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Ex-Detroit Police Worker Pleads Guilty in $1.3 Million Drug Theft

DETROIT (AP) -- A man has pleaded guilty to accusations that he stole 220 pounds of cocaine while working as an employee in the Detroit Police Department evidence room and sold it for $1.3 million.

John Earl Cole Sr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and money laundering. A federal grand jury indicted him two years ago.

Under a plea agreement, he faces no more than 30 years in prison and will be liable to repay $1.3 million, the amount the government says he received for the drugs. He faced up to life in prison as originally charged.

Cole, 52, said Thursday that he took at least 220 pounds of cocaine between 1994 and 2000 using a duffel bag. He said he kept the cocaine in his locker and replaced some of the stolen cocaine with flour.

Cole said he sold the cocaine on the street and used the proceeds to buy at least 17 Detroit properties, including a barbershop and apartment buildings.

He said he worked with police Officer Donald Hynes on the thefts, which he said happened three or four times a year.

Hynes, who is under indictment awaiting trial, helped Cole "because he had the key to the evidence room, and it would look suspicious if I went in alone," Cole told the court.

If prosecutors say Cole has provided substantial assistance, they will recommend a sentence of 15 years, The Detroit News said. Cole has served nearly two years in custody awaiting trial.

To date, six others have pleaded guilty in the investigation.

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