Former Spalding County Battalion Chief and Firefighter Sentenced to Prison for Tipping Off Drug Dealers
NEWNAN, GA—Former Spalding County Fire Battalion Chief Dwayne Tyrone Coggins and former Firefighter Michael Owens have been sentenced for tipping off drug dealers to police activity in the Griffin, Ga., area. Both were convicted in October 2014, after a jury trial.
“The police thought there was no safer place to gather than a fire station. Instead, Coggins and Owens reported what they saw and heard to drug dealers operating in the area without ever considering the safety of the officers who trusted them with sensitive information,” said Acting United States Attorney John A. Horn. “The Court’s sentences in this case demonstrate that there are real consequences that come from tipping off criminals to police activity.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The sentencing of these two former Spalding County firefighters concludes an unfortunate but very necessary investigation and prosecution. Those who serve within the public safety community should be able to depend on each other, to include their own safety and security as they carry out their duties, and that was not the case with former Spalding County Fire Battallion Chief Coggins and former firefighter Owens. The FBI will continue to provide significant resources toward identifying, investigating, and presenting for prosecution those individuals who betray their badges and their oaths of office.”
According to Acting United States Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Coggins was employed by the Spalding County Ga., Fire Department since 1990 and, most recently, served as a Battalion Chief. Owens had been employed by the Spalding County Ga., Fire Department as a firefighter for approximately four years.
Police regularly gathered at the Spalding County Fire Department before scheduled police activity such as serving arrest warrants. In April and May 2014, Coggins and Owens warned drug dealers about law enforcement activity in the area before it occurred because they had been told by the police about the investigation or had seen officers gathering near the fire station.
Police were unaware that Coggins and Owens were tipping off drug traffickers until they heard the drug dealers talking about the tips on a wiretapped telephone. During a series of wiretapped calls, the drug dealers discussed the specific information provided by the firefighters as well as how they could dispose of the drugs before the police arrived. In one recorded call, Owens himself was intercepted asking whether the drug dealer had already cleaned out the drugs before police executed a search warrant. Owens cautioned the drug dealer that he should immediately remove the drugs out of his stash house before it was too late.
Coggins, 47, of Griffin, Ga., was sentenced to four years in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release, and 100 hours of community service. Owens, 37, also of Griffin, Ga., was sentenced to two years, six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release, and 100 hours of community service. Both were sentenced before United States District Court Judge Timothy Batten.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Kurt R. Erskine and Jeffrey W. Davis prosecuted the case.