Dwayne Penn, a former Clayton County Police Department officer, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, Tuesday.
Penn, who also was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg.
He and his co-defendant, Adrian Austin, an Atlanta drug dealer, are to be sentenced to 10-year prison terms, plus five years of supervised release.
“This Office is committed to protecting the public’s trust in law enforcement,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.
“Penn was a drug dealer with a badge. He used his official position to traffic drugs and now faces a significant sentence for his betrayal trust.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office gave the following account:
In August 2013, Penn, who was employed with the Clayton County Police Department at the time, conspired with Austin to use Penn’s official position as a police officer to stage a fake traffic stop of a car that he and Austin believed would contain six kilograms of cocaine, conduct a fake arrest of the car’s occupant, seize the cocaine for themselves, and then sell the cocaine, sharing their ill-gotten gains.
The person whom Penn and Austin sought to recruit for this corrupt endeavor was cooperating with federal law enforcement and agreed to record his/her meetings with Penn and Austin.
In the lead up to the fake arrest and seizure, Penn and Austin met face-to-face with the confidential informant on two separate occasions to plan their operation. Penn drove his police car to the planning meetings.
While together, Penn, Austin, and the confidential informant discussed the confidential informant obtaining cocaine from his/her drug source of supply.
Penn would then conduct a fake traffic stop and arrest of the confidential informant in front of the source, using Penn’s police vehicle and lights, and seize the cocaine, leading the source to mistakenly believe the drugs had been seized by law enforcement. They would divide up the seized cocaine among themselves according to the plan.
As part of the charade, Penn agreed to handcuff the confidential informant, put the drugs in the trunk of his police car, and drive the confidential informant to a second location. During one of the meetings, Penn even drove Austin and the confidential informant around the parking lot, scouting out possible spots for various events the next day.
Penn reassured the confidential informant that they could cover his/her tracks with the source of supply to deflect suspicion.
As planned, on the morning of August 28, 2013, Penn and Austin arrived at the appointed Decatur parking lot.
Penn drove his police car and parked it in view of where the drug deal was to occur.
While waiting, Penn ran the tags of a number of vehicles in the area through law enforcement databases. Penn also called task force officers with the DeKalb County Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and asked if DeKalb County had any surveillance vehicles that fit the description of vehicles Penn saw in the parking lot that morning.
Penn rebuffed offers of assistance from his fellow officers, claiming he was just doing surveillance.
Before the deal’s consummation, the confidential informant met with Austin in Austin’s car in the parking lot. Austin relayed information between the confidential informant and Penn over his cellphone. The confidential informant and Austin discussed the imminent deal, with the confidential informant’s describing where s/he would put the drugs after receiving them.
The confidential informant exited Austin’s car and shortly thereafter met with the supposed drug dealer (also a law enforcement source) in the parking lot in view of Penn.
The confidential informant received a shopping bag containing six kilogram-size bricks of fake cocaine, walked back to his/her vehicle, and placed the bag inside, placing two kilogram bricks in the back seat and leaving the remaining four kilogram bricks in the shopping bag in the front seat.
After the confidential informant emerged from his/her vehicle, Penn sped over in his police car with the lights on and blocked the confidential informant from leaving. Penn jumped out of his car with his firearm drawn and pointed it at the confidential informant.
Penn was wearing a bulletproof vest, which read “Police,” and a black baseball hat. Penn ordered the confidential informant to get on the ground and to keep his/her “hands behind your back,” which the confidential informant did. Penn holstered his firearm, picked up the confidential informant from the ground, and patted him/her down.
Penn then ushered the confidential informant into Penn’s police car. The confidential informant told Penn that s/he had already taken his/her two and that there were four in the bag. Penn walked over to the confidential informant’s vehicle and removed the shopping bag with the four kilogram bricks from the front seat, leaving the confidential informant’s share (two kilograms) in the car.
Penn placed the shopping bag in the trunk of his police car, told the confidential informant to “get out of here,” and drove away with the cocaine-like substance, leaving the confidential informant and the two kilogram bricks behind at the parking lot.
Penn and Austin were arrested shortly afterward in the vicinity of the Decatur parking lot. Each had a loaded firearm with a round in the chamber. The shopping bag with substituted cocaine was recovered from Penn’s vehicle.
On Aug. 28, 2013, Penn was terminated from the Clayton County Police Department and the Marshals Service Task Force. His codefendant, Adrian Austin, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Jan. 14, 2014.