A Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty to identity theft and extortion Wednesday after being caught in an elaborate FBI sting that involved an informant posing as a crooked tax preparer and heroin dealer.
Over the course of this spring, Ashley Roane, 26, worked with the informant to try to file false tax returns using information she lifted from police databases, and agreed to protect the informant's supposed drug-dealing business.
Roane, who held a wad of tissue and dabbed her eyes as the plea hearing began, faces between five years and a little over nine years in jail when she is sentenced in February. She is not currently in custody.
Lt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said the department plans to terminate Roane's employment.
Roane's roommate, Erica Hughes, 26, pleaded guilty to identity theft in the case last week. Her attorney declined to comment.
The informant strung Roane and Hughes along for a number of months, asking for more names and helping federal agents build a case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Nothstein said in court.
Roane provided the informant, who has not been identified, with batches of 10 names and other personal information. In return, the informant turned over money said to be from the fraudulent returns, but which had actually been provided by the FBI.
In late March the FBI ratcheted up the operation, and the informant invited Roane to get involved in dealing heroin.
At first, Nothstein said, Roane offered protection out on the street, but the informant asked her instead to do a background check on one of the source's suppliers to see if the supplier — a fictitious person invented by federal agents — was a snitch.
Nothstein questioned whether Roane could have easily done that, because the Police Department does not keep an electronic database of its informants and her attorney denied that she had actively made any inquiries. Nevertheless, she later reported to the FBI source that the supplier was "clean."
The next month, Roane agreed to watch over the informant during a heroin deal with the same invented supplier in the parking lot of the Westside Shopping Center. Roane would act as though she were writing a report and send a warning if any other police officers were in the area. Officials orchestrated the fictitious deal on April 30.
"Wassup lady dat my bag was real good," the informant told Roane in a text message, according to court records. "hope u can start helping me more and I will bless ur pocket."
A month later, the pair arranged to do a second, larger deal. But that one did not end so well for Roane: The FBI closed its snare and arrested her.
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