New details are now emerging in the theft of 24 kilos of cocaine from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s new headquarters, details that TBI Director Larry Wallace was attempting to suppress and that further embarrass the state’s top law enforcement agency.
The latest controversy surrounding Wallace — a long-time political ally of Al Gore — and the TBI was first revealed on Jan. 11 by WTVF-TV reporter Scott Couch. A Tennessee highway patrolman appeared at TBI headquarters to retrieve 100 kilos of cocaine seized in a interdiction stop in Dickson County. The defendants were about to go on trial. However, agents could find only 76 kilos.
The first explanation for the missing cocaine was that TBI might have lent it out to another agency for use in a sting operation, despite the fact that evidence in a trial cannot legally be used for that purpose, nor can seized drugs be used at all without a court order. In near-comic-opera fashion, Wallace dispatched agents across the state, hoping to track down the missing cocaine.
“Do you have any of our cocaine?” agents are reported to have asked area agencies.
Eventually, TBI agents stumbled on the involvement of security guard Jody Mark Tolar. Employed by a subcontractor, Tolar should have undergone a background check by the bureau. But, by the TBI’s own admission, Tolar’s check was never completed.
“We never received the paperwork,” said agent Mark Gwyn. At the time of his employment, Tolar had two outstanding indictments in Nashville, one on a drug-related charge.
According to high-ranking TBI officials, Wallace launched a full court press to keep the theft a secret. Of primary concern to Wallace was concealing the fact that Tolar had simply used a wire coat hanger to break into the evidence area of TBI’s new $20.5 million headquarters. An earlier WND report broke that story, which was confirmed by undercover agent T.J. Jordan in a court appearance two weeks ago.
However, those same sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, now say that Wallace is guarding an even more damaging secret surrounding the theft. According to those sources, Deputy Director Robert Reeves was advised in late October or early November that drugs were being stolen from the “theft-proof” evidence area. Reeves dismissed the information, allegedly developed by Metro Nashville police, saying that security was “too tight” and that the evidence area couldn’t be breached.
Metro Public Information Officer Don Aaron would not confirm or deny the report.
“I have no personal knowledge of that,” Aaron told WND. “But you have to remember that we have 1,600 officers, and it’s impossible to keep up with what everybody does.”
A separate law enforcement source has now told WorldNetDaily that TBI officials were advised by one of their own confidential informants some four months ago that narcotics from the evidence vault were showing up on the street.
“They just blew it off,” this officer, a narcotics agent in west Tennessee, told WND. “They [highranking TBI officials] said it was impossible.”
Unfortunately, that informant was almost literally telling the truth. According to an e-mail sent to Nashville radio talk show host Phil Valentine during the week that the cocaine theft was discovered, a jogger in Nashville stumbled across a brick of white powder with a TBI evidence tag on it, lying next to a dumpster. The jogger called Metro Nashville police, who advised him that the powder was probably cocaine and worth some $10,000. TBI agents arrived and scooped up the brick, denying that it was cocaine.
Wallace and the TBI have been buffeted for months by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. Chief among those allegations were misdeeds concerning evidence in TBI’s former headquarters. Wallace and TBI General Counsel David Jennings admitted to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies that they had inappropriately handled evidence, including removing evidence from lock-up without a court order. They assured CALEA officials that such problems would be rectified when they relocated to the new TBI headquarters, a move accomplished last August. The Tolar case indicates that those assurances were based more on quicksand than concrete.
Although District Attorney General Dan Alsobrooks, who was prosecuting the drug-trafficking case connected to the stolen cocaine, downplayed the significance of the incident, Tennessee lawmen believe it’s more serious than that. One middle Tennessee police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated bluntly that “all of the evidence in that area is tainted now. The chain of custody has been broken, and a good criminal lawyer can use that to his client’s advantage.”
And with the newest revelation that Tolar had been stealing narcotics for several months, any number of court cases could be jeopardized. Most damaging of all, however, is the discovery that a TBI official was made aware of the problem more than three months ago.
“They could have done something about it,” the police officer said. “But they didn’t. That’s inexcusable.”
TBI Spokesperson Mark Gwyn has announced that the agency will answer no further questions about the incident.