"Down Cop" James Wren Sentenced to 1.5 Years; Made Plans to be "Dirty" Before Becoming Officer

Former Phoenix police officer James Wren was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison today for ripping off drug dealers while on the job.

Valley Fever reported details of the crimes after Wren was busted in June. The officer, who's dad was also a cop, and an accomplice had conspired to target drug dealers who were about to make big purchases. On two occasions, Wren's buddy set up the deals and had Wren intercept the dealers in his squad car while they still had the dough.

We've since obtained the police report, which contains a fascinating tidbit about the case:

Wren joined the Phoenix Police Department with the intention of being "dirty."


The accomplice, Avash Mardjaee, was introduced to Wren in 2008 by a mutual acquaintance while Wren worked at the Discount Tire on 32nd Street and Cactus Road.

"Avash was told (Wren) was becoming a cop," the report states. "Some time goes by, and Avash explained he was told he was going to be a 'down cop.'

"Avash asked what this meant, and it was explained to him that he's down to 'do shit,'" the report says.

Avash and Wren later met at a Home Depot to chat and comfortable with each other. Wren was wearing street clothes.

"Through their first meeting, it was known to Avash that James was a 'dirty cop,'" the report says.

At a second meeting, Wren appeared in full uniform. Plans for the ripoffs were discussed further.

Avondale police later used Avash as a confidential informant, and he spilled the beans on Wren after being asked if he knew about any police corruption, the report says.

Wren and Avash set up two deals in 2008 in which Wren made traffic stops and stole boxes of cash from the driver. They split up the proceeds, with Wren earning $16,000 on the first deal and $20,000 on the second. 

A year and a half went by with no contact between the men, and then Avash called Wren about a "big one" he wanted to pull off. Arrangements were made for Wren to locate and pull over another dealer. On June 10, Wren stopped the car he knew contained another box of cash.

He walked up to the vehicle and spoke briefly with the driver, who told Wren he didn't English. Wren had a gut feeling that the guy was an undercover officer.

"I was, my stomach is still turning, and that's how it was at the stop," Wren later confessed to police. "I was like, this is fucking wrong. This isn't right. I said, to be honest with you, when I contacted the officer, right away, I knew, I was like, 'This is a fucked-up situation.'"

Wren was asked why he thought the man was an officer.

"Because he didn't look like a chud," Wren replied.

Wren's suspicions at the scene were confirmed when he ran the car's vehicle identification number. The computer came back with the company name "that we use for unmarked vehicles."

He asked the driver what was going on, but the undercover officer wouldn't break character. Wren told the driver to take off.

Under surveillance by numerous officers and a helicopter at that point, a freaked-out Wren sped back to Phoenix PD's Estrella Mountain Precinct at 2111 South 99th Avenue and was seen walking in the building. One of the officers tailing Wren drove into the precinct's back lot, where Wren was sitting on a picnic table talking on a cell phone. The officer parked the car and got out when he saw Wren walking toward him.

The tension both of these officers felt at this point must have been thick enough to cut with a knife.

"Hey, Dave, what are you doing here?" Wren asked the officer. "I greeted Wren as I would any other acquaintance in hopes of downplaying my purpose for being there until my squad was in place to support me," the officer wrote in his report.

The officer chatted to Wren for a minute "about a variety of topics in attempt to keep him occupied until support arrived. Wren was obviously very nervous, was constantly looking around the parking lot, and frequently during conversation would stop talking mid-sentence and stare at me, losing his train of thought."

The officer told Wren he was just there to work out. Wren began complaining that he'd pulled over an undercover officer, but the man had refused to admit he was a cop.

"It's bullshit," Wren fumed. "I know that guy was a cop. I told him I knew he was a cop and he still acted like a Mexican."

Officer "Dave" told him to relax, but Wren seemed to only grow more nervous.

"I noticed Wren constantly kept his hand on his gun while he talked," the officer later wrote. "Wren had his hand wrapped around the grip of his gun, as if he were preapring to draw the weapon from the holster."

Wren asked "Dave" why another officer had parked at the other end of the lot. He was probably there to work out, too, the officer explained.

"Dave, dave, man, why does (the officer) have his rifle out?" Wren asked.

"I told Wren, 'You know why. Don't move. Don't make me do anything here,'" the officer wrote in his report. "Wren responded, 'Dave, Dave, man, seriously? No, no, please don't. Please, you know my family, Dave. Don't do this, please! I knew it!"

Wren was taken into custody without any problems.

From the sound of it, though, the sting could have gone south at several points if Wren had lost his cool.

Taking "down cops" off the street is a dangerous business.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.