With the blue lights of his patrol car flashing, D.C. police officer Shawn P. Verbeke pulled over a car at 22nd and P streets NW. In full uniform, he approached the driver, clipboard in hand.
But on that clipboard, federal law enforcement sources said, was a bag of drugs. The so-called traffic stop was actually a drug deal, and Verbeke sold the driver almost $400 worth of methamphetamine, they said.
The drug deal is one of many alleged in charges filed against Verbeke in federal court in Alexandria. Verbeke, 30, left the D.C. police in 2002. But while he was an officer, prosecutors said during a detention hearing yesterday, Verbeke used and sold drugs on and off duty, flashing his badge as he shook down dealers at nightclubs in the District and distributing ecstasy pills at parties in Northern Virginia.
During the hearing, a federal judge ordered Verbeke, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute ecstasy and methamphetamine, held without bond until his Sept. 15 trial. Verbeke, a former Marine who also worked as a U.S. Capitol Police officer, was arrested June 8 in Ohio, where he was living with his mother. The arrest came just days before he was scheduled to move to Kuwait to work for a contracting firm aiding the U.S. military.
If convicted, Verbeke faces as much as 20 years in prison.
Junis Fletcher, a D.C. police spokesman, said Verbeke joined the department sometime in 1999 and left in June 2002. He was a patrol officer in the 3rd Police District. Police officials would not comment on the charges against Verbeke.
"This is a case that screams out for detention, your honor,'' Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle told U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema yesterday. "He was entrusted by the people of Washington to serve and protect, but he turned that badge, he turned that gun, into a weapon to sell illicit drugs.''
Brinkema called the charges "very serious allegations" and labeled Verbeke "a risk to the safety of the community" as she ordered him detained. Verbeke wiped away tears as he was led away by U.S. marshals.
His attorney, David W. O'Brien, argued that Verbeke posed no threat and that there were "significant inconsistencies" in the government's case. He declined to comment further after the hearing.
A Virginia-based Drug Enforcement Administration task force began investigating Verbeke after he was named by a trafficker who had pleaded guilty in Alexandria, according to an affidavit filed in court by task force member Kenneth Dondero, a Loudoun County sheriff's deputy.
The trafficker, who is referred to only as "confidential source #1," said he and Verbeke had agreed that Verbeke would shake down other drug dealers in nightclubs and take their drugs, and that the trafficker would sell the drugs and give Verbeke a percentage of the profits.
Four other unnamed informants are quoted as saying that Verbeke ingested and purchased methamphetamine while in uniform at a District nightclub and sold drugs at other clubs in the District. One informant who said he bought ecstasy from Verbeke at a nightclub expressed concern that people might be watching the transaction.
Verbeke responded by pointing to his gun and saying that he didn't care and would "shoot them in the face,'' according to court records and law enforcement sources.
The incident in which Verbeke allegedly sold methamphetamine during the traffic stop is described in court records by an unnamed informant.