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December 14, 2012

Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced today that a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against former Helena-West Helena Police Officer Marlene Kalb on two counts of attempted extortion under color of official right and two counts of attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The verdict was accepted by United States District Judge James M. Moody. Kalb was acquitted on two counts of money laundering. Kalb was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the verdict.

Sentencing will be set by the Court at a later date. Kalb faces a possible sentence of not more than twenty years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and not more than three years supervised release, on each count.

The convictions stem from an FBI-led sting operation targeting corrupt police officers in the Arkansas Delta, including Helena-West Helena. The jury found that Marlene Kalb, while in uniform and on duty, provided a protective police escort for a purported drug trafficker (actually a confidential informant working with the FBI) and his cocaine by trailing him through Helena-West Helena in her police car on September 9, 2011 and September 26, 2011.

“This verdict demonstrates the strength of evidence gathered by the FBI and other law enforcement partners into public corruption in the Delta region of Arkansas. To date, four former officers were charged, have pled guilty and have been serving sentences from 14 to 80 months. Today, a jury has found another former officer guilty of misusing her position of trust in the community,” stated Thyer. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers serve with integrity and honor, it is unfortunate that there are a few who cross the line and tarnish the public confidence in our system of justice. As I stated in October 2011, this is an ongoing investigation into public corruption, drug trafficking, and violent crime. We will continue to prosecute those involved in criminal activity in this region to the fullest extent of the law.”

The FBI-led sting operation was part of the investigation known as “Operation Delta Blues,” which focused primarily on public corruption and drug trafficking activities in the Helena-West Helena and Marianna, Arkansas, areas. Approximately 800 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CID), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Arkansas State Police (ASP), and the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) participated in the October 11, 2011, arrests.

The four other police officers indicted on October 11, 2011 previously pleaded guilty. Former Helena-West Helena Police Officer Herman Eaton pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and one count of attempted extortion under color of official right. On May 16, 2012, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes sentenced Eaton to 16 months imprisonment and 2 years supervised release. Former Marvell Police Officer Robert Wahls pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and one count attempted extortion under color of official right. On May 30, 2012, Judge Billy Roy Wilson sentenced Wahls to 24 months imprisonment and 2 years supervised release. Former Phillips County Deputy Sheriff and Helena West Helena Police Officer Dean Jackson pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy relating to his role in the Sedrick Trice/Leon Edwards drug trafficking operation. On June 8, 2012, Judge Moody sentenced Jackson to 80 months imprisonment and 4 years supervised release. Former Helena-West Helena Police Officer Robert Rogers, aka Bam Bam, pleaded guilty to one count attempted extortion under color of official right. On August 1, 2012, Judge James M. Moody sentenced Rogers to 14 months imprisonment and 2 years supervised release. All four police officers remained in custody from the time of their arrest October 11.

A sixth former officer, Roxanne Davis, was charged in the Delta Blues case on September 17, 2012. Davis is set for trial on May 20, 2013, before United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. She was a state probation officer and has also been charged with alleged Hobbs Act violations.

To date, of the seventy Delta Blues defendants indicted on October 4, 2011: 31 defendants have been sentenced; three defendants have pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing hearings; eight defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing hearing dates; five defendants are scheduled to plead guilty; and one (Kalb) has been convicted at trial and is awaiting sentencing. The remaining 24 defendants are set for trial in February, March, or April 2013 in one of the following cases: US v. Trice et al., 11CR209 - February 25, 2013 (Moody); US v. Colbert et al., 11CR210 - March 4, 2013 (Moody); US v. Turner et al., 11CR211 - April 1, 2013 (Moody).

The investigation was conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office, FBI, DEA, ATF, IRS-CID, ASP and LRPD. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Julie Peters, Michael Gordon, and Benecia Moore.

An indictment contains only allegations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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