A drive-through stop ended up shutting down an entire drug squad for 19 months. Picture: iStock
A drive-through stop ended up shutting down an entire drug squad for 19 months. Picture: iStock

How Macca’s bag brought down dodgy cop

IN JUNE 2016, US narcotics detective Kyle Willett pulled into a McDonald's drive-through to order tea and cheeseburgers.

But that innocent-seeming snack would become his undoing.

Before heading back to the office, Mr Willett, from Louisville, Kentucky, broke into a box he had with him in his car and pocketed wads of cash worth around $54,000 before sending it on.

Mr Willett was part of a special team that intercepted drug shipments which were sent through couriers or the postal system.

The box had been seized from local drug dealers by the squad, and was en route to larger distributors.

However, cops were convinced that its contents would help catch a drug trafficker.

And what Mr Willett didn't realise as he rifled through the package was that a judge had already authorised a search warrant, which would let police officers open the box and investigate the important evidence they believed was inside.

According to USA Today, a Californian drug task force was waiting to get their hands on the package, so when it showed up empty, the alarm was well and truly raised.

But Mr Willett might have gotten away with the theft - except that on that day, he made one shocking rookie error.

Former narcotics investigator Kyle Willett spent five months in jail after stealing more than $100,000 from evidence packages. Picture: Courtesy of LMPD
Former narcotics investigator Kyle Willett spent five months in jail after stealing more than $100,000 from evidence packages. Picture: Courtesy of LMPD

After swiping the cash, he replaced it with his crumpled McDonald's takeaway bag - a bag which he had forgotten contained the receipt from his order.

He had used his credit card instead of cash to pay his $6 fast food bill, and investigators were easily able to match the numbers of the credit card printed on the receipt to Mr Willett's.

A camera had also caught his car leaving the drive-through, and the time the picture was captured matched the time stamped on the bill.

Agents stepped up their surveillance of Mr Willett by installing cameras inside his car, which had been purchased by the police department.

It meant they were able to catch him red-handed the next time he stole from an evidence box, and soon the FBI and Louisville police's Public Integrity Unit were working together to mount a felony theft case against him.

But as the investigation continued, it soon spread to cover Mr Willett's entire task force.

The inquiry also found a dodgy practice used by other members of Mr Willett's team, dubbed "sneak-n-peek", which involved officers taking intercepted packages into their cars and opening them to see if they contain any evidence before requesting a search warrant.

As a result of that corruption, the squad was stripped of federal funding and was dismantled for 19 months before being reopened with an entirely new team.

The shutdown period coincided with America's "worst drug crisis", which lead to the drug-related deaths of more than 400 people in Louisville in 2017.

This crumpled McDonald's bag, found inside an intercepted box of evidence, led to Louisville Metro Police detective Kyle Willett's downfall. Picture: Provided by US Attorney's Office
This crumpled McDonald's bag, found inside an intercepted box of evidence, led to Louisville Metro Police detective Kyle Willett's downfall. Picture: Provided by US Attorney's Office

"Bad guys had a lot of success during that time, no doubt," said Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area executive director Vic Brown.

In the end, the evidence against him was undeniable, and Mr Willett left the force in October 2016, and later pleaded guilty to theft from an interstate shipment - a serious crime which saw him make off with more than $100,000 between January and August 2016.

Mr Willett, who was once one of the most respected and experiences detectives on the force, and who had also appeared on the true crime show The First 48, ended up serving five months behind bars followed by five months of home detention.

Russell Coleman, a lawyer for the Western District of Kentucky, said the fact the cash was snatched from criminals and not innocent victims was irrelevant.

"Willett tarnished his badge … abandoned his oath," Mr Coleman told USA Today.

And Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders slammed Mr Willett as "a dishonest cop who none of us have any sympathy for".

Mr Willett is now on supervised probation for two years, and has also been banned from owning a gun, which means his police career is over forever.



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