The story of an SAPD officer charged last week in federal court for extortion is unnerving for several reasons.
First, officer Curtis W. Lundy, 36, a near four-year veteran of the force, was willing to risk his career (and freedom) over such a paltry sum of money – a $400 sum that evolved into $500, according to court documents. As criminal justice writer Scott Henson wrote over at Grits for Breakfast, the incident implies “this was likely a common, ongoing practice, at least allegedly for this officer.”
Second, one can see how easy it is to get caught in a trap of this sort. According to the complaint filed in federal court, Lundy was one of three officers who arrived at a domestic dispute at the Salado Crossing Apartments on Dec. 15. From what little is detailed in the complaint, which doesn't name names, it sounds like a scuffle between girlfriend, boyfriend, and ex-boyfriend got out of hand, and someone called the cops. After officers diffused the situation, Lundy detained one of the men who admitted “that he had a user amount of marijuana in his car at the apartment.” Lundy, according to the complaint, told the man he could “help him out” by holding the charges in exchange for $400. The man said he didn't have the cash on him but could get it, and through a series of phone calls with Lundy the sum grew to $500.
And now the third, deeply troubling point. The man who claims Lundy tried to extort him says the officer planted the pot in his car – something contrary to what's outlined in the federal complaint. Kens5 on Friday identified the man Kumail Jusab, an immigrant from East Africa (we couldn't reach Jusab on Monday). He's quoted as saying, “You know, what I'm thinking is it is happening to people who are most likely permanent residents, because they try to keep a clean record, you know, to try to get their citizenship or what not. And that may be one of the reasons why they wouldn't ever think about going to the authorities or anything like that.”
Jusab contacted local FBI officials last week, who then set up a sting to catch Lundy. They tapped Jusab's phone calls with Lundy. A surveillance team watched when Lundy took his patrol car to pick up the cash Thursday, according to the federal complaint.
If convicted, Lundy could face up to 20 years and prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Jan. 17. – Michael Barajas