Former Cartersville police officer Bryson-Taylor Wayne Banks, who notified drug traffickers that the FBI was conducting a court-authorized wiretap, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Unlawful Notification of Electronic Surveillance.
“The defendant made a decision to side with the drug dealers and sabotage an FBI investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “He placed his fellow law enforcement officers in imminent danger, and sold out his oath to uphold the law.”
“It is disheartening to learn that one of our own decided to take the side of law breakers, putting fellow officers and agents in danger while violating the trust of law abiding citizens in his community,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta. “It is only fitting that Banks will now have time to reflect on his decision, as he more than likely will spend time in prison, alongside the drug dealers he chose to side with.”
“Mr. Banks actions do not reflect the values or culture of the Cartersville Police Department,” said Lieutenant Michael Bettikofer, Cartersville Police Department.
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: In 2015, Banks, then an officer with the Cartersville Police Department and member of the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, was investigating a number of drug traffickers operating in the Cartersville area, including Tomas Pineda Mendoza, using a female confidential source (“CS”) to obtain information about the network. In cultivating his relationship with the CS, Banks improperly gave her information from law enforcement databases and illegally sent her a picture of another cooperating source.
Separately, the FBI was investigating an inmate in a Georgia state prison, Francisco Palacios Baras, also known as “Shorty,” who was using contraband cell phones to coordinate methamphetamine transactions outside of the prison. Using a court-authorized wiretap on two of Shorty’s cell phones, the FBI learned that Mendoza was one of Shorty’s associates, and that Mendoza was scheduled to pick up two kilograms of methamphetamine. The FBI planned to arrest Mendoza after he picked up those drugs.
The morning of the planned arrest, in the interest of sharing information and coordinating operations with fellow law enforcement agencies, an FBI agent informed Banks of the wiretap investigation and the plan to arrest Mendoza. Banks, knowing that the drug trafficker he had been investigating was about to be arrested by a different agency, contacted his CS and instructed her to tell Mendoza to not pick up drugs that day because the FBI planned to arrest him. Banks also told the CS that the FBI knew about Mendoza because they were wiretapping Shorty’s phones.
Mendoza did not pick up the methamphetamine as planned, but was intercepted over the wiretap calling Shorty and telling him that “one of the girls” had warned Mendoza not to pick up the drugs. He said that he had identified the agents watching his apartment, as “the girl” had warned, and that law enforcement was listening to Shorty’s phones. Following this, Shorty stopped using the phones being wiretapped by the FBI.
With the arrest plan compromised, the surveillance team identified, and the wiretap exposed, the FBI agents had to take precautions for agents’ personal safety and try to rebuild the investigation. However, the renewed investigation was ultimately successful, resulting in Shorty and Mendoza being arrested and sentenced to 9 years, seven months, and 10 years, 10 months imprisonment, respectively, for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Sentencing for Bryson-Taylor Wayne Banks, 31, of Cartersville, Georgia, is scheduled for May 11, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy.