Thursday, January 16, 2020

Judge rips DEA’s deception that got Portland warehouse manager kidnapped (video)

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat   TY GUS   Source



A judge Wednesday said he was troubled by a “sneak and peek deception’’ used in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation that allowed marijuana trafficking suspects to think a storage warehouse manager had stolen their nearly 500-pound stash when it was the federal agents themselves who took the drugs.

Jody Tremayne Wafer and his accomplice, Trent Lamar Knight, showed up at the Public Storage warehouse in Southeast Portland shortly after 9 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2017, after finding their storage unit empty, its door left ajar and broken.

They confronted the storage manager, pushed him into an empty unit at gunpoint, tied his wrists and ankles with duct tape and pressed a pistol to his head while demanding to know who had taken their pot.

They were stunned to learn the answer. “You trying to tell me the police took my (expletive)?!’’ Wafer asked the manager.


U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones zeroed in on what he said was a dubious practice.

“That’s really disturbing to this court, this sneak and peek deception that law enforcement engaged in,’’ Jones said at Wafer’s sentencing.

The judge noted federal agents had been tracking Wafer.

“They knew you had a weapon and were going to go in there and find your drugs gone, taken,” Jones told the defendant. “They should have anticipated the conduct that could have cost (the storage manager) his life.’’

The agents had been monitoring the traffickers for months using GPS traces on their phones and cars, particularly after they landed in Portland from Houston in late November 2017. The agents even watched as Wafer and others circled the storage warehouse in a pickup truck the day before confronting the manager.

Yet the judge said the agents’ actions didn’t excuse Wafer’s violent response. Jones sentenced Wafer, 30, to seven years in prison for using a gun in the course of a drug-trafficking crime and for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. Seven years is the mandatory minimum for the gun conviction.

Prosecutors played cellphone video of Wafer and Knight posing with guns drawn in a hotel room the night before and a second cellphone video taken by Wafer the next day that showed the terrifying kidnapping of on-site storage manager Shawn Riley.

“What were you thinking?’’ the judge asked Wafer.

“I wasn’t thinking. I was terrified,’’ replied Wafer, standing beside his lawyer in a black-and-white striped jail suit. “I just wanted to get the truth that I didn’t steal that stuff.’’

Wafer said he filmed the encounter to prove he hadn’t taken the drugs for himself. He was worried that the people who were supposed to get the marijuana would come after him or harm his family.

DEA agents had obtained a delayed-notice search warrant, more commonly called a “sneak and peek’’ warrant for the storage unit. The warrants allow investigators to search a house, car, computer or other property, seize evidence and not tell anyone until much later. That differs from the typical search warrant, which requires police to provide immediate notice to property owners.

The delayed warrants mean agents can avoid tipping off suspects and jeopardizing an investigation, while potentially provoking them into revealing drug suppliers or other connections in conversations on their wiretapped phones when it appears someone has stolen their cache.

The technique appeared to have backfired this time, imperiling an innocent bystander and blowing their drug investigation.

The judge noted that one of Wafer’s alleged main sources for the drugs, identified as Gary Chan, hasn’t been charged in the case. “Why not?’’ Jones asked the prosecutor.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Narus acknowledged that the agents intended their seizure of Wafer’s marijuana to look like a “break-in’’ because they were hoping to develop more leads to pursue.
“The reason Mr. Wafer wasn’t arrested earlier was we’re trying to figure out the scope of the conspiracy, who’s involved in the Portland area, who else is involved elsewhere,’’ Narus said.

He told the judge that he couldn’t fully answer why Chan hasn’t been charged but said a decision was made not to do so. That could mean an investigation is continuing or the uncharged alleged accomplice may have cooperated with police, according to defense lawyers involved in the case.

The investigation into Wafer began in August 2017 when agents at Portland International Airport found $184,740 in cash concealed in a shoebox in a passenger’s checked luggage, according to Narus.

Agents discovered the money was tied to Wafer, Knight and co-defendant Brittany Kizzee, who they suspected of buying large supplies of marijuana in Oregon and smuggling the bundles back to Texas for distribution, the prosecutor said.

Investigators identified Wafer as the one who coordinated buying the drugs in Oregon, records indicate.

On Nov. 21, 2017, DEA agents seized 484 pounds of processed marijuana from the storage unit where they had seen Wafer and an accomplice load large plastic garbage bags. They made it look like a burglary, leaving the storage unit door broken and off its track, according to court documents and testimony.

Nine days later, Wafer, Knight and Kizzee flew back into Portland. DEA agents were aware then that Knight had checked a gun in his luggage.

The agents monitored Wafer, Knight and Kizzee using undercover surveillance and GPS before, during and after they arrived at the Public Storage warehouse on Dec. 2, 2017, according to court documents.

Wafer and Knight left the manager bound in the empty unit after promising to shoot him, saying “pop goes the weasel,” if they learned he wasn’t telling them the truth that “the cops” actually had taken the marijuana. Police were called to the scene to investigate the kidnapping.

About two hours later, Wafer and his two accomplices were arrested at Portland’s airport as they awaited a flight back to Houston.

Wafer’s lawyer, Barry Engle, said Wafer suffers from impulsiveness and intellectual deficits partly stemming from his past as a professional boxer. Wafer was the “exact wrong guy” for agents to try to “trick” through their “ruse,” he said.

“I don’t know why he was put in that circumstance. He reacted terribly to it and reacted out of fear,’’ Engle said. “I flat out asked police why they would do that.’’

DEA spokeswoman Jodi Underwood declined comment about the case.

The prosecution had sought a stiffer sentence of 10 years and five months for Wafer. Wafer was the ringleader of the Houston-based traffickers and made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit by sending marijuana from Oregon to Texas and Virginia, Narus said. Wafer enlisted others to handle travel arrangements, package the marijuana and drive it across the country, the prosecutor said.

Wafer’s lawyer asked for less time. Wafer’s wife, Tiera Wafer, a registered nurse in Texas, told the judge she was unaware that Wafer, the father of their three daughters, had been selling marijuana but described him as a loving, caring father to their children.
Wafer apologized to the storage manager, who wasn’t in court.

“My intentions were not out of anger. I was terrified. I owed somebody $300,000. … I made a very, very poor decision,” he said.

Two Portland residents, Raleigh Dragon Lau and Paul Eugene Thomas, were indicted along with Houston residents Wafer, Knight and Kizzee on allegations of conspiring to grow marijuana in Portland and ship it to Texas and Virginia. Knight, 31 ,Kizzee, 29, Lau, 33, and Thomas, 39, have pleaded guilty to related charges. Knight and Kizze will be sentenced Jan. 22. Lau and Thomas will be sentenced next month.


-- Maxine Bernstein

11 comments:

  1. if the moron didn't use a gun, he would have gotten 18-36 months for all that weed.. sat on his hands and probly came back to all the profit he had been making.. now he's fucked

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    1. Guns is any criminals tools what do you expect? Give the victim some indian burn,tickle him to death ?

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    2. Circumstances led him to that. This wasn’t his product. He was fronted by people that don’t front blindly. They’d have put their guns to him or his family. What he should have done was paid for product upfront that he could cover and not getting greedy and taking on more than he can cover.

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  2. A lot of these storage business managers are colluded with criminals to steal property off of storage units. In this case the manager is innocent.

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  3. I don't understand how these "agents" are not being held accountable. This guy should've been killed, he was actually lucky how calm and understanding these guys were. His head would've been in a black bag in Mexico. If the U.S. government had any decency they would strip these men of their badges at the very least. I've seen cops do this before, they actually joke about risking the lives of their informants. In this situation I'm sure the DEA men weren't the least bit concerned about this man's life. They would've loved a murder to add to their case. This is just infuriating to me, and I think should be to anyone who believes in law and order. A badge doesn't make you the law, it only makes you a servant of the law. DEA guys should be on trial too, period.

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  4. It's messed up seeing a kidnapping happening inside the territory of the USA. No wonder gringos go crazy without their guns.

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  5. His wife didnt know he was selling weed, BULLSHIT. He was holding is pistol sideways like he saw in the movies, lol

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  6. Now I'm not a big fan of frivolous lawsuits. But in this case the manager needs to sue their ass to the wall! DEA really screwed up that one! What's sad is when LE pull this crap, they always seem to get away with it and it's the citizens that get the shaft!
    Mn

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  7. Standard DEA/ATF procedure. This might be One of the few times an incident like this has received media coverage.

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  8. Wooow, the video and audio really makes a difference in the effect of the story. If you just read the description, that’s one thing, but seeing these guys and hearing them make the video to send it to whoever fronted them so they don’t take the loss, that changes the impact.

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  9. This is endangering an innocent life. The procedure is suspect to fault.

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