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Ohio police officer accused of stealing cocaine to sell pleads not guilty

COLUMBUS — One of the two Ohio police officers who are accused of stealing cocaine and giving it to others to sell appeared in federal court on Thursday.

Former Columbus Division of Police officer 34-year-old Joel Mefford pleaded not guilty, according to our media partners in Columbus, WBNS-10 TV.

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Mefford faces the following charges:

  • Possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine
  • Money laundering
  • Two counts of possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine

John Castillo, 31, another former officer with the division, faces a charge of possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Castillo’s arraignment will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

According to a previous News Center 7 report, Mefford was investigating a drug crime in February 2020 and “unlawfully gained access to a detached garage belonging to the subject of the investigation.”

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Without a warrant, Mefford allegedly found two kilograms of cocaine in the rafters of the garage. He’s accused of unlawfully taking one and leaving the other kilogram to be found during the execution of a search warrant. He then allegedly gave the stolen drugs to someone to sell.

In early 2020, Mefford was investigating drug trafficking at homes in Columbus.

In March, he allegedly took a bag containing multiple kilograms of cocaine from one of the houses and arrested a suspect.

At another home being investigated, he allegedly removed a kilogram of cocaine. The same day, he turned in one kilogram to evidence and stole the others to be sold, according to a previous News Center 7 report.

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In April 2020, Mefford allegedly stole 20 kilograms of cocaine from the Columbus police property room and replaced it with fake cocaine.

News Center 7 previously reported that Mefford allegedly deposited more than $72,000 in cash from the cocaine sales into his personal account.

According to Castillo’s indictment, he allegedly took 10 kilograms of cocaine from a home and did not turn it into evidence. Instead, he planted two additional kilograms of cocaine for law enforcement to find at that same house later that day. The 10 kilograms he took were then stored in another person’s basement before being given to someone else to sell.

City of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant released statements condemning the alleged actions by officers, WBNS-10 reported.

Mefford’s trial is scheduled for April 8.

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