An ex-detective accused of planting fake heroin in North Carolina is now on the other side of the law.
Omar Abdullah was fired from Raleigh Police Department in October 2021 after attorneys for a group of Black men arrested on drug charges brought the allegations to light.
A Wake County grand jury indicted Abdullah on July 26 for felony obstruction of justice.
“From the beginning, we have taken the harm caused with great seriousness,” said Wake County district attorney Lorrin Freeman, who launched the investigation.
Abdullah, an 11-year veteran in the force, once was lauded for his police work. He was a member of the drug unit and was selected Employee of the Month in 2013. Abdullah arrested 15 Black men for trafficking heroin from December 2019 through May 2020. The men were jailed and held on six-figure bonds. But the charges were fraudulent. Freeman said her office became aware of the issue in February 2020.
According to reports, Abdullah paid an informant to tip him off about drug deals. The informant reported to the detective with piecemeal videos, where he often traded money for which lab tests showed later was not an illicit drug. Freeman launched an investigation in 2020 to find out whether Abdullah knew the heroin was not real. The grand jury found Abdullah lied to a judicial official about the drugs.
Many of the men were freed immediately, and all have since been cleared. The city settled a $2 million federal lawsuit with the men in September 2021. The lawsuit alleged that Abdullah and others were aware that the crooked informant was using fake heroin, but he continued purchasing the cases. The men spent a total of 2.5 years in jail and their lives were ripped apart.
“Many Plaintiffs lost their jobs, missed birthdays and funerals, others had their homes and children investigated by Child Protective Services, and others were unable to continue to pay their bills and were forced to move during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Freeman and Raleigh Police Department chief Estella Patterson said in a joint letter in September. “All were traumatized because of their wrongful detention or incarceration and the fabricated allegations against them. The RPD VICE unit’s actions also resulted in the unlawful detention of numerous women and children and at least one illegal SWAT (SEU) raid of a family’s home.”
Robin Mills’ son, Marcus Vanirvin, was one of the men caught up in the bogus drug scandal. Vanirvin was initially on a $450,000 bond. He has been left with long-lasting trauma, Mills said.
“It’s a problem. I’m disgusted,” she said. “When we have over 15 black men who have been kidnapped and snatched off the streets and caged like slaves, and no one seems to care.”
Criminal justice reform activist Kerwin Pittman questioned why it took the city so long to indict the detective. He believes it is an example of systemic problems in local policing.
“Until the district attorney’s office starts normalizing prosecution of police corruption in Wake County, we’re not gonna see no change,” he said.