MI: Feds: How problem Highland Park cop got busted dealing fentanyl-laced heroin

Detroit Free Press –

A Highland Park detective charged with selling fentanyl-laced heroin this week isn’t new to controversy: She was fired more than a decade ago by the Wayne County sheriff’s office for allegedly fraternizing with felons and helping them smuggle drugs into prison.

“The Sheriff also assisted the prisoners in depositing money into other prisoner’s accounts,” court records state, “(and allowed) civilians to come to her home to speak with the prisoners on cellphones.”

This is some of the storied past of Detective Tiffany Lipkovitch, 45, of Grosse Pointe, who was charged in federal court Wednesday with selling fentanyl-laced heroin while working for the Highland Park Police Department, where she has been employed since 2011.

Lipkovitch got that job one year after being fired from her job as a deputy sheriff in Wayne County due to a series of misconduct charges, “including a charge of fraternization with known felons who were inmates housed at the Michigan Department of Corrections,” court records state.

This was Lipkovich, who, according to court records, admitted that she “maintained a relationship” with an inmate for three years, sent money orders to her, contacted her lawyer on her behalf and used the sheriff’s office equipment to look up information regarding other inmates for her — including accessing the website sugardaddies.com.

Lipkovitch also admitted that she received a carton of cigarettes for sending money orders to the inmate she had a relationship with, records show.

“I Cpl. Lipkovitch had a telephone relationship with (a prisoner) … where I assisted her in making telephone calls to several different prisoners. I also mailed things for her to other prisoners. This was strictly a friendship and nothing more. I had no knowledge of contraband (drugs) being transported, nor did I profit in any way from my relationship with (this inmate). I experienced a lapse of judgment.”

Lipkovitch, who was subsequently fired for violating the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office’s ethics policies, was featured in a 2018 Free Press investigation of problem officers who landed new jobs despite earlier troubles that included criminal convictions, histories of misconduct and, in some cases, being fired or forced out of previous departments.

These allegations were detailed in court filings stemming from an employment discrimination lawsuit that Lipkovich filed in federal court over her termination. She alleged that she was unlawfully targeted because she is an African American woman, though U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood dismissed her lawsuit in 2012 and upheld her termination.

According to court records, it was prison phone calls flagged by the MDOC that cost Lipkovitch her sheriff’s deputy job.

A decade later, phone calls would again land her in trouble, this time involving a confidential informant who was recording calls and meetings with Lipkovitch about alleged drug transactions, all while federal agents were listening.

As of Thursday afternoon, Highland Park Police Chief Kevin Coney could not be reached for comment.

The complaint is based on an FBI agent’s affidavit which details drugs deals and meetings that took place at a casino, parks and a Target parking lot in 2018. One year after being tailed by the feds, Lipkovitch would file bankruptcy, claiming she was $70,400 in debt, the bulk of it involving credit card bills.

Lipkovitch and her alleged cohort were not arrested until Wednesday. According to the affidavit, here is what landed them on the FBI’s radar:

In April 2018, the FBI started working with a confidential informant claiming to have inside knowledge about drug deals involving Lipkovitch and Bellamy. The informant agreed to meet with the two suspects and record conversations and meetings.

Here are some excerpts from those meetings, including one where the informant is trying to speed up a drug transaction:

Informant: “If I just give you my money, you think she’d … move faster.”

Lipkovitch: “I don’t know. I would just want some. You know what I’m sayin.”

In another conversation, Lipkovitch provides the informant with “samples” or “pictures” of drugs that her cohort had provided. She explained that one was “$80 a gram” and the others were $100 per gram. Then she asked the informant the following:

Lipkovitch: “What’s that stuff ya’ll cuttin with?”

Fentanyl,” the informant responds.

This did not surprise Lipkovitch, says the FBI, adding she then explained that her dealer, Bellamy, was getting “a package of fentanyl … from overseas.”

“Yeah! … I’m gonna buy some,” the informant responded.

“Ok … just let me know when. I’ll get it. I’ll make sure to get it for you or whatever.”

One week later, at a Target parking lot in Novi, the undercover informant purchased $3,200 in drugs from Lipkovitch’s dealer friend. It was for 45 grams of heroin mixed with fentanyl.

Two months later, the informant met Lipkovitch at a gas station in Highland Park to thank her for setting up the drug deal. The informant gave Lipkovitch $300 cash and said: “It was for hooking me up with Amber.”

Lipkovitch took the cash and said she had to go respond to a police call at a local bank. Her scout car was parked outside the gas station, all while the FBI’s cameras were rolling.

“While the vast majority of our police officers work honorably and faithfully to protect and serve the citizens of this region, our office continues to prosecute those corrupt officers who put their own greed above the public good and abuse their position to violate the law,” Acting U.S. Attorney Mohsin stated Wednesday in announcing the charges.

Added Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp: “We do not condone this type of activity. The citizens of Highland Park have expectations, as they should, that law enforcement officers obey the laws they swore to enforce. Like anyone else in the community, if a person violates the law they should be brought to justice.”

“While the vast majority of law enforcement officers are honest and hardworking, this officer chose to push a deadly drug onto our streets in exchange for personal profit,” Detroit’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Keith Martin stated Wednesday. “We are committed to working with our partners to ensure these individuals are rooted out and brought to justice.”

Added Detroit’s FBI chief Timothy Waters: “This case is an example of the importance the criminal justice system places on prosecuting its own who have abused their positions of trust in dereliction of duty.”

Lipkovitch and Bellmany are free on bond. If convicted, they each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum $1 million fine.

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