Feds: Rogue cop tried to corner drug trade with strippers
SEATTLE -- A fired sheriff's deputy alleged to have stolen drugs while working for the DEA hoped to use a gang of strippers to take over the Shoreline drug trade, federal investigators now contend.
Facing a host of state and federal charges, ex-King County Sheriff's Deputy Mitchell Wright is alleged to have given "free samples" of methamphetamine and heroin to strippers he hoped to recruit in a scheme to remake himself as a drug kingpin.
Adding to the pile of strange allegations against the former Drug Enforcement Administration taskforce officer, investigators contend Wright, 33, began dealing increasing amounts of meth, heroin and cocaine late last year. At the time, Wright was already facing state charges related to allegations that he'd stolen drugs seized during investigations.
In August, Wright was charged in state court with the drug thefts. Released from jail weeks later, Wright was indicted in early February after federal prosecutors accused him of dealing meth; he remains jailed without bail.
Hired by the Sheriff's Office in November 2002, Wright went to work on a DEA taskforce in 2009. As a taskforce officer, he investigated drug crimes under DEA supervision and was commissioned as a federal officer.
It was while working under DEA supervision that Wright is alleged to have stolen tens of thousands of dollars' worth of drugs. Wright was forced to resign from the Sheriff's Office in July and was arrested the following month at his Bothell home.
Deputy: I'm an Australian diplomat
Wright's trouble with the law began in May, when a Bothell officer stopped to check on a woman parked at a McDonald's. Seated behind the Dodge Ram's wheel, the woman had a hypodermic needle in her arm and appeared to be injecting heroin.
As it turned out, the truck was registered to Wright and the woman was his roommate and informant, according to charging papers.
The incident prompted an internal investigation, during which deputies found bags of heroin marked with DEA evidence numbers in the trunk of Wright's cruiser, a King County detective said in state court papers.
Charged in August with felony theft and heroin possession, Wright was alleged to have stolen 1,600 oxycodone pills, a half-pound of benzodiazepine and about a teaspoon of cocaine. The street value of those drugs is estimated by authorities at $36,450 to $52,490; investigators contend each oxycodone pill could sell for $20 to $30.
Wright made a series of outlandish claims following his arrest, including asserting that he was immune to prosecution as an Australian diplomat, a King County detective told the court.
"He also stated that he had a job lined up in Australia that was going to pay him $400,000 a year and that he had terminal bone cancer and only had six months to live," the detective said in state court filings. "He then continued that this investigation was one big misunderstanding."
Having posted bond, Wright was released from King County Jail two weeks after his arrest. Now facing federal charges related to the purported drug thefts, investigators claim Wright kept using and selling heroin after his arrest.
Stripper recruits, prostitute customers
In court papers, a State Patrol detective assigned to a DEA taskforce said the DEA launched an investigation into Wright's activities in December after King County Sheriff's Office detectives spotted Wright at the home of a suspected drug dealer.
Speaking with informants, investigators were told Wright was recruiting strippers to sell meth and heroin for him, the State Patrol detective said in a recently unsealed search warrant affidavit. Wright, they were told, was giving "free samples" to North Seattle strippers and hoped to take over the Shoreline-area drug trade.
Free from jail, Wright was also using large amounts of meth and becoming paranoid, the detective continued. Still, though, Wright believed he wouldn't be apprehended.
"Wright bragged to (the informant) and his criminal associates that he could never be caught or arrested, as he knew all of the tricks that police use to investigate drug dealers," the detective said in court papers.
Investigators set up a series of undercover drug buys from Wright, who delivered meth by motorcycle, the detective continued.
Wright is also alleged to have been selling cocaine and heroin to prostitutes. The detective said Wright bragged in text messages to one woman that he had "super crazy coke" for her.
Indictment follows combative arrest
Investigators came to believe Wright was living in the basement apartment of an $800,000 home in Seattle's Cedar Park neighborhood while driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo with custom wheels. (Strangely enough, Denzel Washington was shown driving a similar, tricked-out Monte Carlo while playing a dirty detective in 2001's "Training Day.")
A federal grand jury indicted Wright on Feb. 5, adding federal drug charges to the state theft charges currently outstanding. He was arrested five days later at a Kidd Valley restaurant on Aurora Avenue North.
Confronted by officers outside the burger joint, Wright tussled with officers and attempted to toss away an eyeglasses case stuffed with meth, cocaine and heroin, the detective said in the search warrant affidavit. Describing Wright as "argumentative, verbally assaultive and extremely agitated," the detective said Wright appeared to be high on meth at the time of his arrest.
Wright went on to claim he'd been "screwed over" by the Sheriff's Office and had done nothing wrong except "fall in love and sleep with an informant who is a good person," the detective continued. Investigators contend Wright admitted to selling drugs, claiming he was left with no other options after his firing.
According to the detective's account, Wright went on to say he would "beat any case," in part because he'd been trading drugs for sex with one government witness. Wright contended the woman couldn't be called to testify against him because they were sleeping together.
"He added that the DEA was a joke and reiterated that law enforcement should go after the real criminals, because what he had been doing was really nothing," the detective said in court papers.
Investigators claim to have recovered meth and counterfeit bills from Wright's car, as well as meth and steroids from his apartment.
Having pleaded not guilty to the federal drug charges he currently faces, Wright remains jailed at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac. His trial is currently scheduled to begin in late April, though it will likely be delayed.