are posing as. Sometimes they’ll even send bikini pics. The precept that they are targeting perverts is blown out of the water when they use photos of older, more mature decoys.

Many times, the decoy photos may even be of legal age. The age of consent in Florida is 16 if the partner is under 24. Some of the pictures used in these operations feature 16 and 17-year-old decoy photos. That’s especially egregious when they are arresting 20-year-olds and younger. They can still prosecute the case, and they still do, even when the decoy photograph is of someone of legal age to have contact with a target. That’s dirty pool. That’s why people get acquitted from these crappy internet sting operations. Maybe this time is different, but time will tell when the details of Operation Safe Summer are released.

More details in yesterday’s post: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/lcso-ran-another-crappy-sex-sting-operation/

 

LCSO Ran Another Crappy Sex Sting Operation

  • LCSO ran an internet sex-offender undercover sting operation
  • They call it Operation Safe Summer
  • The last one had a lot of bad arrests
  • Details are scarce so far, but it looks like they arrested more kids than dangerous predators this time around

Ironically, the same day I ran an article decrying sting operations which tend to entrap people who are not looking to commit a crime, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office does a press conference to brag about their undercover sting operation. We can only hope that the investigators working this operation did a better job in their investigation than the last time. Details have not been released yet, other than the names and personal details of the accused, but the last time around, several of the cases had to be dropped, others were acquitted, and one case was thrown out by a judge due to the outrageous behavior on the part of law enforcement in entrapping one of the suspects. Yes, several creepy, bad people may be among those charged, but there are a lot of people who get stung in these operations who are not criminals. Those stories don’t make news, because the people want to put it behind them.

As I stated this morning, one of the tenets of doing undercover sting operations is that the sting should be targeted specifically to known, ongoing criminal activity. These operations, as they are generally run, do the opposite. The undercover agents go fishing, and try to cast as wide a net as possible to ensnare more people and get a better headline after the press conference. Instead of catching actual, dangerous predators, they get a bunch of bored kids who aren’t looking to do anything illegal until the cops entice them to do it.

The last time around, Operation Spider Web, arrested a kid who never agreed to do anything with the cops: he thought he was coming over to hang out with another kid. Other times, the cops didn’t even claim to be a minor until their target was already headed to the house. For almost all of them, the cops initiated contact with the targets, which is absolutely contrary to the way a proper sting should be run. That’s why several people took their cases to trial, and several of them were acquitted, but not before their names had been dragged through the mud. And Spider Web, and probably Operation Safe Summer, follow the set-up textbook operating manual.

If you wanted to draw up a textbook entrapment situation, Operation Spider Web, and many of the similar internet sting operations around the state would follow the blueprint for improper law enforcement conduct. Instead of targeting known suspects, or suspicious chatrooms, or something with ANY indication of ongoing criminal activity, these operations randomly target internet users. Instead of waiting to be contacted, or putting out bait on an online service, agents initiate contact with unsuspecting targets. Instead of letting the suspects lead the discussion, agents frequently bring it around to sexual connotations, at times pushing it, and enticing the targets with sexual gratifications. They deliberately try to walk the line so they don’t get called out on it in court, and it still comes back on them time and again. The First District Appellate court decried their techniques just last fall in the widely noted Gennette case, but here we are again. See Gennette v. State, 124 So.3d 373 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013). Gennette was the authority that caused a local judge to throw out one of the arrests last time around, based on the behavior of law enforcement.

Operation Spider Web was overseen by FDLE Special Agent Charles McMullen. He’s basically a government hired gun, who travels around the state setting up these sting operations. He doesn’t care about targeting actual predators: trying to get as many people as possible arrested. The more arrests me makes, the more his job is justified… and the less resources go toward actual dangerous predators. He signed off on most of the arrests last time, which means he was personally responsible for at a good half-dozen bad arrests last time he came to town. Bad arrests hurt innocent people, and the fact that most of the arrestees this time around are 20-somethings suggest that these cases are more set-up than good arrest. Law Enforcement got their big press conference, and will probably lead the evening news, but they probably didn’t do much to make our community safer. Especially not if these are more McMullen specials…

Those charged with these offenses should contact me or another experienced defense attorney to fight. Not only are they facing prison time, they are facing lifelong sex-offender designations. And the more energy law enforcement has to expend fighting these cases, the more likely they are to finally realize the error of their ways.

Federal Judges Are Rejecting ATF Sting Operations as Entrapment

  • These stings entice would-be robbers into fake home invasions
  • A second federal judge has thrown out cases based on this law enforcement behavior

A Federal District Judge in Los Angeles threw out the cases against three men who had been indicted for robbery, ruling that the government conduct in setting them up was outrageous and amounted to unconstitutional entrapment. The entrapment doctrine has been around for a long time, but the courts are generally reluctant to invalidate cases based on it. The law gives government agents a great deal of leeway in their investigations, but they can cross the line when they entice someone to commit a crime who would not have done so, otherwise. Apparently, there is growing use by ATF of these drug-house robbery set-ups, where agents promise vast payouts to entice suspects to agree to rob fictitious drug houses.

The biggest problem with these stings is that often, the suspects are not suspects of anything until the agents create the idea of the crime. In doing so, they turn people have little or no criminal history, into major felons. Agents create the crime to pump up their arrest and convictions numbers, while not doing anything to stop actual crime. It’s lazy law enforcement… instead of looking for actual robbers and drug dealers, they find suckers and talk them into conspiring to commit a fake crime, and then serve up an easy arrest.

This ruling is the second in a couple of months to reject the tactic. Both cases are being appealed by the government. One might wonder why they are spending the money to fight for the right to prosecute fake crime, instead of focusing on getting the real criminals off the street. At the very least, we can hope that these rulings gets the government agencies to think twice about the tactics they use to make their busts. It’s a basic tenet of entrapment law that the sting operations should target ongoing criminal activity, and has repeatedly been ruled upon by the Supreme Court, going back to the Sorrells opinion in 1932.

The government action can violate the due process tenets of the Constitution where the criminal conduct was “the product of the creative activity of law-enforcement officials.” Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369, 372 (1958). “In their zeal to enforce the law, however, Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” Jacobson v. U.S., 503 U.S. 540 (1992). Instead of fighting to be allowed to create crime, the government should be fighting the actual crime.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/29/atf-stash-house-sting-backlash/9719403/

 

Fort Myers Police Have a New Undercover SUV : UPDATE

It looks like a civilian SUV, albeit with a large push bumper attached in front. The new undercover vehicle appears to be a Chevy Blazer, you can see the pic on News-Press.com.  It was purchased with $150,000 grant money, and not only has full police vehicle capabilities,it also has a mobile breathalyzer inside. The grant has also provided additional money for the Department to step up DUI enforcement, including DUI Checkpoints, so be prepared. The government is spending money to be more in your business this coming year.

UPDATE: Photo Released. The SUV is in the background…

The FMPD Undercover SUV unveiling. Not so secret...

The FMPD Undercover SUV unveiling. Not so secret…