A former East Cleveland police detective was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for his role in a conspiracy in which he kept thousands of dollars from alleged drug dealers, according to the Department of Justice.
Much of the money was seized through illegal searches and fabricated reports, officials said.
Antonio Malone, 34, of Cleveland, was sentenced to 71 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $23,000 in restitution, the DOJ reported. He previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy.
Malone was the last of three former East Cleveland police officers sent to prison for their roles in the conspiracy.
Torris Moore, of South Euclid, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty late last year to one count each of conspiracy against rights, Hobbs Act conspiracy and false statements to law enforcement and two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to authorities.
The DOJ reported Eric Jones, of Cleveland Heights, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy.
“These three officers are a disgrace to the badge they wore and the community they swore to protect,” said Carole S. Rendon, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “They personally profited from the drug trade that has ravaged East Cleveland. They deserve to be sent to prison for their extensive crimes, which undercut the credibility of law enforcement and the court system.”
“These officers acted like cunning criminals rather than honorable public servants who swore to protect and serve,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “They are now all behind bars for their reprehensible, unlawful conduct.”
“When detectives target and rob a drug dealer and then create false evidence to cover up their own crimes, those officers are Benedict Arnolds,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said. “They have betrayed all the dedicated law enforcement officers, alive and dead, who gave their lives upholding the law and protecting our communities. So this officer now deserves to switch places with the drug dealer whose conviction we had to vacate and who has been released from prison.”
Moore was a sergeant at the East Cleveland Police Department, officials said, where she supervised the Street Crimes Unit. Malone and Jones were detectives assigned to the Street Crimes Unit. The defendants were familiar with several drug traffickers, according to court documents.
During 2014, they conspired to enter locations and went beyond their rights as police, conducting unlawful searches and seizures, used their power to seize money and property for themselves under the guise of legitimate search warrants, and created and approved false reports, affidavits and other documents to conceal their illegal searches and seizures, according to court documents.
These illegal searches took place in East Cleveland, authorities reported, but also outside city limits, in various locations throughout Greater Cleveland. The conspirators placed false and inaccurate information in police reports. This false information was used to obtain search warrants, according to court documents.
The conspirators seized money and property during these searches, and diverted some of the seized money and property for their own use, according to court documents. Malone provided false information to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office about certain investigative techniques in order to conceal their illegal conduct, including attributing information to a confidential informant that did not exist.
On Sept. 10, 2012, Jones presented an affidavit to an East Cleveland Municipal judge, which the conspirators knew contained false and misleading statements. The judge, unaware of false information, issued a search warrant for a home on Sheldon Avenue. Moore, Malone, Jones and another officer then executed the search warrant and seized $20,000.
On Sept. 11, 2012, Moore, Malone and Jones met at a park in East Cleveland and divided a portion of the $20,000, with each officer receiving between $2,000 and $3,000, authorities reported. Jones then authored a report reflecting that they had seized a total of $11,173, according to court documents.
On June 20, 2013, SCU officers, including Moore, searched a home on East 85th Street, officials reported. Malone, without a search warrant, forced his way into a secured room and seized approximately $100,000 in cash. Moore, Malone and Jones removed some of the cash before the remainder was secured in the East Cleveland Police Department’s evidence room.
Later that day, officials said, the three officers met at an East Cleveland park and divided the money, with each receiving about $10,000. Malone later wrote the search resulted in the recovery of $74,670, according to court documents.
On June 19, 2014, Malone came in contact with a parked car driven by a known drug trafficker, identified in the indictment only as M.M. Malone arrested M.M., who told police he had approximately $11,000 or $12,000 in the car’s glove box. Malone agreed to release M.M. but insisted on towing the car. Malone said: “I looked out for you. You gotta look out for me,” before instructing M.M. to get the cash from the glove box, but to leave behind $3,000. Malone removed $3,000 from M.M.’s car but did not list the money when he completed the vehicle’s inventory form, according to court documents.