Corrupt cops: Shield of blight, not right

By James Quiggle
June 15, 2009
Police are sworn protectors of public safety. Every day, they place their lives on the chopping block to keep our necks safe.

imageBut rogue cops also prowl the mean streets, the small minority of an honored profession. Corrupt cops batter their badges by stealing insurance money to fatten their bank accounts. Some are cunning criminals who exploit their uniform’s power. Other cops are average schleps who make dumb life choices and clumsily try to escape trouble by insurance thievery.

Big-city cops or small-town ones, their screwups wreck their careers and dog them with life-long criminal records. They turn their badge--a symbol of what’s right--into a shield of blight.

Helped stage crashes
“It’s no small irony that America’s jails also house police who’ve become criminals they’re sworn to hunt down. ”
A corrupt Philadelphia cop teamed with a tow-truck driver to help launch dozens of fake car crashes and vandalisms that milked auto insurers out of more than $513,000.

Officer Drexel Reid Jr. wrote fake police reports to support the setup crashes, receiving $500 per report. Reid helped maneuver two dozen dirty claims against 11 insurers. Tow-truck driver Jerry Blassengale Jr. recruited friends and cronies to stage the crashes and lie that vandals had damaged their vehicles. Blassengale coached his recruits what to tell their insurers and how to act injured--and also threatened people who tried to back out.

Meanwhile, Chicago cops Scott Campbell and Joseph Grillo did a big favor for tow-truck operator James “Meatball” Athans. The officers chased rival tow trucks from crash scenes so Athans could illegally scarf the fees. Meatball repaid the favor. Grillo helped set up a fake theft of Campbell’s Volkswagen Passat for insurance money. Meatball had the doomed car towed to a crony’s chop shop, where it was diced into scrap.

Faked car theft

Rosedale, Miss. police officer Marvin Johnson told Progressive Insurance that someone stole his Toyota Avalon from in front of his home, the Mississippi’s insurance fraud unit in the AG’s office says.

But his story was so muddled that prosecutors made hash of his dizzy defense in court.

Johnson never even owned the Avalon. And when questioned, he strangely said the car had both a manual and automatic transmission--no car does. He also said he’d locked his only set of keys inside the vehicle. He planned to unlock the car using its external keypad, only to find it stolen stolen while he took a shower.

But Toyota doesn’t make cars with external keypads. Nor could Johnson remember the supposed keypad code. Johnson also said he’d bought the Avalon at the upscale Clements Cadillac dealership. But then he shifted gears and said he’d bought it from some “dude” under a tree by the roadside. No surprise, Johnson awaits sentencing.

Washtenaw County, Mich. sheriff deputy Jennifer Reynolds was having an affair with fellow deputy Christopher Campbell, who was married. He rammed her car with his SUV during a heated argument. To make nice and keep his wife from learning about their affair, Campbell filed a police report saying the crash was a hit-and-run in a parking lot. Reynolds used that report to file a bogus damage claim with her auto insurer.

Cop’s snitch snitches

Meanwhile, Decherd, Tenn. police detective Herbert Cantrell used a reliable snitch to bust drug dealers. But Cantrell also hired the informant to torch his house for an insurance payout to cover large medical bills. Cantrell hatched the plot just four days after buying the homeowner policy—and inflating the home’s square footage and value.

After the informant messed up the arson, a frustrated Cantrell burned down the place himself by plugging in an appliance with a frayed cord. But his informant spilled the plot to the feds--for whom he also worked as a snitch.

Some dirty cops can’t resist the lure of fake injury claims to steal workers comp money.

Deputy sheriff Benny Harding's gunshot claim was full of holes. The McCracken, Ky. officer said a mysterious assailant shot him in the shoulder while on patrol. But Harding actually shot himself to get out of work and collect free workers comp money. He stole more than $24,000 before getting caught.

Harding got off with easy probation, but couldn't stay clean. He stopped paying back the stolen money, and even lied that relatives were paying the money for him. At presstime, a court was deciding whether to haul Harding back to jail for seven years.

California Highway Patrol officer Michael Jones couldn’t lie his way out of a damning training video. Jones collected workers comp money after claiming he hurt his lower back on the job, but then appeared in a government terrorism-readiness video. He played the role of a terrorist storming Fresno’s wastewater treatment plant. He was filmed running and doing other things his supposedly bad back shouldn’t have let him do.

It’s no small irony that America’s jails also house police who’ve become criminals they’re sworn to hunt down.

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