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had not seen the deals, they reassured her, then the confidential informant would testify in court. No problem. Markham made it clear she wouldn’t work that way, and shortly thereafter, she was fired. Markham later sued the task force over the firing. In a deposition obtained by the Observer, Hardy defended the task force’s use of McCloud, alleging that the force had made 120-150 cases with him. Other task force operations have been severely flawed. In 1999, then-assistant commander Dead Hardy organized a raid on Al T’s, a popular Cajun restaurant in Winnie, in Chambers County. Allegedly responding to reports of drug dealing at the restaurant, Hardy and two dozen officers surrounded the place during business hours on a Friday night. “These guys were dressed like SWAT teams and came in with vests and guns, and I mean not pistols, but fuckin’ machine guns,” recalled Herbert Thibodeaux, who owned Al T’s at that time. But Hardy’s intelligence on Al T’s proved unreliable: No dope of any kind was found, nor any evidence of dealing. In fact, Hardy had never even obtained a search warrant, entering on the pretext of a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigation. “It was clean as a whistle,” Thibodeaux said. That’s why he was surprised to read on the cover of the Beaumont Enterprise the next morning that 15 pounds of marijuana had been seized and several arrests made in a raid on his restaurant. The news was repeated all that day on the radio in Liberty. Thibodeaux called the radio station and discovered that Hardy, as was his custom, had distributed a press .release following the raid. To cover his mistake at Al T’s, Hardy clev His witness statement was false, and the case was only marginally prosecutable, because Markham had not witnessed the actual transfer of pot and cash. Then McCloud said something very disturbing: “That’s how we did all of our cases up in Polk County: erly worded the release to make it appear that a number of unrelated seizures and arrests made by the task force in the 24 hours leading up to the raid had actually taken place at Al T’s. With the help of Anahuac defense attorney Ed Lieck, Thibodeaux confronted Mike Little and Hardy about the release’s bogus account.”They’re like children,” Ed Lieck said of the task force. “They get caught in a lie, they amend it, then they amend the amendment,” he said. Little eventually issued a profuse apology, but the damage was already done, Thibodeaux said. “I spent fifteen years building up my business, and it took them fifteen minutes to ruin it,” said Thibodeaux, who sold the restaurant shortly thereafter. “I had people calling me for weeks asking if it was okay to bring their ‘kids in there.” The same level of professionalism prevails on the highway. Whatever else it may be doing, the task force has always kept at least two interdiction officers on the interstate at all times. If the interdiction stops running, the money stops flowing. The highway is also where most of the big dope seizures comenot from undercover work, but from making stop after stop, until an officer gets lucky. The CCNTF has only a short segment of interstate to work with-30 miles of I-10 that runs through northern Chambers County, plus a tiny stretch of 1-59 that cuts through northern Liberty County near Cleveland. Fortunately, just to the west is Houston, a major hub for drug traffic. In the eastbound lanes are cars carrying dope out of Houston, bound from Mexico to points east. It’s the westbound lanes that carry the cash, stashed away in cars and trucks driven by mules back up the supply chain toward Mexico. Officers cruise the highway in marked cars, scanning for the vehicles that look like couriers. The more stops a task force makes, the more dope and cash it will find. Interdiction is a tricky game. A call to action for an ordinary highway patrol officer is any moving violation. But interdiction officers work in reverse:They identify likely drug suspectsusing what is known as a profilethen wait for them to make a mistake. If you have out of state plates, look haggard, unshaven and tired, or, as numerous studies have shown, if you are a minority, you have a good chance of getting stopped by a task force, often on the slightest pretext. In theory, you need probable cause to suspect that a crime is being committed to stop and search a car. But in practice, according to a former CCNTF interdiction officer, the pressure to get stats leads to some corner cutting. “The name of the game is find Mike money, find Mike dope,” he said. “They don’t care how it happens.” Often a search will turn up a sizeable amount of cash, but no dope or evidence that a crime has occurred. Ordinarily, this would be a dilemma: It is not illegal to carry large sums of cash. In those cases, according to a former prosecutor under Mike Little, the task force used what was commonly referred to as a “quick claim,” a ready-made legal form carried by 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10126/01