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Drug cases decline as Loudoun Sheriff restructures

The restructuring of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office's Special Investigations Section, which included a narcotics division, did more than uncover an embezzlement crime within the ranks.

It teamed up deputies with regional and federal law enforcement agencies, that in turn, drew the specific focus away from Loudoun County and honed in on bigger, regional drug crimes that can also affect the county.

However, records show drug arrests in Loudoun County are significantly lower than comparable counties like Chesterfield in central Virginia.

From August 2013 to June 2014, the sheriff's office made 56 narcotics arrests; the Chesterfield County Police Department, with a population of 326,950, had 2,341 arrests in 2013.

Drug asset and forfeiture cases turned over to the Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office from January 2013 to May 2014 totaled 52.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, to pay back the money that was embezzled by a deputy who has since resigned, but has not yet been charged, took $45,925 out of an account used to make undercover drug buys.

Sheriff Mike Chapman declined to say how much money was stolen from the account, only that it's “significantly higher” than the amount already paid back.

As of March 3, the most updated information provided by the sheriff's office, there was $200 in the drug buy account.

Deputies use this money to make undercover buys, in turn taking drug dealers off the streets.

Authorities say this doesn't affect their ability to fight drug crime in Loudoun.

“I think we're probably bringing in better cases. I don't know that we're bringing in more cases because marijuana cases are pretty easy …,” Chapman said.

“It didn't affect our ability. We didn't make a decision not to pursue a case because there wasn't any [drug buy] money. We pursue every case. If we need to make a buy, we make a buy,” Maj. Richard Fiano said.

But since the county has seen a drastic increase in prescription drug and heroin overdoses in the last three years, Chapman said he believes his office is focusing exactly where it should.

In 2012, there were eight overdoses on heroin, two which were fatal. In 2013, the number increased to 18 with six deaths. This year, so far, there's been 16 overdoes with six deaths pending toxicology reports.

“Heroin is now our No. 1 priority,” Chapman said.

The restructure

In October 2013, spurred by an increase in drug overdoses, Chapman began restructuring the Special Investigations Section, which consisted of 21 deputies – half worked narcotics crimes, the other an anti-crime unit.

Loudoun saw its number of prescription drug overdoses go from 101 in 2012 to 179 in 2013 – a 77 percent increase. For the first half there's already been 104 overdoses – a 6 percent increase over the same time last year.

Chapman took that team and re-named it the Tactical Enforcement Unit. Leadership roles remained in place, but others began pulling double duty for the sheriff's office and regional and federal law enforcement groups. There are currently five vacancies in the unit.

The rest is made up of one deputy who was re-assigned in a leadership role with the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force. Another detective was assigned to a multi-jurisdictional task force that operates in Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties, among others.

One deputy strictly works narcotics for Loudoun. Another has collateral duty working to fight human trafficking alongside the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Commission.

“We wanted to get involved in that. We see a fair amount of massage parlors, prostitution areas. We see immigrants, both legal and non legal,” Fiano said.

Two detectives are assigned to the DEA's Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force. This task force from October 2013 to June 2014 made 14 arrests and collected more than $4 million in asset seizures.

“You really get the bang for your buck when you put one of those guys in those task forces. Your overtime is paid for, your vehicle is paid for and you're working higher level cases. So not only are you working high-level cases that are bringing drugs into your county but the surrounding counties, but you're giving a trainee an experience at detective that he's normally not going to get working local cases. You get a wealth of information on how to target the command and control instruments used by drug organizations,” Fiano said. “... You start working smarter rather than harder.”

Chapman said by having two deputies there, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office gets a bigger size of forfeiture assets back compared to what it would get locally.

One detective is assigned with a K-9 and is responsible for vehicle stops and search warrants, among many other duties.

One deputy takes on the role as the expert in prescription drug cases and, according to Fiano, has worked with every pharmacy in Loudoun to educate employees on how to spot a fake script and how to contact authorities should they see one. This deputy is also deputized as a DEA diversion investigator, giving him authority to work with the DEA on multi-jurisdictional operations.

“We can't do a drug deal without a source and supply, without buyers without sellers …. there's always a connection there. So just doing simple buys doesn't really get you much other than maybe a warrant to get the [drug] house … what we're trying to do is expand our investigations and get a knowledge of the networks where we will have a bigger impact at higher levels rather than just doing simple buys and attacking it from the bottom up,” Chapman said.

“It's certainly a philosophy with us because we [Chapman and Fiano] both come from different departments [the DEA] … We're able to bring varied perspectives into this,” Chapman said.

The embezzlement

As Chapman began restructuring the Special Investigations Section in October, he said detectives began to notice several anomalies.

In a nutshell, when deputies looked to return money seized from claimants they found the funds were not there – they had never been deposited.
Chapman, in part, blames the prior administration for the oversight.

However, a letter obtained by the Times-Mirror by former employee Michelle Draper, written to Chapman and copied to County Administrator Tim Hemstreet and Board Chairman Scott York on her last day of employment, says Chapman was unaware of the asset forfeiture policy prior to the embezzlement.

“To my knowledge, neither you nor the CID Commander knew LCSO's policy and procedure of how asset forfeiture funds were processed through Middleburg bank ...” Draper said.

Chapman said prior to the embezzlement, one deputy was in charge of the seized money. That deputy, in turn, was supposed to notify the sheriff's office's financial department and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice of the deposit.

“If that's never done, there's no record of it. If it's a seasoned deputy, they're going to forget about it and figured it's handled,” Chapman said.

Chapman said the prior administration never changed this procedure, despite warnings from the state attorney general and county treasurer Roger Zurn that it opened the office up for embezzlement.

“Only if there's a claim on it, then all of sudden we've got to make good on that money. There was a separation of duties in the sense that when the money was counted, we had somebody verifying the money count but after that there was no separation of duties. So one person could actually manipulate where that money went and if they didn't tell our financial person or DCJS about a deposit they would never know,” Chapman said.

The sheriff said the system has been redesigned to ward off another anomaly.

“There's no way now to undermine the system. The system itself was not designed properly and even despite the fact that there was a objections to it, the prior administration never changed it back. They kept on going with a questionable system,” Chapman said.




Comments

Hey JJCOOLJ - How long after the bad press did it take Sheriff chapman to ask you to put something positive albeit, WRONG, into the comments?  Chapman is not transparent, he’s a spin Dr. Whatever you found during your “research” is what he wants you to see in most cases, and often is not factual.  Show us your research, your evidence of transparency.  If any transparency does exist in chapman’s twisted world it comes attached to damage control efforts. Your comments definitely put you in the factually challenged category, but then again so is chapman, so I can’t blame you for ultimately behaving like the company you keep.


Wow..! I read these blogs and what’s clear to me is the crusade, or vendetta of sorts against the sheriff by (I’ll bet)disgruntled current and/or former LCSO employees. I mean give me a break, every change in command requires a restructure of personnel, policy and strategy. Inevitably there are always some who, for a variety of reasons, object because it affects them personally-regardless of if the change is for the overall good of the organization. Oh and, In the Know-you’re really not. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion but should you feel the need to comment (incorrectly I might add), as to my identity and the motive behind my comments, then show the knowledge of leadership you mention so much and bring on the facts. From my perspective and research, the sheriff has been transparent in the LCSO’s activities and the facts presented,for those not blinded by the winds of change, show an openly conscientious effort on the part of Chapman to take on a series of difficult public safety issues affecting our county. 


Finally the weight of Chapman’s corruption and abuses are slowly being exposed.  People are finally seeing this poor excuse for a leader and manager for what he is, a dictatorial narcissist who for whatever reasons has succeeded in only one thing since taking office, setting the Sheriff’s Office back 20 years.  How far into the command staff does the rot go?  What are the Chief Deputies hiding or covering up?  Certainly the claims of incompetence go at least as far as that and certainly through those he brought with him when he was elected.  I think that it is time for those in influential positions to begin to demand Chapman’s resignation.  If he makes it to the campaign season it will be interesting who among the constitutional officers and Supervisors will have the nerve to align themselves with Chapman and his ilk.  JJCOOLJ and Yankeedoodle, eventually you will distance yourself from this failure when the embarrassment is to much to bare, even in anonymity.


Hey roadawg, forget out of county jurisdictions for a moment. Did you know Leesburg PD has a starting salary of $53k? That’s $10k more than Loudoun right off the bat. Purcellville PD starts at $51k, $8k more than Loudoun. Even Middleburg PD starts at $47k, $4k more than Loudoun. These are the same communities Loudoun Deputies patrol, respond to, and answer calls in every day. Loudoun is falling behind, and fast. Yet no word from the Sheriff or the admin staff about fighting to make county salaries and benefits more competitive for those currently working or in the hiring process. Just more speeches about the “vacancy savings” and “comp time” (which isn’t comp time, it’s flexing with a different name). This is not meant to be a comment on the politics of the Sheriff’s Office, I’ll let the other posters here hash that out, I’m just concerned for the deputies and their well-being.


Well now,  the continuing Chapman/LCSO spin game is beginning to fall apart, which is something that was eventually bound to occur.  The public can only be deceived for so long.  The JJcoolJ imposter is one of Chapman’s PR boys who I will not identify by name but his future employment hangs on Chapman’s ability to get re-elected (which at this point is a long shot).  His post might as well have been a press release as it disguises the truth of what is happening here in the LCSO. 
The total lack of anything assimilating leadership is the true problem.  It doesn’t help when a leader, who is supposed to lead by example, has a dalliance with a civilian employee, who has turned in his firearm for safekeeping after a domestic dispute in which the same firearm was brandished (and this case conveniently handled internally without an arrest or report….. the word “cover-up” comes to mind)... this is something that should and needs to be investigated by the State Police.  Total failure of leadership.
It is tragic and reprehensible that Chapman is trying to explain away the incredible decline in drug arrest by spinning it to make it look like our guys are working with the Feds and accomplishing things.  The drug problem is now much more severe in Loudoun than it was under Sheriff Simpson and the arrests here are going down?  Seriously?? 
One of the basic tenants of law enforcement is honesty and integrity.  Does Chapman possess this?  You be the judge.  As to the shake up(read meltdown) of the Narcotics Unit, this occurred right when Chapman, due to internal leaks and not by his choice, was forced to go publicly admit the embezzlement which was occurring right under his nose.  Let us not forget that at that time, October 2013, he stated that as soon as he found out about it he said he made it public.  That is an outright lie.  The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office had this information two months before in August.  Chapman misled the agency, the press, and the public.  Is that the mark of a true leader? 
It is truly sad and I if it weren’t such a serious matter I would say comical that Chapman is trying to blame his own failures on the previous Sheriff.  I could see that if is was something that occurred right after taking office but almost two years later, c’mon Chapman, the public is not that stupid.  You do an audit right after taking office and you don’t uncover this?  To me that speaks to an amazing lack of competence. 
To say it is a sad state of affairs at the LCSO is a huge understatement.  Hopefully the on-going FBI investigation of Chapman and the missing money (and Chapman still to this day will not reveal the amount) will result in either criminal charges or resignation.  Then and only then will the LCSO have the opportunity to begin to heal and get back the respect and level of national prominence that it once had.


This article is disturbing. There are people dying in the County from drug overdoses, but our law enforcement leadership wants to play “G-Men.” This behavior is typical of Federal Bureaucrats who want big results so they can pontificate on how important they are, regardless that people are dying in Loudoun County.  How outrageous to take away investigators that focus on local distribution networks so you can play in the tri-state area for bigger publicity in public relations.  This article is as disturbing as the last article where prior to the threat of a law suit being filed under the Equal Protection Clause, Chapman declares a murder solved.  No Police agency would ever declare a murder solved without identifying the murderer to the public.  Wake up people! You cannot defame a dead person. The family wanted the case transferred to the State Police and Chapman refused.  The family threatened to bring suit and he declared the case solved.  No police agency in recent history would declare a case solved and not publicly name the suspect.  I hope for the Deputies, civilian employees of the LCSO, and the citizens of Loudoun County that a change of leadership is on the way.


I agree with JJcoolJ’s comment-it’s Sheriff Chapman’s overall drug strategy that makes a difference and not nights-east’s myopic view that self-initiated drug arrests (like the other arrest stats mentioned by nights-east) are what matters most to ensure the safety of Loudoun residents. nights-east advocates quantity of arrests over quality with politicized reference to the elected office the sheriff holds. Political consideration therefore must be given to the many constraints; varied political ideologies, resource/manpower, limited budget- all constraint factors the sheriff must contend with daily when deploying his deputies and strategy. And very few, if any, law enforcement agencies and their officers operate unilaterally on drug cases; allowing cross training of officers both operationally and administratively (the many task forces being only one example). To contend that a former federal law enforcement officer like Sheriff Chapman doesn’t understand local law enforcement is a weak argument. Besides, former federal law enforcement officers successfully hold several elected sheriff positions,appointed chiefs of police and other command positions in local law enforcement jobs across the USA.


I applaud the LCSO’s overall drug fighting efforts. In my opinion the Mirror’s article cites an unfair comparison between Chesterfield and Loudoun counties. There are demographical and socio-economic differences between the two that cause each county to have unique drug trafficking patterns and levels of abuse. These factors have a uniquely varied negative impact on their respective communities. The LCSO’s approach appropriately addresses the primary threat to the county based on the known potential for the greatest harm to the community and its citizens; heroin and prescription drugs. Also, total drug arrests are far from being the single most indicator of a successful counterdrug policy. In fact, lower drug arrests of both lower and higher level traffickers can be and is often attributed to successful law enforcement efforts. Clearly the LCSO’s education and prevention program, together with a specifically targeted law enforcement effort, provides for a more comprehensive antidrug strategy. And, the LCSO’s participation in federal, state, and local task forces is paramount to a vibrant, proactive drug policy. There’s no greater force multiplier to identify and thwart Loudoun’s drug threat than through participation with these task forces. It provides a tool for asset and resource sharing as well; each an important necessity to counter a drug problem that doesn’t respect jurisdictional boundaries. In my opinion the Loudoun County community is fortunate to have leadership within the sheriff’s department who has years of hands-on experience in drug law enforcement to know how best to allocate its collective drug fighting resources. The sheriff and his team are using a multi-faceted, diverse strategy to counter a vastly difficult drug issue where there are no absolutes regarding any specific remedy to the problem. The LCSO drug program realizes that there is no silver bullet to fight the overall drug problem.


IT SHOCKS THE CONCSIOUS!!  Sheriff Chapman and his Criminal Investigations best buddy from the DEA days, Richie Fiano, are former Drug Enforcement Administration Officials!!  Of all people, you would expect an enhanced attack on the drug scourge in Loudoun County.  Instead, they preside over 56 arrests within our County limits??  In the pre-Chapman days, individual narcotics investigators would carry twice that number in the same time period!!  And Fiano uses the lame excuse that they are working smarter not harder?  Why doesn’t Fiano mention that at the beginning of Chapman’s tour, he directed an in-house audit of all accounts but that he (Fiano)decided not to audit the asset forfeiture account?  Why would someone who within 2 minutes of any conversation will tell you that he was number 3 at the DEA, overlook auditing the most active and potentially volatile account in the agency, asset forfeiture?  I guess that’s why the war on drugs didn’t work out so well for them.  Additionally, Chapman’s deflection of accountability to the previous administration highlights his total lack of leadership and some degree of cowardice.  Fiano states in the article that they, “pursue every case.”  He knows that isn’t the truth.  There is official documentation that proves that certain cases were not followed up because of Chapman’s refusal to pay overtime. At least one overlooked case directly led to another crime being committed in Loudoun that could’ve been avoided.  Funny how this is the first time we have ever seen Fiano directly interviewed for a story by the press.  Usually Chapman is knocking people over to get to a camera or a reporter, but as in any sensitive situation, he doesn’t hesitate to push even his inner circle under the bus.  Fiano is largely respected and is a man of integrity.  Why he continues to carry Chapman’s water has many people scratching their heads, even among former DEA people. Chapman is only worried about farming out Loudoun Deputies to federal task forces where they can get a piece of the regional asset forfeiture pie, and so Fiano can spend countless hours at task force meetings in the region that are really just FED buddy reunions, thus Fiano’s comfort zone.  If he so values the money over enforcement, why didn’t he protect that money?  It was going out as fast as it was coming in!  Only $200 in the buy account?  This doesn’t resonate that you have a robust local drug enforcement effort.  Chapman’s comment, “I don’t know that we’re bringing in more cases because marijuana cases are pretty easy.” illustrates his ineptitude and incompetence.  If this is the case, it should tell you that street level drug activity in Loudoun is off the charts, which it is!! The heroine epidemic should tell you the same thing!!  Yet Fiano deploys just ONE deputy to handle street level narcotics cases.  THANK YOU CRYSTAL OWENS FOR EXPOSING THESE SCANDALS PUBLICLY.  JUST BE ADVISED THAT YOU HAVE ONLY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE.  KEEP DIGGING. Be afraid Loudoun, you are not safer under the Chapman brand of law enforcement.


If you want to figure out why drug cases and drug arrests have gone down look no further than the same reasons why traffic summons and self initiated arrests are down: agency morale and officer safety. These are widely known issues. To help solve them you can start by bringing back evening shift/overlapping shifts so deputies have time for self initiated activity and case follow-up again, bring back minimum staffing and if needed shift overtime so stations aren’t robbing personnel from one another when they are short, put more boots on the street so deputies stop working hours of their shift alone sometimes covering several whole neighborhoods or a hundred square miles or more without backup, and start paying your senior officers, FTOs, SWAT, Evidence Techs etc. what they deserve since most of them recently took an effective 5% pay cut when everyone else got a bump. Loudoun has a great bunch of motivated, well trained, and dedicated law enforcement professionals… support them!

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