Phillip LeRoy had such a promising career as a New York City police officer, following in his father’s footsteps who proudly served 27 years as an NYPD cop.
Since becoming an officer in 2009, the NYPD cop quickly earned a reputation for making gun-related arrests, named his precinct’s “Cop of the Year” in 2012 and 2014.
But his career was cut short when he joined a buddy and drove down to Florida last year to pick up 10 kilos of cocaine, which is 22 pounds.
In exchange for $200,000, LeRoy’s job was to provide armed security in case anything bad went down. He was also expected to flash his badge to cops in case they got pulled over on the way back to New York from Florida.
But what didn’t anticipate was that the dealers would also flash their badges because they were actually cops from the Sunrise Police Department as well as federal DEA agents – something a “cop of the year” should have anticipated.
Especially considering the Sunrise Police Department made national headlines in 2013 after a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation revealed it is notorious for luring potential drug buyers to its sleepy suburban town in Broward County to buy cocaine, only for the department to seize their money through forfeiture laws.
It would be considered entrapment if the laws were written to protect citizens rather than to enrich police departments.
Sunrise is hauling in three times as much forfeited cash as any other city in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the Sun Sentinel found. Last year, the city raked in $2 million in state and federal forfeiture funds. The year before, in 2011, the figure was twice that — nearly $4 million.
Police generate much of their forfeiture money through reverse stings. The reverse sting, in which the police pose not as buyers, but as suppliers of cocaine, is a legitimate tool used by numerous law enforcement agencies.
“Is it illegal? No,” said Miami attorney Joel DeFabio, who represented a southwest Florida man busted in a Sunrise cocaine sting. “Is it improper? Not under our current law.”
But it is unusual. Other law enforcement agencies don’t consistently bring in suspects from outside their jurisdictions, the Sun Sentinel found.
The newspaper looked at cocaine trafficking arrests by all law enforcement agencies in Broward County over the past five years, and found that Sunrise made three-quarters of the busts involving suspects from other states or countries.
Since 2009, Sunrise has arrested at least 190 people on cocaine trafficking charges: more than any other municipality in the county and nearly twice the number of the only police agency that comes close, Fort Lauderdale. Only seven of those arrested by Sunrise lived in the city.
But LeRoy failed to read the article and the countless other articles on other sites that picked up the story, including several in New York.
So he obviously didn’t think it was risky to drive down to Florida with his buddy in December where he was quickly arrested along with two other men inside a Sunrise warehouse.
LeRoy — the son of a retired detective — allegedly drove from New York with the intent to buy drugs in the Sunshine State and had his off-duty weapon on him at the time.
“Sunrise PD does this thing called forfeiture, which are like reverse drug-deal stings, where cops pose as dealers selling very cheap cocaine. They’re known for these kind of big busts,” a police source said.
“You got to be pretty stupid to do this deal in Sunrise.”
LeRoy, 28, was charged with felony weapons possession, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, according to court records. His bail was set at $250,000.
The NYPD suspended the cop early Tuesday, authorities said.
He is in jail awaiting formal charges to be brought by state prosecutors, which could take up to 21 days, said an official at the Broward County Clerk’s Office.
Two years ago, LeRoy was picked from more than 100 officers in his precinct to win its “Cop of the Year” award, according to a report at the time.
Upon arrest, LeRoy, of course, denied he had any involvement with the drug transaction, but the DEA had video evidence confirming he was directly involved.
So then did the next best thing to avoid a harsh sentence, which was “cooperate” with investigators, usually mean snitching on the others involved in the hopes to receive a lighter sentence.
While lawyers from both sides acknowledged he cooperated in their investigation, he was still sentenced to ten years in prison on Friday.
But now he has plenty of time to work on a “Convict of the Year” award.