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Police News

Polk Deputy Arrested Over Data Access

Polk County sheriff's deputy Joe Murphy is charged with obtaining vehicle tag information from a computer without authority.


By Shoshana Walter

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 2:11 a.m.

LAKELAND | Detectives say key members of a massive drug trafficking operation used a Polk County sheriff's deputy to look up vehicle tag information for a car they suspected belonged to an undercover detective.


Deputy Joe Murphy, 41, was arrested Friday on a charge of accessing a computer without authority, a third-degree felony.

The 16-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, who most recently was assigned to patrol the Winter Haven area, has joined the ranks of more than 20 suspects who were arrested last month in connection to one of the county's most complex drug operations.

He has been suspended with pay pending his firing, the agency said.

The group operated out of East Polk and imported narcotics from Morelia, Mexico, sheriff's officials have said. Last month, a yearlong investigation into the group resulted in the arrests of 21 suspects, along with the confiscation of more than 150 pounds of cocaine and nearly pure methamphetamine, 15 vehicles and $533,450 in cash.

Among those arrested were Erick Chavez, an alleged ring leader, and his girlfriend, Morgan Wilson, an alleged "runner."

According to arrest reports, detectives say Wilson was also responsible for conducting "counter-surveillance," or monitoring law enforcement activity. Wilson called and text messaged Murphy for information about a vehicle on Dec. 22, when she noticed seeing a particular car more than once, the report said.

Detectives were monitoring Wilson's phone conversations at the time and recorded several conversations between her and Chavez. During those conversations, Wilson referred to Murphy as "mom's friend at the college."

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