Clayton County Police Officer Assigned to U.S. Marshals Service Task Force Arrested on Public Corruption, Drug Trafficking, and Firearm Charges
ATLANTA – Dwayne Penn, a Clayton County Police Officer assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force, and Adrian Demetric Austin have been arrested on corruption, drug trafficking, and firearm charges.
“Penn’s abuse of trust is shocking,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Police officers who manipulate their positions create mistrust with the people they are sworn to protect. As demonstrated by the number of police officer cases charged earlier this year, we are committed to pursuing these cases wherever they arise to restore the public’s trust in honest law enforcement.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “While public corruption matters overall are a priority criminal investigative program within the FBI, any allegation of public corruption involving law enforcement officers takes on a particular sense of urgency. This matter, involving Clayton County Police Officer and U.S. Marshals Task Force Officer Dwayne Penn, was worked with close cooperation and support by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While the arrest of Officer Penn is disconcerting, the public should be reminded that the vast majority of those individuals serving within the criminal justice system do so with honor and integrity.”
Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division stated, “The vast majority of law enforcement officers serve the public with honor and distinction. Officers like these unfortunately tarnish the badge of the committed men and women of law enforcement. This individual will now have to face the consequences for his deplorable actions. The success of this investigation would have not been possible without the dynamic level of law enforcement cooperation.”
“The Clayton County Police Department remains dedicated and committed to serving and protecting Clayton County residents and businesses, said Clayton County Deputy Police Chief Christopher L. Butler. “We ask that you continue your support of those unfaltering officers.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the complaint and other information submitted in court: In August 2013, Penn, of the Clayton County Police Department, allegedly conspired with Austin, a suspected Atlanta-based drug dealer, 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. Fortunately, 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.
The complaint alleges that the first planning meeting, which was surreptitiously recorded by law enforcement, occurred on August 21, 2013. Penn drove his police car to the meeting. 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. Penn reassured the confidential informant that they could cover his/her tracks with the source of supply to deflect suspicion.
Penn, Austin, and the confidential informant met again on August 27, 2013, at a parking lot in Decatur where the drug deal was to occur. The meeting was at Penn’s request so they could further plan the operation. Like the August 21 meeting, the August 27 meeting was surreptitiously recorded by law enforcement. Penn drove his police car to the August 27 meeting as well. The confidential informant entered Penn’s police car, where Austin was already waiting. The three continued their discussion of the staged traffic stop, arrest, and seizure, which they agreed would occur the next day at that same parking lot. Penn worked through the logistics, including where he would park during the cocaine deal; how Penn would conduct the fake traffic stop, arrest, and seizure; and the eventual split of the seized six kilograms of cocaine. Penn drove Austin and the confidential informant around the parking lot, scouting out possible spots for various events the next day. Penn even asked if Austin wanted to ride with him the next day.
As planned, on the morning of August 28, 2013, Penn and Austin arrived at the 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. The confidential informant 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.
Shortly after the confidential informant emerged from the 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 then 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. They are charged in a criminal complaint with drug trafficking and firearm charges; Penn is also charged with public corruption. They made their initial appearance in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia before United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman today.
If convicted, Penn, 38, and Austin, 38, both of Atlanta, Ga., face a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment for the drug trafficking charges; up to life imprisonment for the firearm charge; and, for Penn, up to 20 years on the public corruption charge; as well as fines of over $10 million dollars.
Members of the public are reminded that the criminal complaint contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant United States Attorney Scott Ferber is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.