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Press Release

Detroit Police Lieutenant, Officer Convicted of Conspiracy to Obtain Property by Extortion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

A Detroit Police Lieutenant and crew chief from the now-disbanded Narcotics Unit of the Detroit Police Department were convicted today by a federal jury in Detroit on charges of robbing drug dealers and stealing drugs and money obtained in police searches, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

Joining McQuade in the announcement were Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit Division, Chief James E. Craig of the Detroit Police Department, Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and Special Agent in Charge Timothy Plancon, Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Field Division.

The five-week trial was conducted before U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy. 

Defendants Lt. David Hansberry, 35, and Officer Bryan Watson, 47, were each convicted on charges of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and robbery.  They were acquitted on the remaining counts of the indictment. A third defendant, Kevlin Omar Brown, 46, was acquitted on one count of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion.

The conspiracy conviction carries a potential sentence of up to twenty years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants arranged drug transactions with civilians, including confidential sources, so that they could rob and extort them.  The defendants allegedly carried out traffic stops and fake arrests, and then stole drugs, money and personal property from their victims.  Hansberry and Watson used their status as law enforcement officers to assist in their scheme, by driving police vehicles, activating lights on their police vehicles, wearing police-issued attire, displaying official badges and carrying firearms.  Hansberry and Watson also identified themselves as police officers to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind illegal drugs, money  and personal property. 

In addition, the evidence showed that Hansberry, who was a sergeant at the time, and Watson failed to log into evidence money and drugs seized during searches of homes.  Instead, they split the proceeds and arranged for the sale of the drugs, sharing the proceeds generated by the sales.  In one instance in July 2010, Hansberry and Watson participated in a drug seizure that netted more than $3 million, the largest cash seizure by the Detroit Police Department at that time.  Only $2.2 million, however, was placed in the evidence room.

“These defendants tarnished the badge that is worn with honor by their fellow officers, using their power as police officers to steal money and drugs from criminals who have no recourse,” McQuade said.  “In addition to betraying their trust to uphold the law, these officers also put back out onto the streets the drugs that they had seized so that they could split the proceeds.  Their greed caused them to poison our neighborhoods with drugs and to diminish public trust in police.”

"Today's guilty verdict demonstrates the resolve of the FBI-led Public Corruption Task Force, in partnership with the Detroit Police Department, to aggressively investigate law enforcement officers who abuse their positions of public trust," said  David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  "Despite this isolated betrayal of trust, today's convictions should not tarnish the outstanding work conducted every day by the Detroit Police Department to combat crime in this great city,”

 “The vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hard-working, but these defendants betrayed their oath and their fellow officers,” said Chief Craig.  “We are committed to the highest standards of integrity, and we will remove any officers who do not live up to those high standards.”

The case was investigated by the by the FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, in collaboration with the Detroit Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sheldon Light and J. Michael Buckley.

Updated July 11, 2016

Public Corruption