LEXINGTON, KY. -- -- Sheriffs of four counties in the eastern Kentucky hills, a police chief and a sheriff's deputy were arrested yesterday on charges that they took money to provide protection for drug traffickers passing cocaine through the state.
The FBI set up the sting operation last year with two agents acting as Chicago businessmen interested in shipping cocaine. At one point, cocaine packages were airdropped onto a farm owned by one officer, authorities said.
The sheriffs and two other officers were charged in a 42-count indictment that accused them of conspiracy, drug distribution and protecting other drug traffickers.
Arrested were Lee County Sheriff Johnny Mann, 39; Breathitt County Sheriff Dean Spencer, 46; Wolfe County Sheriff Lester Drake, 51, and Owsley County Sheriff Billy McIntosh, 57. Also arrested were Beattyville Police Chief Omer Noe and Wolfe County deputy Wilson Stone.
At a hearing before a federal magistrate, five of the men were released on bond. Mann was denied bond after an undercover agent testified that he had promised during the yearlong sting to kill anyone who set him up.
According to the indictment, agents first met with Mann in Lee County and he introduced them to the other local law officers.
From August 1989 to this month, agents paid the officers more than $85,000 in exchange for protecting the agents' fake cocaine and marijuana smuggling and distribution business from police detection and other interference, the indictment said.