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Feds: Corrupt Detroit Cop Threw Money At Strippers, Hair Doctor, Cars

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According to federal prosecutors, on July 26, 2010, Detroit police discovered $3.3 million in cocaine money stashed in a truck, but only $2.2 million was turned into the evidence room. They allege $1.1 million was stolen by a crew of crooked cops. 

At the Ace of Spades strip club, Detroit Police Lt. David Hansberry was treated like a VIP: He threw money in the air, racked up thousand-dollar tabs on his American Express and kept the dancers happy, club employees testified.

And he did this, a federal agent said, with the help of unexplainable cash deposits that allowed the one-time narcotics officer to live beyond his means for years, spending tens of thousands of dollars on luxury cars, including strippers, hair-restoration treatments and shopping sprees at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

Thursday, Hansberry's spending habits and lifestyle were fully exposed in a federal courtroom as the government started wrapping up its corruption case against him by telling the jury about his spending habits and his collection of vehicles, including two Cadillacs, a Corvette and an exotic British sports car — all of which he bought while he investigated drug crimes for the Detroit Police Department.

Hansberry, who is accused of running a crew that allegedly stole drugs and money seized during police raids, sat in court Thursday and rubbed his forehead as he listened to testimony that he bankrolled his lifestyle with $157,000 in mysterious cash deposits during the years of the alleged scheme: 2010-14. An IRS agent testified that the source of the cash was unknown.


h the DPD ranged between $75,000 and $143,000, with overtime, though prosecutors have argued he made a lot more by stealing drugs and money seized in raids.

During the trial, which is in its fourth week, prosecutors have portrayed Hansberry as a fast-talking schemer and big spender who was motivated by greed. Thursday, they cited his bank and tax records to bolster that claim, showing jurors how Hansberry spent his money while working for the DPD:

  • $114,000 in car payments for an Aston Martin sports car, a Cadillac Escalade, a Cadillac ATS, a Corvette, and a Mazda 6.
  • $15,947 at the Ace of Spades/Cheetah’s strip club
  • $4,555 at a hair-restoration doctor
  • $14,293 in retail purchases at stores including Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Uggs

Hansberry's purchase of the Aston Martin in particular raised red flags because of how he paid for it. According to financial records, Hansberry made three initial cash payments for the car: one for $10,000; one for $5,000; one for $3,800 — all of which avoided being flagged under a federal reporting law that requires financial institutions to report any cash transaction over $10,000 to the federal government. A day after making two cash payments, he wrote a check for $15,000.

That looked like financial structuring, which is illegal, testified IRS agent Kevin Nalu, who was scolded by the judge for offering his opinion.

Nalu, who analyzed Hansberry's bank and tax records, testified that Hansberry consistently spent more money than he brought in during the years he ran the alleged scheme, but made up for the shortfalls with unexplained cash deposits.

For example, in 2010, Hansberry spent $140,000, when he only had $112,000 available — creating a $28,000 shortfall. That same year, he made $30,000 in cash deposits to cover the shortfall, the agent testified.

In 2011, the same thing happened: Hansberry had about $100,000 on hand, but spent roughly $148,000. He covered the shortfall with $66,000 in cash deposits,

“You don’t know where the cash deposits came from?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light asked Nalu.

“No,” the agent answered, noting without the cash, “he couldn’t cover his expenses.”

On cross-examination, Hansberry's attorney, Michael Harrison, argued that the government's financial analysis made assumptions that don't prove anything. For example, he said, the IRS agent assumed that whenever Hansberry withdrew cash from the bank, that he spent it all. For example, in 2010, Hansberry made nearly $87,000 in cash withdrawals. Isn't it possible, he argued, that Hansberry kept that money on hand and deposited it later as he needed it?

"Couldn't he have done that?" Harrison asked.

"He could have," answered Nalu.

Hansberry's codefendant, former narcotics officer Bryan Watson, who is also charged with stealing drugs and cash seized during police raids, also saw his financial records scrutinized Thursday.

According to trial testimony, Watson's financial situation was similar to Hansberry's: he spent more than he made, and he made more than $211,000 in unaccountable cash deposits to make up for the shortfalls, Nalu testified. During the years of the alleged scheme, Watson's salary with the department ranged between $44,000 and $96,000 a year.

One deposit in particular raised red flags: It was a $54,000 cashier's check that had been written to him in 2012. Nalu investigated the source of the check, and determined that it came from Watson's mom, who had previously made a $59,700cash deposit into her own bank account.

Nalu determined that Watson's mysterious cashier's check came from his mom, but he couldn't determine where his mom got the cash from.

On cross-examination, Watson's lawyer, Steve Fishman, argued that the government did not take into account that Watson's ex-wife — a Detroit schoolteacher — likely contributed to the family's expenses. He also argued that there's no proof that Watson's mom obtained the cash unlawfully. For example, he said, Watson's mom could have found the money, or won it at a casino.

Nalu said he ruled out the latter argument: That she won it at a casino. But, he conceded, he has no idea where it came from.

The bottom line, prosecutors argued, was that every year, Watson spent more money than he made as a cop.

"The cash was coming from somewhere," Nalu testified. "It's unexplained."

At the heart of the case are claims that Hansberry and Watson stole drugs and money during raids, then gave the drugs to dealers who would resell them on the street and split the proceeds with the officers. The scheme also involved fake busts, prosecutors contend, claiming Hansberry and Watson created phony search warrants and rolled up on unsuspecting drug buyers and sellers with lights flashing. They did this, prosecutors allege, with the help of other drug dealers.

A fellow officer, Arthur Leavells, also was involved in the alleged scheme and has since cut a deal in the case. He, along with several drug dealers, has testified against the officers, but the defense argues the government's witnesses are scheming liars who are only turning on Hansberry and Watson to save themselves.

Hansberry and Watson have adamantly denied any wrongdoing, claiming they were good officers trying to take down major drug organizations in Detroit. The FBI has obtained wiretap evidence in the case, in which the defendants are heard planning what prosecutors claim are phony drug busts. But the defense argues the police officers were only engaged in puffery, and that they were really working to get more information out of drug dealers in their conversations.

If convicted, the officers — along with an associate who is also on trial for allegedly being involved in one phony drug bust — could face up to 20 years in prison.

The trial is scheduled to resume Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit.



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Corrupt cops worked hand in hand with drug dealers to rip off money and drugs, according to trial testimony.


(Photo: U.S. Attorneys Office)

He referred to them as Superfriends.

Curly. Hater. And Bullet — the nicknames of three Detroit police officers who would come to his rescue in a time of need.

In return, Gary Jackson, the well-connected dope dealer who ran a trucking business, a car wash and a beauty salon over the years, testified he would help the cops skim cash and drugs. He would tip off the officers about drug deals and they would swoop in and seize the money and drugs. Some of it made it into evidence lockers, he said. Some of it didn't.

The setup worked for awhile, he said, but the FBI caught on.

Now, years later, in a federal courtroom in downtown Detroit, Jackson has turned on his Superfriends, becoming a key witness in an ongoing corruption trial that could send Detroit narcotics officers David Hansberry, 35, and Bryan Watson, 47, to prison for 20 years if a jury believes the prosecution's claim that they were dirty cops.

The smooth-talking drug dealer in his fancy suits and bright-blue alligator shoes is one of 42 government witnesses who have testified in the monthlong trial, which has played out like a Hollywood suspense thriller, complete with wiretaps, death threats, snitches, secret hotel hookups, strippers, trickery and deception galore.

Jurors have listened to testimony about lavish spending on cars, hair restoration treatments and at strip clubs, forged signatures on search warrants, made-up cop names, fake cocaine that smelled like chocolate, another batch that was made of powdered sugar and baking soda, a police officer who planted heroin and a gun in a house — he hid it in the oven — and a man who posed as a cop during a fake bust. A federal agent testified both officers lived beyond their means, especially Hansberry who owned two Cadillacs, a Corvette and an exotic British sports car while making between $75,000 and $143,000 a year as a Detroit Police Department narcotics officer.

An Internal Revenue Service  agent said that Hansberry bankrolled his lifestyle with $157,000 in mysterious cash deposits during the 2010-14 scheme. So did Watson, he said, noting Watson made more than $211,000 in unaccountable cash deposits during the same four years. His salary ranged between $44,000 and $96,000 a year.

This week, the jury is to hear from the defense.

While the case focused heavily on deception and trickery, perhaps the biggest trick jurors heard about was one that involved Jackson.

He testified that the officers had just stiffed him out of a reward for tipping them off about a $3.3-million cash shipment involving cocaine money. He was supposed to get $800,000 for the tip, he said, but ended up with $250,000, which was delivered to him in cash during a secret meeting in a hotel room.

When he went to pick up the money, he tucked a gold-tipped spy pen into his pocket because he didn't trust the officers, he said.

"I knew I had been cheated," Jackson said, claiming the police had pulled a fast one. There was $3.3 million on that truck, he said, but police reported seizing only $2.2 million.

"Nobody in the world would believe me," said Jackson, claiming a drug-dealer's word versus that of a sworn police officer was no good. "I couldn't fight em. I couldn't argue. I couldn't do anything."

So he slipped the special pen in his pocket. It was his trump card.

The ripoff crew

The government's case centers on six drug busts referred to as "rips" — short for ripoffs. Prosecutors allege that Hansberry was the leader of the crew that carried out these rips, and that his cohorts were Watson, a longtime friend named Kevlin (Omar) Brown, and a third police officer named Arthur (Curly) Leavells, who was also criminally charged but cut a deal and testified against his colleagues.

Leavells, 44,  told the jury that while working for the DPD, he once planted fake drugs and a gun in a house to help a drug dealer's relative get out of trouble. He said that in order to make that man's case go away, he lied to the prosecutor's office and pretended the man provided police with valuable information. To back up that phony claim, Leavells said, he faked a drug bust and wrote out phony police reports, pretending he saw suspicious individuals going in and out of a house.

In another instance, Leavells testified, he, Watson and Hansberry set up a drug bust involving a fake kilo of cocaine. The deal went down near Meyers and 6 Mile. He said Watson, who was working undercover, posed as a drug dealer who had a kilo of coke to sell. When the buyer showed up, the other officers rolled up, took his $47,000 and the buyer fled. The officers then split up the money at a hotel. Leavells said his own cut was $5,000.

But the gig wouldn't last forever. Eventually, the FBI busted Jackson, who agreed to cooperate and wear a wire. Jackson then set up Leavells, who got busted selling fake coke to an undercover FBI agent. Leavells then busted Hansberry and Watson by agreeing to wear a wire, to see if he could get them to talk about rips.

They did, prosecutors allege, and they played a one-hour conversation for the jury, during which Leavells talks about setting up rips, but Hansberry urges him not to. Not because it's wrong, prosecutors argued, but because Hansberry worried Leavells would get caught.

"See, the problem, if it was me, is is it a sting or not?" Hansberry is heard telling Leavells. "Is they gonna hold their bunny muffin, or is they gonna speak? That's the only question."

Before the feds got to him, Leavells was suspended by the DPD following a raid at a marijuana dispensary, where police drug crew members were caught on video stealing grow lights. Detroit Police Chief James Craig ended up disbanding the department's troubled drug unit, and officers became the target of a federal investigation. An indictment followed.

While under suspension, Leavells hooked back up with Jackson, the well-connected drug dealer who would set him up.

And, Jackson still had an ace to play against the rest: the recording from the secret pen.


According to federal prosecutors, on July 26, 2010, Detroit police discovered $3.3 million in cocaine money stashed in a truck, but only $2.2 million was turned into the evidence room. They allege $1.1 million was stolen by a crew of crooked cops and their cohorts. A photo of the money seized during the raid was shown this week to jurors in U.S. District Court, where two Detroit police officers and an associate are currently on trial for allegedly stealing drugs and money during raids. (Photo: U.S. Attorneys Office)


The biggest rip

The biggest rip happened on July 26, 2010. It was the $3.3-million cash seizure, based on Jackson's tip, prosecutors allege.

According to testimony in the trial, here's how it went down:

Leavells, referred to as Curly, got a tip from Jackson about a big cash shipment that was going to be leaving his truck wash station. Curly was Jackson's main contact at the DPD drug unit. The money was an advance payment from metro Detroit drug dealers to a Mexican cartel for cocaine.

Curly alerted his drug unit.

That night, Jackson went to the truck wash and watched bags of cash get loaded onto the truck, then drove to a Burger King and called Curly.

“The semi's getting ready to come out of the wash,” he recalled telling Curly.

Within minutes, the DPD made history, scoring its biggest cash seizure ever. The bust made headlines and TV news.

But when Jackson saw the media reports, he was stunned: The police reported seizing only $2.1 million, when there was really $3.3 million inside the truck, he claimed.

"I was furious," testified Jackson, who believes he was scammed, too.

So weeks later, when Jackson went to pick up his $250,000 reward at the hotel room, he decided to secretly record the meeting.  Prosecutors say what Jackson captured on tape that day bolsters their claim that the narcotics officers were engaged in corruption and working with drug dealers to line their own pockets.

In the conversation, Hansberry, Watson and Jackson are heard planning rips, and talking about money that could be made.

“We can all — you could be a millionaire doing this,” Hansberry told Jackson.

Jackson: “I know everybody, bro.”

Hansberry: “Show me the money.”

'I'm in charge' 

Handcuffed in the backseat of a police car, Kelven Pulley knew something wasn't right when the officers pulled into a Popeye's Chicken restaurant.

It was March 4, 2013. Pulley had just been caught with 2 kilos of cocaine, which he was about to deliver to a house on Ohio Street when police rolled up on him.

"Just arrest me," he recalled, during his testimony, telling officers.

A sergeant responded, "I'm in charge. Shut up,' " Pulley recalled.

The police put Pulley in the backseat of their cruiser and headed to Popeye's for something to eat, Pulley testified. He was confused, not sure what was going to happen. He had delivered drugs twice before. He got $1,000 per delivery, he said.

Eventually, he spoke up.

"I told them that I'd work with them and they could have it," said Pulley, who claims the officers took his cocaine.

He was never arrested. He was never charged.

"I never saw them again," he testified.

Then the FBI approached Pulley in April at his house. He agreed to cooperate and testify against Hansberry and Watson.

According to prosecutors, Watson later gave the 2 kilos of cocaine they seized from Pulley to a drug dealer to sell for them. That dealer then made 2 fake kilos of coke for Hansberry and Watson to put in evidence, where investigators eventually found it and had it tested.

"They hadn't covered their tracks," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light told the jury.

That was rip No. 5.

Here are some of others, according to testimony and evidence presented in the trial:


  • Feb. 27, 2011. Hansberry’s crew raided a Southfield apartment. When the crew left the apartment, it reported seizing 2 kilos of cocaine, $55,000 in cash and a gun. But the homeowner testified at trial, telling jurors she had $140,000, which means $85,000 “went into someone’s pocket,” prosecutors allege. The criminal case against the homeowner was dismissed and eventually her $55,000 was returned to her. During this raid, prosecutors allege Hansberry’s crew “made the Southfield police wait outside, including the drug dog.” 
  • April 19, 2011. Hansberry's crew raided a home on Pembroke Street. Hansberry and Watson took a man in the basement, talked to him and took his bag containing $300,000. On the police report, they wrote that a small quantity of coke was seized. But jurors heard from the man in the basement, Nicholas Simmons, who testified that he was never arrested or charged. He said police wanted him to plant some cocaine in an abandoned house, and he did.
  • Nov. 15, 2011. A drug dealer named Arthur Knuckles and Hansberry set up a 4-kilo buy of coke for some men from Pittsburgh. The deal was set. The buyers came to Detroit with $140,000. Once inside the house, Hansberry’s crew raided it: Hansberry, Watson, Leavells and others. The men were handcuffed and laid on the floor. No one was arrested or charged. The police report never mentioned money being found. It only said that some heroin and a gun were found. No one was prosecuted. 
  • Jan. 3, 2012. A Kentucky man gave a Detroit drug dealer $32,000 to $42,000 to get him 5,000 pain pills. But the dealer was in cahoots with the police who pulled over his car. After seeing the dealer get stopped by police, the Kentucky man fled without retrieving his cash. The two officers then split the money with the dealer. One of the officers was Hansberry; the other was his friend Kevlin Brown, who wasn't really a cop, prosecutors said, "but he played one." 

'An ax to grind'

Hansberry and Watson have adamantly denied any wrongdoing. It is not yet known whether they will take the stand, but their lawyers have long argued that both men were good police officers who were trying to take down major drug organizations. Along the way, they met up with drug dealers who got caught doing bad things. And when they got caught, the dealers turned on the officers, lying to save themselves.

"Every single one of them has a motive to lie ... an ax to grind," Hansberry's lawyer, Mike Harrison, told the jury during opening statements. "My client didn't commit these crimes. And the people who did ... they're going to walk away from this with a pat on the back ... because they told the government what hey wanted to hear."

And nothing gets the government's attention like a dirty cop, said Harrison, and drug dealers know it.

"A dirty police officer is everyone's get out of jail card," Harrison said. "They know it and they use it all the time."

When dealers get caught red-handed, he said, they claim: "The police stole from me. The police stole my money. They took my drugs.'"

Attorney Steve Fishman, who is representing Watson, agreed, noting this case isn't about small-time drug dealers, but major traffickers who dealt with Mexican cartels.

"These are kilo dealers, all of them," Fishman argued. "The key for this case is are they liars? ... Forget that they're bad ... they're liars."



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