Former W.P. Police Officer Sentenced for Lying on Application
A former Whispering Pines police office was sentenced Thursday for providing false information to get his job.
Alvaro Miranda pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining property under false pretense, the “property” being income from his job as an officer with the Whispering Pines Police Department, as Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland told the court. He also had a continuing friendship with members of known drug gangs.
“Based on Mr. Miranda’s own statement — and results of the SBI investigation — he gave false information to gain employment as a police officer,” Strickland said. “The SBI investigated criminal allegations against Police Officer Alvaro Miranda’s friendship with several known members of an Hispanic drug distribution organization.”
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb was unhappy that he could not send Miranda to prison for admitting to a continuing friendship with drug gangs and telling lies on his application for training and certification as a law enforcement officer.
Miranda agreed to plead guilty in a deal that left his sentence in the discretion of the court. But the General Assembly has taken that discretion away from judges. Sentences for the class two misdemeanors to which Miranda was pleading guilty are fixed by law as probation only.
Deputy Jerrell Seawell, of the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, and District Attorney Maureen Krueger had joined Whispering Pines Police Chief Domonic Campbell in asking State Bureau of Investigation agent Charles Massey to investigate.
Massey discovered that not only had the officer remained close personal friends with drug gang member Jose Martinez and others, but also he had sold marijuana himself — before he joined the force.
Martinez kept his old friend Miranda’s business card in his wallet, Strickland said. When he and other suspects detained on federal drug charges were released from custody, Martinez phoned Miranda to ask for for a ride home, Strickland continued. He said Miranda picked them up.
The next day, Miranda used a secure law enforcement database called “Rambler” to check out several of the federal drug targets. He also allowed others to use his Rambler user identification and password to access the database who were not approved for it — though none of them were suspects in criminal cases, just law officers in other agencies, Strickland told the court.
Accessing such resources without authorization is itself a felony, said Assistant District Attorney David Bjorlin during the morning break.
Miranda had started selling marijuana in the summer of 2007 and continued to do so on through into the winter, according to statements made in court based on information provided the SBI agent by a former confidential informant for the Sheriff’s Office.
“He had shared his log in with other law-enforcement officers,” Strickland said. “There is no evidence he ever shared it with any friends from drug organizations.”
In one recorded telephone call, Miranda could be heard turning down a chance to sell marijuana.
“You know I don’t do that any more,” Miranda said on the recording. “I’m trying to improve my life.”
That had indeed been his client’s dream, defense attorney Butch Jenkins told the court.
“By all accounts, he was a good law enforcement officer,” Jenkins said. “He did mainly traffic, did a good job at that. He completely cooperated with the investigation and volunteered at an early stage to surrender his law enforcement license. He is employed, works now at Sandhills Landscape.”
Strickland said Miranda, faced with losing his job when the factory where worked was closing, lied about his drug background to enter basic law enforcement training (BLET) and in his applications for the job with the Whispering Pines Police Department.
“He does not have a criminal record,” Strickland said. “I had contact with him and was impressed with his work as a police officer.”
Webb was ready to pronounce sentence but was extremely displeased with statutory limits on the sentence he could impose. The agreement left it up to him whether to order a probationary 45-day sentence on each count or active time in state prison.
“That is exactly what the court would like to — but is unable to — do,” Webb said. “I can’t even put him on intensive probation, by order of the North Carolina General Assembly.”
Instead Webb sentenced Miranda to consecutive 45-day suspended sentences on each count and extended the probationary period to three years. He fined Miranda $5,000 and ordered him to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
He ordered Miranda immediately to surrender his law enforcement certification to the clerk of court of Moore County to be forwarded to the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Judicial Standards Commission and ordered him never again to apply for certification as a law enforcement officer.
“Regular probation,” Webb said. “The General Assembly has ordered me not to put him on intensive probation.”
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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