By John Holland
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Police Officer Kevin Companion discussed a string of crimes with an undercover FBI agent and bragged that he had friends high up in the department who would help him quietly retire if caught, Chief James Scarberry said.
Companion, accused with three other officers of running heroin, protecting gambling operations and smuggling stolen diamonds, named Major Louis Granteed and Capt. Tony Rode as the officers who would persuade Scarberry to let him resign without further investigation, the chief said.
In a lengthy, wide-ranging interview last week, Scarberry called the comments, captured by FBI surveillance tape, "unbelievably stupid," adding that both men were disgusted by Companion's alleged crimes.
"Those comments just show the mentality of Kevin Companion. It doesn't reflect at all on Louie or Tony, because they would never have tolerated this if they knew what was going on. I trust both of them completely," Scarberry said.
Scarberry said he viewed some tapes in late January and was told about others by FBI agents hoping to expand their investigation. He immediately informed Granteed, an assistant chief, and other top commanders about the operation, saying they needed to know.
Last month FBI agents charged Companion, Officers Thomas Simcox and Steve Harrison and Sgt. Jeff Courtney with escorting drug shipments, laundering stolen jewelry and bearer bonds and protecting a crooked card game on a yacht, among other crimes.
All of their dealings were with FBI agents posing as mobsters, and most transactions were videotaped.
Scarberry also said he knew who leaked the information that caused FBI agents to prematurely end their probe into possible widespread corruption in the department. He insisted the leak didn't come from anyone on his staff or in the city, but wouldn't provide details.
And Scarberry said he has no plans to investigate other members of his department who may have been caught on tape or were mentioned by the four officers as potential partners in future crimes. He said he believes the four accused officers had not committed any crimes other than those conceived, arranged and videotaped by federal agents during a two-year sting.
"Unless some very unexpected information comes to us from the FBI, I think it's going to end with these four," Scarberry said. "There are other officers whose names were mentioned during some of the conversations, things like this guy or that guy could help them with some of the criminal activity. I think they were just bragging."
Rode, who wasn't told because that wasn't his chain of command, referred all questions to Scarberry. Granteed said he would never protect dishonest officers.
"I had no idea they were doing anything like this and wouldn't put up with it," Granteed said. "Kevin is a friend, but I've come this far in my career by being honest and having the trust of the chief and my fellow officers."
The tape shows Companion talking to FBI agents he thought were members of a New York crime family, Scarberry said.
"[Companion] just says if he walks in to my office and sees two meatballs — talking about FBI agents — sitting there, Louie and Tony would talk to me so he could turn in his papers and just retire," Scarberry said. "That's how stupid Kevin is if he thinks that would ever happen. The FBI agents made it clear that [Companion] never approached either one of them."
In late January federal agents turned Simcox into a cooperating witness to search for what they called other crooked cops in the department, according to federal investigators and Scarberry.
Simcox worked in the department for about three weeks as an undercover informant before Courtney and Companion found out about the investigation around Feb. 22, a day before federal prosecutors announced the charges.
"I know where the leak came from. Jeff Courtney knows who the leak is, and he's going to tell the FBI, and that will be it," said Scarberry, who told Mayor Mara Giulianti, City Manager Cameron Benson and several senior officers about the investigation. "It didn't come from anyone in this department, or anyone in the city of Hollywood. That I know for sure."
Courtney's lawyer took issue with Scarberry's version of the leak.
"I mean no disrespect to the chief, I don't know where he got that information," attorney Mel Black said. "There are certain assumptions that might be mistaken."
An FBI spokeswoman said she could not comment. Companion's lawyer could not be reached Friday.
According to federal prosecutors and the FBI arrest affidavit, the four officers occasionally did work for what they believed to be mobsters over a period of about two years, sometimes with lengthy gaps between jobs.
Scarberry said he has no interest in trying to find out if the officers committed other crimes when they weren't under FBI surveillance.
"This went on for two years ... and the only actual times they did anything wrong, according to the [arrest affidavit] was when the FBI was setting up things for them to do," Scarberry said. "No, I'm not worried at all. I just don't have any reason to believe they were involved in anything else, and there's no indication anyone else on the department was involved."
Granteed, the assistant chief, said Friday there are no dishonest cops left in the entire department and any further investigation is unnecessary.
"There was no corruption in our agency until the FBI brought the corruption to our agency," Granteed said. "All four of the officers have been working a long time and have outstanding performance records. They should have just said no."
Copyright 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Fla. chief blasts officer accused in scandal