Former Illinois Department of Agriculture Investigator Sentenced to a Year in Prison for Obstructing Justice
CHICAGO — A federal judge today sentenced a former Chicago Police officer to five years in prison for notifying a high school friend that he was the target of a federal drug investigation.
In June 2014, RONALD COLEMAN was a Chicago Police officer assigned to work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on an undercover investigation dubbed “Operation Five Leaf Clover,” which targeted drug trafficking by a street gang on Chicago’s West Side. As a trusted member of the investigative team, Coleman participated in all of facets of the probe, including court-authorized wiretaps of suspects’ phones, physical and electronic surveillance, and seizures of drugs and guns. Coleman knew that a high school friend was involved in the sale of heroin supplied to the gang by RODNEY BEDENFIELD. Coleman obstructed justice when he notified his friend's cousin that authorities were planning to search the friend’s home and a dozen other locations as part of the investigation. After receiving word of Coleman’s tip, the friend passed it along to Bedenfield, who quickly moved contraband to an alternative location to avoid law enforcement.
A jury in August convicted Coleman, 47, of Chicago, on one count of obstruction of justice. U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle imposed the sentence in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Chicago Police Department provided valuable assistance.
Evidence at Coleman’s trial revealed that law enforcement agents surveilling Bedenfield observed him, after receiving word of Coleman’s tip, transporting several large bags from a residence in the North Lawndale neighborhood to an alternative location around the corner. On June 12, 2014, agents and officers executed a search warrant on the alternative location and discovered five handguns, a rifle, multiple handgun magazines, ammunition, approximately 400 grams of heroin, two containers of lactose, three digital scales, plastic baggies and a bill counter.
“Bedenfield chose to move his contraband in an attempt to hide it from law enforcement,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shoba Pillay argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “But he could also have chosen to protect his heroin trafficking operation, and used that significant amount of firepower on the police when they arrived to execute the arrest and search warrants. Defendant’s actions could have gotten his fellow police officers killed.”
Bedenfield was indicted separately on multiple drug trafficking and firearms charges. He pleaded guilty to the narcotics-related counts and was convicted of the firearms-related counts at a bench trial in federal court in Chicago. Bedenfield was sentenced to 18 years in prison.