Informant/Snitch: Kimberly Alabama Mayor Craig Harris

March 18, 2012

KIMBERLY, ALABAMA – Kimberly Mayor Craig Harris was an undercover informant for the FBI for almost a year, wearing a camera and wire for the agency as it investigated illegal gambling operations in his city, the mayor confirmed today.

Federal court documents filed last week outline some of the mayor’s cooperation with the FBI, which started in late 2010 after Harris was contacted by a community member and offered a bribe to help protect the Kimberly gambling interests of several individuals.

Harris said he immediately contacted the Alabama Attorney General’s office about the bribe, which informed the FBI.

“I initiated the investigation,” Harris said.

The results of that ongoing investigation are just now unfolding, Harris said.

Last week, a plea agreement was filed between the federal government and Morris resident Daniel “Boone” Stone, one of nine co-conspirators mentioned in court documents. That agreement, signed by Stone, was filed in the United States District Court in Birmingham.

The agreement states that Stone will cooperate with the federal government and plead guilty to conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and operating an illegal gambling business, according to court documents. In exchange, the federal government agrees to a sentencing range of six to 12 months imprisonment and fines ranging between $2,000 to $20,000. The court must approve the agreement. The other nine co-conspirators remain unnamed in court documents, although one was referred to as Stone’s father.

News attempts to reach an attorney representing Daniel Stone, Scott Morro, were unsuccessful today.

As the investigation continues, Harris said he is prepared to testify in court as many times as needed by the federal government.

The mayor said he worked as an undercover informant from late 2010 until November 2011. During that time, from about December 2010 until April 2011, Harris said he was given about $125 a week for each gaming facility operated by the co-conspirators in Kimberly. After each payment, Harris said he immediately turned the money over to the FBI to be used as evidence.

The federal government confirms in court documents that Harris was cooperating with agents the entire time of the investigation.

In exchange for taking the money, Harris said he was expected to keep the Kimberly Police Department from investigating those gambling businesses and to alert the co-conspirators if he heard about a possible raid or investigation.

The total amount of money paid to Harris was not listed in court documents. Harris said he did not want to give any details that might harm the investigation, but he said the total amount reached several thousand dollars.

Harris said today that he is relieved that his involvement with the investigation is now public.

Rumors have recently swirled around Kimberly that Harris was involved in a federal investigation, the mayor said. But some of the rumors implied that he was the one being investigated, Harris said.

“There were things being said around town and it got to the (city) council,” Harris said. “I could tell them that yes, there is something going on. But I couldn’t tell them what. I wasn’t going to jeopardize a year and a half investigation. I just wasn’t going to do that.”

Harris said his relationship with the co-conspirators prior to the investigation ranged from vague acquaintances to “fairly friendly.” He said he was familiar with Daniel Stone through Stone’s part-ownership in an IGA grocery store that was located in Kimberly before it closed.

“There were a couple that I would consider not best friends, but more than acquaintances,” Harris said. “If I saw them out in a restaurant, I may go have a drink with them.”

An arraignment for Stone is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court. Court documents show that the investigation goes beyond the city limits of Kimberly and includes other surrounding areas in north Jefferson County.

Appeared Here


53 Drug Convictions Based On Bogus Information And Resulting Warrants And Arrests By Philadelpia Pennsylvania Police Officer Jeffrey Cujdik And His Informant Challenged

April 14, 2009

PHILADELPIA, PENNSYLVANIA – The drug convictions of 26 more people – three-quarters of whom are behind bars, serving prison terms – were challenged yesterday by Philadelphia’s public defender on the grounds that all were tainted by false information from veteran narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his paid confidential informant.

Together with 24 petitions filed on April 3 and three on Wednesday, yesterday’s filings bring to 53 the number of people whose convictions could be dismissed.

The new Common Pleas Court filings, like the earlier petitions, are based on allegations by Cujdik’s former paid informant, Ventura “Benny” Martinez. Martinez, in a Feb. 9 interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, said he and Cujdik often falsified information to persuade judges to sign search and arrest warrants for drug suspects.

Had information about the alleged conduct by Cujdik and Martinez been known, Assistant Public Defender Bradley S. Bridge argued in court papers, the defendants would have been acquitted or would have decided not to plead guilty.

Bridge said the fact that all the petitions resulted from Martinez’s allegations that he and Cujdik lied “raises important questions about the entire process of utilizing confidential informants, and demonstrates yet again the critical role the courts have in acting as a check on such abuses.”

Arguing for new trials, Bridge said “the untenable alternative is that an innocent man would continue to be in state prison and on state parole for several more years.”

The District Attorney’s Office has in two filings argued that it is premature to take any action involving the convictions of those arrested through the work of Cujdik and Martinez.

Nothing should be done, the prosecutor has argued, until the results of investigations by the city and FBI are known.

Cujdik, 34, a 12-year veteran, has surrendered his service weapon and since late January has been assigned to desk duty. He is the only member of the Narcotics Field Unit police officials have reassigned.

Cujdik has not commented publicly on the allegations made by Martinez – with whom he worked building drug cases for almost eight years – but he has been backed by Philadelphia’s Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police. Cujdik’s attorney, George Bochetto, has called Martinez a career criminal and a liar who incriminated Cujdik out of anger.

Of the 26 cases filed yesterday, most involved arrests occurring between 2003 and 2005. Two-thirds of the defendants were men and almost 70 percent were Latino. Most had prior encounters with the justice system. The arrests were in Kensington and North Philadelphia.

For some, such as Tammy Michenselder, 31, who was arrested Aug. 17, 2005, the arrest and conviction was her first and only. Michenselder pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver, and was sentenced to six months’ house arrest and two years’ probation.

Others, such as Wilfredo Baez, 46, arrested Nov. 4, 2005, and charged with drug and gun crimes, had longer records that resulted in longer prison terms. Baez pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August to 31/2 to 10 years in prison. He is serving that sentence at the state prison at Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Now those 26 convictions are in play, and common to all is the defender’s contention that none of the defendants should have been arrested because Cujdik’s search warrants were bogus.

Bridge filed his first 24 petitions on April 3 under Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act, a secondary appeal law that allows a judge to reopen a criminal case based on evidence discovered after conviction that could call a guilty verdict or plea into question.

Bridge said that yesterday’s filings are likely the last based on Martinez’s allegations in the Feb. 9 article. Bridge said state law requires that petitions based on after-discovered evidence be filed within 60 days of the date the information becomes known to the defense attorney.

None of the petitions is likely to result in immediate legal action. The District Attorney’s Office must formally respond to each. Then the court must decide how to handle the 26 cases: assign one judge to hear all, or send them back to the original sentencing judges.

Cujdik’s hugely productive relationship with Martinez, 47, came undone in October when Martinez’s identity was disclosed in court by the lawyer and investigator for a defendant whose criminal case the informant helped Cujdik develop.

Martinez was also photographed leaving a Kensington rowhouse owned by Cujdik and leased to a woman who was the informant’s girlfriend and mother of two of his children.

Martinez said he went to the newspaper after his requests for protection and relocation were rebuffed by authorities.

Appeared Here