Two Chicago cops, believing they were stealing $5,200 in cash that belonged to a drug dealer, were actually caught in an undercover sting, federal authorities said Monday.
Wentworth District tactical unit Sgt. Ronald Watts and tactical unit Officer Kallatt Mohammed appeared in handcuffs Monday in federal court in Chicago after being arrested Sunday night in a joint FBI and Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Division operation.
They are accused of stealing the money on Nov. 21 and charged with theft of government funds.
According to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Monday, Mohammed, 47, a 14-year veteran of the department, took a bag containing the cash and a court-authorized tracking device from a homeless man who was working as an informant for the FBI.
Watts, 48, who’s been with the Chicago Police Department for 18 years, later met the homeless man at a Chinatown Walgreens parking lot and gave him $400 for tipping the officers off about the cash delivery, according to the complaint.
When Watts handed over the cash he allegedly asked the homeless man, “Who always takes care of you?” The homeless man replied, “You do, Watts,” according to the complaint.
The homeless man, who has 99 arrests and 16 convictions, told the FBI he’d discussed his work as a drug courier with the officers several times prior to the undercover operation and that Watts had previously stolen cash from him, authorities said.
Both police officers spoke in court only to confirm that they understand the charges against them. They would face up to 10 years behind bars and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted, prosecutors said. They were released on $10,000 bail Monday after being ordered to surrender their weapons and passports and told to have no contact with each other.
Watts – wearing a black sweat suit – and Mohammed – wearing a black wool hat and a work jacket – both ran from the Dirksen federal court building Monday afternoon in an attempt to avoid news photographers and a TV camera.
Watts tussled with an ABC 7 cameraman in Plymouth Court before speeding off in a waiting car, while Mohammed hid in a Lady Foot Locker on State Street. When Mohammed later bolted from the store with photographers in pursuit, he was temporarily detained by two passing plainclothes police officers who mistook him for a shoplifter.
Both Watts and Mohammed have been stripped of their police powers and both are suspended without pay.
Watts serves as the financial secretary of the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association, but has been asked to resign his position following his arrest, union president Jim Ade said.