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Resource ID: #26002
Source:Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Va.)
A tip that a high ranking officer at the Hampton Police Division had been placed on administrative leave for alleged misconduct piqued our curiosity. Eventually, it led to the revelation that several officers had been involved in a secret cigarette operation with a stated mission to crack down on the black-market tobacco trade. We discovered that millions of dollars had flowed through the undercover firm's secret account, including tens of thousands of dollars for travel, and hundreds of thousands of dollars for new fully-loaded vehicles. Not only were the financial controls over the operation extremely lax, but not a single arrest resulted from the 19-month sting. Moreover, the City Council wasn't told about the more than $720,000 in the company's account until told about it by the Daily Press. Eventually — after the city first seemed to assert that was no problem with the operation — there were consequences. The police chief was soon placed on administrative leave, and a few weeks later he resigned from office. The city manager issued a statement confirming that financial protocols had not been followed. She ordered an outside audit and requested a state Attorney General's opinion as to whether the cops had the authority to run these sorts of “churning” operations. Had the Daily Press not pressed for details over the course of months of investigating reporting, the entire operation might have forever remained a secret.