CADDO COUNTY, Okla. -- A technicality could allow accused drug traffickers in our state to walk free.
Last year, we told you employees of a private company were helping make drug busts, until a judge put a stop to the practice.
The company is called Desert Snow.
A Caddo County judge dismissed a number of cases – 30 in a single day – because Desert Snow employees helped arrest the defendants.
Now, attorneys tell us more cases in other counties are likely tainted due to their involvement.
It’s no secret our interstates are drug trafficking gateways.
A couple years ago, Desert Snow employees were hired by District Attorney Jason Hicks to help train officers make drug stops along I-40.
But Desert Snow employees were doing more than that.
They were doing the actual police work on the stops, and making money off it.
Attorney Irven Box represented one of those defendants.
“[They] seized him, seized some containers of marijuana coming in from Colorado, seized $13,000 in cash, seized his car,” Box said.
Desert Snow employees are not CLEET certified like police in Oklahoma are required to be.
DA Hicks eventually broke ties with the company, which has since moved out of its Guthrie office building.
But, we’re told their employees are still assisting law enforcement agencies on our interstates.
“I have cases throughout Oklahoma right now where the discovery I’ve received has informed me they are still operating in Oklahoma,” attorney Adam Banner said.
Judges will have to look at the specifics of Desert Snow’s involvement in the stops.
“If an officer stops and calls in to ask advice from that [Desert Snow] officer while he’s doing it, I think that taints the case,” Box said.
Law enforcement agencies keep money seized in drug busts.
In its arrangement with Caddo County, Desert Snow was keeping up to 25 percent.
“When you've got a private company with a vested interest in receiving funds from any asset forfeiture that occurs, it gives you a bad taste in your mouth,” Banner said.
Similar practices have been happening in other states, and now a federal lawsuit against Desert Snow is pending.
Caddo County has returned more than $20,000 in a few of those dismissed drug forfeiture cases.
We reached out to Desert Snow, but our calls have gone unreturned.