Former Police Officer Pleads Guilty To Unlawfully Disclosing Information In Federal Narcotics Investigation-Admits Alerting Two People To Wiretaps-
WASHINGTON – Vanessa Edwards-Hamm, a former officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department, pled guilty today to a federal charge that she unlawfully disclosed information about a wiretap being used on a target of a law enforcement investigation.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Edwards- Hamm, 38, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of making an unlawful disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications. The Honorable Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts scheduled sentencing for March 7, 2014. The charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and financial penalties.
As a condition of the plea, Edwards-Hamm agreed to resign from the Prince George’s County Police Department.
Edwards-Hamm was among 17 people indicted in July 2013 on federal charges in connection with an investigation into a network that allegedly distributed heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and prescription pills in the Washington, D.C. area. She was indicted on one count each of tampering with documents or proceedings and unlawful notice of electronic surveillance. The other 16 defendants were charged with taking part in a drug conspiracy.
According to the government’s evidence, Edwards-Hamm received information on Feb. 22, 2013, that Aaron Vaughn, the brother of one of her close friends, was under investigation for illegal drug trafficking. She also learned that federal agents had a wiretap on Vaughn’s telephone number and that they previously had wiretaps on other numbers associated with him. Finally, she learned that agents felt they had collected enough evidence for an indictment against Vaughn.
In her guilty plea, Edwards-Hamm acknowledged that she called Aaron Vaughn’s brother on Feb. 22 or Feb. 23, 2013; at the time, Vaughn’s brother was serving a prison sentence. She acknowledged that she talked to him in a way that informed him that his brother, Aaron Vaughn, was under investigation; that law enforcement had a wiretap on Aaron Vaughn’s telephone, and that it was too late to help Aaron Vaughn avoid arrest. Furthermore, she acknowledged informing her own brother, Mark Edwards, that law enforcement was listening to Aaron Vaughn’s telephone conversations and that he should be careful and stay away from him.
She acknowledged these actions were conducted with the intent to interfere or impede with the FBI investigation. At the time of this conduct, Edwards-Hamm was serving as a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Maryland.
According to the government’s evidence, Aaron Vaughn got a call from his brother on Feb. 26, 2013 and was told to stop dealing with those he was involved with and to change his telephone number. Aaron Vaughn’s brother also advised him to consider moving out of the area.
Aaron Vaughn, 35, and Mark Edwards, 40, were among the 16 defendants indicted on federal narcotics charges in July 2013. They have pleaded not guilty to charges.
This prosecution grew out of a long-term FBI/MPD alliance called the Safe Streets Task Force that targets violent drug trafficking gangs in the District of Columbia. The Safe Streets Initiative is funded in part by the Baltimore Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area as well as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The initiative involves more than 150 Safe Streets Task Forces across the country that combat street gangs by combining federal, state and local police resources. The task forces, which began in 1992 in Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, address gang activity, including drug-related crimes.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director Parlave and Chief Lanier expressed appreciation for those who pursued the investigation from the FBI/MPD Safe Streets Task Force. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Prince George's County, Md., and Culpeper, Va. police departments, as well as the U.S. Marshals Service and the Charlottesville Resident Agency of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office.
In addition, they acknowledged the efforts of those who are working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Teesha Tobias and Starla Stolk; Legal Assistant Niya Attucks; Program Specialist Kim Hall, and Legal Assistants Diane Brashears and Jessica Moffatt, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arvind K. Lal, Catherine K. Connelly and Zia Faruqui, of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth F. Whitted and David B. Kent of the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section, who are prosecuting the case.