By Heather Ratcliffe
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Bobby Wood figured he could make more money if he stole dope from his supplier rather than pay for it, federal officials said Friday, so he enlisted a corrupt cop and a towing company owner to intercept couriers carrying cocaine.
The FBI spent more than a year watching them, officials revealed Friday in announcing charges against six men that accuse them of trafficking in more than $2.4 million worth of cocaine.
U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said the alleged leader, Wood, 37, arranged for out-of-state couriers to drive through Hillsdale, where police Sgt. Christopher Cornell would stop the vehicles and arrest the drivers.
Bruce Gales, 36, owner of Galez Towing and Recovery in Wellston, took the couriers' cars away and then stole the drugs from hidden compartments, the indictments say. Gales allegedly received at least $35,000 for his role.
Wood paid Cornell $200 to $1,000 each time the officer detained a drug courier, according to the indictments.
Wood arranged to steal the drugs so he would not have to pay the couriers, Hanaway said.
"It saddens me a great deal any time we have to charge a police officer with abusing his authority," Hanaway said at a news conference. "It's sad when we find a police officer cooperating with drug dealers."
Wood, Cornell and Gales were named in the indictments, along with their alleged distributors -- Mark Bonds, 43, and Mario Lucas, 35, both of north St. Louis County, and Christopher L. Jones of O'Fallon, Mo. Each is charged with one felony count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
In addition, Wood, of the 1300 block of Woodruff Avenue in Pagedale, was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Gales also faces charges of attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, using a communication device to facilitate a felony and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Cornell was charged with attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and use of a communication device to facilitate a felony.
Gales, of the 200 block of Houshang Lane in St. Louis County, is also under investigation by the Missouri attorney general's office for unrelated accusations of overcharging customers.
Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture orders against several of the defendants to recover cash and expensive vehicles allegedly purchased with the drug profits -- including a 2003 Mercedes-Benz, 2003 Land Rover and several customized cars.
Hanaway said the group bought and sold cars and motorcycles to launder their money so authorities did not know it was tied to drugs. Investigators with the Internal Revenue Service said they dissected the suspects' financial affairs to find the drug money.
Roland Corvington, the FBI special agent in charge at St. Louis, said the probe began in the spring of 2005, after an informer tipped off a St. Louis city police officer assigned to work with the FBI. Authorities used a wiretap and surveillance to document drug activities for more than a year, Corvington said. The drug ring used safe houses to store and distribute the cocaine, according to the indictments. The suspects communicated with cell phones in other people's names.
In August, a federal agent videotaped a pre-arranged traffic stop in which Cornell stopped an FBI informer posing as a drug trafficker. After the officer took away the driver, agents watched Gales and Wood take a duffel bag from the car.
On Friday, all but one of the defendants were arrested or surrendered to federal authorities. Police were still looking for Jones, of the 100 block of Jacobs Way.
Mo. officer among 6 charged in drug sting