Operation Switch: The Cadillac and the Corvette
Part three of a four-part series going inside the first long-term undercover operation in the United States
Editor's Note: This week’s PoliceOne First Person essay is from PoliceOne Member Jack Miller. Miller is one of the few officers left alive who was directly involved in Operation Switch, the first long-term undercover sting operation in the United States. In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. If you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members, simply send us an email with your story.
By Jack Miller
From the first day of operation, the team discussed how to close the operation and how to get as many customers as they could into the storefront for an arrest.
After operating for about five months, it happened. Just before closing on a Friday night, one of the regular customers called and asked if it was OK to bring in some new customers with a new Cadillac. It was affirmed and the crew set up.
Shortly thereafter the regular customer and two new males entered. The counterman greeted the three individuals and the group began discussing the car.
One question asked was, “Is there any heat behind the car?”
“No,” was the reply.
The car was purchased for $600.
Monday morning we found out they had lied.
Evidence of a “Whodunit”
In the newspaper and on TV was a missing person report for a Cadillac sales manager last seen on Friday. On Tuesday, a man walking his dog in the desert found the body of the missing manager.
It did not take a mental giant to figure out we had evidence of a “whodunit.”
We could not withhold this, and homicide was notified. Homicide detectives did a search of the vehicle and found a sales slip for an anniversary card the manager purchased at a drug store as well as a bloody tire iron. They went to the drug store and pulled surveillance tapes and on review saw the manager at the card rack and three males in the store.
The surveillance tapes showed the manager leaving the store and being followed out by the three males. From the head wounds on the victim and a bloody tire iron, it was assumed the three men approached the victim, probably by asking for some assistance to change a tire.
When they got the tire iron, it was used to hit the victim. They then stuffed him in the trunk and took the body to the desert.
They then drove around, picking up the fourth man, who brought the suspects to the storefront.
The men were identified as being the same men in the drugstore surveillance tapes as in the storefront. They were identified and arrested.
During interviews these men were told the car had been found and the evidence led to them. They confessed and identified the others involved but did not mention “the fencing operation.” However, one of the UCs would have to testify at the preliminary hearing, which was delayed by the DA’s office while the four remained in jail based on probable cause and extremely high bail.
Broads, Coke, and a Corvette
The closing of the operation was initiated by posting a photo of a red Corvette on the wall and everyone who came in was told there would be a party and that “this” would be given to one of the attendees.
When making that statement, the undercover officer would tap the photo.
They were also told there would be “broads” and “coke” provided. No one was told the “broads” would be female police officers and the “coke” would be ice cold sodas for the officers.
On the night of the party, 24 customers were arrested, and the arrests recorded.
As they approached the storefront, they were met by one of the undercover officers who patted them down to make certain they had no weapons. They were then buzzed in through the newly installed electric door release. When they entered, they were welcomed by the second undercover officer wearing a zippered vest.
He told the customer that “the boss was in the back” (where some loud music was being played and the male and female officers were loudly talking, basically having a good time).
There was a picture taped to the back of the entry door. At the same time the customer saw the picture of the sheriff, the undercover officer would unzip his vest, display his badge, and say, “And you are under arrest.”
At that precise time, the false wall fell and two LVMPD officers exited, placed the arrestee against the wall, handcuffed and searched him or her. They were then led to the back room where they were advised of the rights and had their mouths taped so they could not warn others.
That’s all for this week. Check back on November 14th for the fourth and final installment in this series.
About the Author
Jack Miller is the author of seven published books (Cold War Warrior, Cold War Defector, The Medal, The Master Cheat, The Peacekeepers, and Sin city Indictment) The seventh, Operation Switch, provides more detail of the first long-term undercover police sting.