Bossier Police Sergeant ordered held without bail Thursday

Bossier Police Sgt. Harold "B.J." Sanford  

SHREVEPORT, La. -- A Bossier City police sergeant used the power of his badge and the force of his personality to try to get what he wanted and to obstruct an investigation into prescription drug fraud and suspected embezzlement at the police officers union he headed, a federal magistrate said Thursday in saying B.J. Sanford must stay in jail pending prosecution.

Sanford was taken into custody this past weekend by the FBI, which said it has evidence of fraudulent means to obtain prescription painkillers and is continuing to investigate suspected embezzlement from the police union.

Prosecutors laid out details of their case, which involves wiretaps and surveillance, at a detention hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Shreveport.

When the FBI arrived at a Bossier City motel to arrest Mitch Morehead, a civilian employee of the union, he called Sanford, who told him to erase his phone, Agent Raquel Mobley testified. As agents drove Morehead to their office, Sanford called Morehead, told him to put the call on speaker phone and then told agents Morehead worked for him and he didn’t want him answering questions, Mobley testified.

As part of the case on whether Sanford should stay in jail, federal prosecutors also presented testimony Sanford tried to intimidate the manager of an apartment complex after she told him his services as a security officer were no longer needed. Sources have told KTBS News the manager told authorities Sanford warned of his connections in Bossier City government and law-enforcement, and said he could make her life difficult.

Mobley testified Sanford tried to get her date of birth, but she refused to give it to him. He eventually learned it, and later she was picked up by Shreveport city marshals for outstanding traffic tickets.

Sanford sent a photo of her driver’s license to her phone, and he also circulated her booking photo to residents, Mobley said. The fines she paid were reimbursed because the time limit had passed on the tickets. However, Sanford told the woman he was responsible for that because the district attorney in Caddo owed him a favor, Mobley said.

Sanford’s attorneys, in seeking his release from jail, told of Sanford’s ties to the community and his care for his wheelchair-bound mother. Family members vouched for him, and the head of the Bossier NAACP testified Sanford worked to foster police-community relations.

But Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby said the bad outweighed the good and ordered Sanford, 52, jailed pending prosecution.

“I find that this is a flagrant abuse of power by a person wearing a police uniform and driving a police vehicle,” Hornsby said.

Federal prosecutors have not disclosed details about the amount of money they believe was embezzled from the union, but the magistrate called it “significant.”

Sanford is suspected of concocting a scheme to steal union funds raised through both bogus and legitimate fundraising, then using money to fraudulently obtain prescription painkillers.  Morehead, a civilian who was paid a salary, made fundraising calls and was given money to get painkillers for Sanford through fraudulent means, the FBI said. Their case is awaiting presentation to a grand jury and neither man has entered a plea.

Sanford was arrested Sunday after the FBI seized documents at Bossier City police headquarters. His world collapsing around him, authorities believe Sanford drove to police headquarters, saw agents’ vehicles and began to drive around Municipal Complex. He eventually surrendered to an assistant city attorney.

Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler has not returned repeated calls from  KTBS News for comment on the federal investigation. City Attorney Charles Jacobs was in the courtroom watching Thursday’s proceedings.

KTBS has learned the Bossier City police union's vice president and two others who hold positions with the union have been placed on administrative leave while city officials investigate and have also received federal subpoenas to provide information about what they know. 

Hornsby also ordered Morehead jailed pending trial, saying he moved from motel to motel while working with Sanford, has no local ties and is a flight risk.

Both men are scheduled to return to U.S. District Court on Sept. 14, the day after the next scheduled grand jury session.

In a criminal complaint filed earlier in the week, the FBI said it began investigating Sanford in January after getting tips about money being embezzled from the police union's fundraiser account. Sanford and Morehead were "running real and fake fundraisers,” the FBI said

The FBI obtained court-approved wiretaps and began monitoring both men’s phone calls, texts, and efforts to get prescriptions from a doctor. The government said agents also conducted surveillance and saw Sanford driving his police-issue vehicle to get painkillers, which Morehead turned over to Sanford.  The police sergeant then gave the pills to his wife, according to testimony. His wife, who was in the courtroom Monday and Thursday this week, has not been charged. 

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