You’ve got to hand it to the FBI when it comes to crafting amazing sting operations.

Throughout the years, those kinds of operations have managed to get a myriad of criminals off the streets; but this time, the guilty parties identified by one of their recent stings may have you surprised.

A trio of South Carolina law enforcement officers got caught with their hand in the cartel-cookie jar, with two of the guilty individuals facing up to twenty years in prison.

Three former Orangeburg, South Carolina law enforcement officers, who were fooled by the FBI into thinking they were taking money from a fake drug-running Mexican cartel, have pleaded guilty to various criminal charges connected to the sting.

Evidence that was gathered by the FBI in putting together the case involved wiretaps, covert videos and an undercover agent posing as a member of a fake Mexican drug-trafficking cartel. According to assistant U.S. Attorney Will Lewis, who had described the crimes to Judge Joe Anderson on Tuesday, stated:

“They were engaged in a conspiracy to protect what they believed were drug traffickers.”

In the FBI’s sting, an agent posing as a member of a purported Mexican cartel who called himself “Jamie” told the officers that the cartel’s trucks would be traveling south through Orangeburg County on Interstate 26 with loads of money from selling drugs and then back again traveling north with loads of drugs, according to evidence in the case.

Per the discussed scheme with the undercover agents, the Orangeburg officers agreed to be paid to “guard” the fake truckloads of cash and drugs during the trucks’ layovers near an interstate exit.

Officers stood watch to keep the fake cartel trucks from harm, according to evidence in the case. This act of “guarding” would be executed while the Orangeburg officers were in full uniform while in their police vehicles.

The three who pleaded guilty this past Tuesday had varying charges associated with their level of participation in the collusion. 

One of the guilty, Allan Hunter, 51, was a police officer in the town of Springfield in western Orangeburg County. He pleaded guilty to numerous charges connected with taking bribes to protect the fake cartel’s drug-trafficking operations. Hunter also plead guilty to using his position as a law officer to help undocumented immigrants illegally stay in the United States.

Based upon the charges that he accepted, he cold be facing up to 20 years in prison when it’s all said and done.

The second of the trio in the case is Nathaniel Shazier, 29, who was an Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy. He plead guilty to conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks during the undercover sting. Shazier is also looking at a 20-year sentence for his role within the conspiracy.

Lastly, Stanley Timmons, 44, was also Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy like Shazier. He plead guilty to a lesser charge than his two codefendants as only being part of a conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks. With the lesser charge that was plead to, Timmons could face only 5 years in prison for his role.

The sting also managed to culminate in the arrest of an additional four officers, but their cases are only pending at this point.

What was interesting to find was that the FBI’s sting operation initially began as an investigation into a fraudulent visa-selling scheme that was being run out of the Orangeburg County sheriff’s department.

Under a special program, immigrants without permission to stay in the United States who are victims of crimes, or who are willing to help law enforcement, can apply for special visas, called U-Visas. Once granted, these special visas allow an immigrant to stay in the United States for four years.

It was believed that deputies within the Orangeburg County sheriff’s department were creating counterfeit incident reports alleging that certain foreigners were victims of crimes. Hunter was involved in the original endeavor to fabricate the fake incident reports, and at some point, he began recruiting other officers to guard the fake cartel trucks, according to an indictment in the case.

Considering that the three officers plead guilty in this case already, it tells of the amount of evidence that the FBI had to have collected in order to secure those pleas. Considering that there’s additional cases pending for other officers involved in this sting, those cases might have similar conclusions to those of the three officers already guilty.

Here’s the full list of names and charges:

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Springfield Police Department Chief Lacra Sharod Jenkins: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;

Springfield Police Department Officer Allan Hunter, Jr.: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Carolyn Colter Franklin: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nathaniel Miller Shazier, III: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Stanley Lavalle Timmons: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputy James Albert Tucker: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Willie Paul David Rogers: Conspiracy and Visa Fraud;

Saurabhkumar B.  Patel, of Orangeburg, South Carolina: Conspiracy; and

Tarang Patel, of Newport, Kentucky: Conspiracy and Visa Fraud.

“With this Indictment, we honor the hard work and dedication of the very fine officers across South Carolina who put on the police uniform every day and risk their lives to protect the rest of us,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon. 

Lyndon said it’s crucial to get rid of the bad apples.

“If these allegations are proved, these defendants do not deserve to wear the badge and should not be allowed to bring disrepute on the overwhelming majority of men and women in blue who serve South Carolina with integrity.  We will not tolerate the hypocrisy of those who would pretend to enforce the law, while violating it themselves as they seek to line their own pockets.  We call that public corruption, and we will always call it out.”

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