by Max Brantley
Report follows on a guilty plea by a former Marvell cop in "Operation Delta Blues," the big drug/public corruption probe:
Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced today that former Marvell Police Department Officer Robert Wahls, entered a guilty plea before United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. The charges stemmed from multiple Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations spanning more than a two-year period. The investigations, collectively referred to as “Operation Delta Blues,” primarily focused on public corruption and drug trafficking activities in the Helena-West Helena and Marianna, Arkansas, areas. The United States Attorney’s Office utilized sixteen court-authorized wiretaps over the course of Operation Delta Blues. Approximately 800 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division; and Arkansas State Police participated in the October 11, 2011, arrests.
Wahls entered a plea of guilty to attempted interference with commerce by means of extortion ("Hobbs Act") and money laundering. The United States dismissed the remaining counts against the defendant. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), the plea agreement calls for the court to impose an agreed 24 month sentence. Sentencing was set for May 30, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
As part of his plea agreement, during the change of plea hearing Wahls agreed that the following facts were true: On September 21, 2011, a confidential source (CS) posing as a drug trafficker contacted Marvell Police Department Officer Wahls at federal law enforcement direction. The CS told Wahls that the CS would be traveling from Louisiana into Arkansas in the near future with a distributable quantity of a controlled substance, and the CS wanted Wahls to protect the CS as the CS drove the load of drugs through Marvell, Arkansas. Wahls agreed to escort the CS in exchange for cash payment. On September 26, 2011, the CS and Wahls arranged to meet in Marvell for the purpose of Wahls escorting the CS and the CS's load of drugs through Marvell. At approximately 6:45 p.m., the CS met Wahls on the eastern side of Marvell, where Wahls was waiting in his patrol car. Wahls then escorted the CS through Marvell by following the CS and the CS's vehicle in his Marvell Police Department patrol car, and the CS paid Wahls in cash for the escort.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, DEA, IRS, ATF, and Arkansas State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Peters, Benecia B. Moore, and Michael Gordon.