Law enforcement officials in Broward County are using illegal methods to bait Black men into committing crimes, according to a lawsuit.
Sheriff Scott Israel formed the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Violence Intervention Proactive Enforcement Response (VIPER) Unit in February 2013 to “target, track, investigate, and apprehend Broward County’s most violent criminals,” the website reads.
“To accomplish its goal effectively the squad utilizes intelligence-led policing and numerous investigative techniques. VIPER has also become a vital regional asset, assisting other units and agencies with tracking down murder suspects, bank robbers, escaped criminals and numerous others.”
The New Times Broward-Palm Beach reports Ft. Lauderdale-based criminal defense attorney Kevin Kulik has accused the VIPER unit of using his client’s ex-girlfriend to lure the 25-year-old into stealing items from a hotel safe.
Court records showed Louis Hilaire was initially contacted by the former lover via Facebook in May 2014, according to the newspaper. The two had sex the following night, when the ex admitted her true motive for the reconnection: she wanted Hilaire to help her rob a safe at a nearby hotel. She claimed her housekeeper friend would hand over the room key in exchange for a share of the spoils.
After first refusing, the former convict went through with the crime and was arrested and charged with burglary, grand theft, grand theft of a firearm, and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. According to Kulik, the old flame was a pawn in the unit’s long-term sting operation that enlists ‘amorous” women to entice African-American men with previous convictions into becoming repeat offenders.
The housekeeper was actually a cop and the girlfriend was a secret informant. In a motion to dismiss the charges, Kulik claimed the sheriff’s office manufactured all of the circumstances that led up to the criminal activity by providing Hilaire with the key, having the two women drive him to the inn and insisting that he go back for the safe, which contained a gun.
Kulik wrote in the motion, “Clearly BSO was most interested in the firearm allegedly inside the safe, because the firearm trumps up the charges against Mr. Hilaire. Without the firearm inside the safe, Mr. Hilaire could not be charged with armed burglary, possession of a firearm by a felon, or grand theft of a firearm.”
Kulik insisted the operation was unconstitutional, because the sheriff’s office technically owned all of the stolen items.
“The lady works for BSO, since any [confidential informant] is an agent of the police,” Kulik told the New Times. “You can’t consent to somebody stealing your stuff. If you say, ‘Here’s the key to my office,’ you can’t charge them with theft.”
Kulik has identified 13 other ex-offenders targeted by the special task force. All were African-American, two were women and the rest were men.
A hearing scheduled for Monday, June 27 was postponed.