ATLANTA – A former Cartersville police officer was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Friday for notifying drug traffickers that the FBI was conducting a court-authorized wiretap of their phones, authorities said.
Bryson-Taylor Wayne Banks, 31, of Calhoun, will also serve three years of supervised release after his 18 months in prison, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a news release.
In 2015, Banks was an officer with the Cartersville Police Department and a member of the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, Pak said. He was investigating multiple drug traffickers, including Thomas Pineda Mendoza, by using a female confidential source to obtain information about the network.
However, Banks improperly gave her information from law enforcement databases and illegally sent her a picture of another source, Pak said.
At the same time, the FBI was investigating an inmate in a Georgia state prison, Francisco Palacios Baras, also known as “Shorty,” Pak said. A court-authorized wiretap on two of Shorty’s cellphones revealed Mendoza was one of Shorty’s associates and the confidential source had been storing drugs for Mendoza.
Mendoza was scheduled to pick up two kilograms of methamphetamine from Shorty, and the FBI planned to arrest Mendoza after he picked up the drugs and then search the confidential source’s house, Pak said.
The morning of the planned arrest, a FBI agent informed Banks of the wiretap investigation, the plan to arrest Mendoza and search the confidential source’s house, Pak said.
Banks knew that the confidential source’s house may contain evidence of the information Banks had illegally been providing to her, Pak said. Because of this, he told the confidential source about the planned FBI arrest and wiretapping.
Mendoza didn’t pick up the drugs as planned, but he was intercepted over the wiretap calling Shorty and telling him that “one of the girls” had warned Mendoza not to pick up the drugs, Pak said.
Banks compromised the arrest plan, allowed the surveillance team to be identified, exposed the wiretap and the FBI agents had to take precautions for agents’ personal safety on top of trying to rebuild the investigation, Pak said.
Pak said the renewed investigation was successful and led to the arrests of Shorty and Mendoza, who were sentenced to nine years and seven months and 10 years and 10 months of imprisonment, respectively.
Banks pleaded guilty to unlawful notification of electronic surveillance on March 1.
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