DETROIT (WWJ) - One of four Highland Park police officers charged in an armed drug trafficking conspiracy has issued a plea in the case.
U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said 55-year-old Craig Clayton pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit extortion. In exchange, charges of accepting bribes, conspiring to distribute cocaine, and carrying a in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense were dropped. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced.
During a hearing Thursday before U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, Clayton admitted that in late 2012 and early 2013, he agreed with three other Highland Park police officers — 29-year-old Anthony Bynum, 38-year-old Price Montgomery and 33-year-old Shawn Williams — to take money in exchange for protecting a four-kilogram shipment of cocaine.
Clayton admitted that on January 23, 2013, he drove a car containing what he believed to be two kilograms of cocaine. Clayton said he brought his police badge and gun to protect the shipment. Another Highland Park police officer drove a separate car containing what he believed were two additional kilograms of cocaine. Later, Clayton accepted $1,500 in cash from a FBI informant for his work in delivering and protecting the drug shipment.
“Police officers who take bribes have no place in law enforcement. They will be prosecuted for violating their duties to serve the public,” McQuade said in a statement.
McQuade said their investigation began in August after Bynum and Montgomery arrested a man for carrying a firearm. The officers allegedly beat the man and stole his jewelry and money. According to court records, the officers later indicated to the man that if he paid them money, they would help get his criminal case dismissed.
The police chief of Highland Park received a complaint about the situation and contacted the FBI. Federal investigators met with the man, who agreed to become an informant.
McQuade said Bynum and Montgomery were then caught on video accepting $10,000 in cash after making good on their part of the bargain by not showing up at the man’s arraignment, resulting in his case being dismissed.
McQuade said Bynum’s and Montgomery’s relationship with the man evolved to include drug trafficking when the officers agreed to transport and deliver two kilograms of “sham cocaine.”
Bynum and Montgomery then recruited two more officers, Williams and Clayton, to help deliver a second larger shipment of the fake cocaine on Jan. 23, McQuade said.
“The four officers went to Oakland Mall where they assisted in what they believed was a four kilogram shipment of cocaine. Each of those officers … was paid either $1,000 or $15,000 by the source for protecting that shipment. Each officer carried a gun, and some of them also carried their badges while they were protecting that load,” said McQuade.
The case was investigated by agents of the FBI.