COVINGTON -- One of the 15 suspects charged in connection with law enforcement officers providing protection for drug dealers is a Covington man and former DeKalb County jailer, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
News of the federal drug trafficking sting was released Tuesday in which the 15 former and current law enforcement officers from an assortment of metro-Atlanta jurisdictions were charged with accepting thousands of dollars in cash payments to provide protection during drug deals.
The undercover operation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arose out of an Atlanta area street gang investigation in 2011. ATF agents learned from an individual associated with the gang that police officers were involved in protecting the gang's criminal operations, including drug trafficking crimes. According to the cooperating individual, the officers -- while wearing uniforms, driving police vehicles or otherwise displaying badges -- provided security to the gang members during drug deals. Undercover officers were able to infiltrate the operation, make drug transactions with sham cocaine and monitored transactions by audio and video recording.
Chase Valentine, 44, of Covington was named as one of the men arrested in the sting. It is alleged Valentine was brought into the protection scheme in January 2013 by suspects Gregory Lee Harvey, 26, of Stone Mountain and Monyette McLaurin, 37, of Atlanta, both of whom are alleged to have impersonated DeKalb County Sheriff's Office deputies.
According to Yates' press release, Valentine was to help provide security for future drug deals and represented himself to be a DeKalb County Sheriff's Office deputy, even though his position as a jail officer ended in 2010.
"Together with Harvey, Valentine provided security for one undercover drug transaction on Jan. 17, 2013, during which he wore a DeKalb Sheriff's Office uniform and a pistol in a holster on his belt," the press release states. "During the transaction, Valentine escorted the seller to pick up the sham cocaine, counted the number of kilograms delivered, and stood outside the purchaser's car during the actual transaction."
It is alleged that Valentine received $6,000 for his services and he is charged with attempted possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Each charge of attempted possession with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of cocaine carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. Each charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
"Corrupt public officials undermine the fabric of our nation's security, our overall safety, the public trust and confidence in those chosen to protect and serve," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow. "The corruption and abuse of power exemplified in this case can tarnish virtually every aspect of society."