3 Kan. officers plead guilty in theft case
Officers were under investigation to determine they were stealing cash or property from the homes in which they were serving warrants
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A third member of the KCK SWAT Team pleaded guilty as part of a sting operation to catch officers stealing during raids.
Wednesday morning, Jeffrey Bell pleaded guilty to on count of conspiracy against civil rights.
Two other members of the KCK SWAT Team pleaded guilty to similar charges Tuesday.
Dustin Sillings and Darryl Forrest each pleaded guilty to one count of violation of civil rights during hearings in U.S. District Court. The remaining charges against them were dropped in exchange for their guilty pleas.
In his plea, Bell admitted that on January 4 2011 he, Sillings, and Forrest stole several items from a KCK home while they believed they were serving a search warrant.
The three officers were indicted by a federal grand jury this summer. They were arrested in January as part of an FBI sting operation of the Selective Crime Occurrence Reduction and Enforcement (SCORE) tactical unit to determine if officers were stealing cash or property from the homes in which they were serving warrants.
A complaint from a homeowner set in motion events that led to the FBI sting operation designed to catch unscrupulous officers, authorities said. Property was stolen from homes during the execution of search warrants from January 2010 through January 2011, according to court documents.
The three officers pleaded not guilty this summer. The KCK Police Department is waiting for the criminal process to end before moving to take disciplinary action against the officers.
Kathryn Hoefer Vratil, the presiding judge for the federal courts in Kansas, was incredulous in asking Forrest about his actions. She wanted to know how a veteran police officer could throw his whole career and life away for a camcorder and cash.
Forrest mumbled that he was influenced by others, calling himself "a follower." Forrest joined the KCK Police Department eight years ago.
The officers are alleged to have stolen property while executing several search warrants at residences located in Wyandotte County, according to court documents. As many as five raids may have been involved, according to court documents.
Investigators placed $2,500 cash, electronic games, a music player, drugs and a handgun inside a home that had surveillance cameras and bugs inside.
Sillings was accused of stealing $340 planted by the FBI in the January raid, according to court documents. He is also accused of stealing at least six PlayStation video games from January 2010 through January 2011 during the execution of five separate search warrants.
According to testimony in court Tuesday, Sillings was recorded as saying during one of the raids, "It's a shame the house didn't have more swag."
Forrest was accused of stealing a Nintendo game, a Nintendo game case and an Apple iPod Touch belonging to the FBI during the sting raid, according to court documents. In addition, Forrest is accused of stealing $300 during the sting raid. He also allegedly stole a camcorder from a woman during a July 8, 2010, search. The camcorder was found in Forrest's patrol car.
Forrest and Sillings now face 18 to 33 months in prison. They could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.
In exchange for a reduced prison sentence, they must cooperate with prosecutors.
Bell is alleged to have taken at least three PlayStation PS3s during execution of three separate search warrants from January 2010 through January 2011, according to court documents. During the sting raid, Bell allegedly stole a Nintendo game player, a Nintendo game and other electronics.
Lawsuits are pending by other officers who were detained but ultimately not charged. One of the officers was recently accused of firing bullets into a car.
Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon issued a response to the trials involving the KCK officer.
"As Mayor, I expect the utmost integrity and professionalism from our police officers and a commitment to ensure the highest ethical standards are provided to our citizens.
I support Chief Rick Armstrong's earlier decision to pursue this criminal investigation and his unwavering efforts to ensure that the integrity of this police department will not compromised by a few individuals. There are many men and women in blue that are committed to serving our community each and every day with respect and honor; they've earned our trust. As Mayor, I appreciate the hard work of these officers and hope the community will also continue to support their efforts," he said.
Reprinted with permission from KCTV5.com