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Feds: Two south suburban cops stole cash, drugs, extorted drivers

by staff

A south suburban police sergeant and a patrol officer under his command are facing federal charges alleging they robbed motorists of cash and drugs during traffic stops and extorted people in exchange for declining to press charges or tow their vehicles.

Jarrett Snowden, 34, of Lansing, and Antoine “Bell” Larry, 46, of Bolingbrook, both officers for the small village of Phoenix, were charged in a four-count indictment made public Tuesday with bribery conspiracy, extortion, and attempted extortion.

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An arraignment date had not been set in the case of Tuesday. Larry’s attorney, Garry Payton, said he had not seen the indictment as of Monday morning and had no comment. Snowden’s attorney could not be reached.

According to the 10-page indictment, Snowden and Larry “agreed to use their official powers and positions as police officers” to rob and extort people they pulled over in Phoenix and the neighboring suburb of Harvey, about 19 miles south of downtown Chicago.

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The officers stole firearms, drugs and cash from targeted vehicles and their occupants, and also solicited cash payments in exchange for “reducing, dropping or declining to press charges” against the occupants, as well as allowing them to keep their vehicles instead of having them towed, the indictment stated.

In some instances, Larry and Snowden arranged for the victims to meet them at a nearby gas station with bribe payments, the indictment alleged.

To conceal the conspiracy, the officers at times used a “bagman” to collect the payments, and also had an agreement to sell the narcotics they’d stolen to a drug dealer and split any proceeds from the eventual street sales 50/50, the indictment alleged.

In all, the indictment lists seven separate acts of extortion or bribery between October 2020 and December 2021.

Messages left for the mayor and police chief in Phoenix were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Phoenix and Harvey have long been hotbeds for corruption, with numerous police officers and politicians indicted over the years on charges ranging from extortion to murder.

The sensational 1979 murder of then-Phoenix Mayor William Hawkins was allegedly carried our by members of his own police department who were angry he wasn’t sharing siphoned-off government funds with them like he promised. A police lieutenant was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, while another officer was acquitted at trial.

In 2019, the U.S. attorney’s office announced an array of corruption charges against people close to then-Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg, including Kellogg’s brother, Derrick Muhammad, a Harvey police officer, accused of falsifying a police report to protect two convicted felons from possibly facing weapons charges.

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Muhammad pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2020 to nine months in prison.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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