A former Phoenix police officer accused of shakin' down drug dealers pled guilty to theft charges in a Maricopa County Superior Court this morning.
Former Officer James Wren pled guilty to solicitation to commit theft, which is a hell of a deal considering the crimes with which he'd initially been charged.
Initially, Wren was charged with theft, money laundering, armed robbery, kidnapping, and use of a wire or electronic communication in drug-related transactions. The penalties for those crimes can be pretty steep (just ask O.J. about kidnapping), so copping only to theft is a pretty sweet deal -- especially when you look at what Wren did.
Wren got busted when the Avondale Police Department contacted the Phoenix PD to say one of its officers, Wren, 23, based out of the Maryvale Precinct (not the South Mountain Precinct -- we were shocked, too), was using traffic stops to steal money from drug dealers.
Avondale police got a tip from an informant who claimed he had conducted two "operations" with Wren where the informant led the officer to the cars of drug dealers after a deal had been made.
Wren, according to the informant, would then pull over the car and steal money.
In one instance, according to court documents acquired by New Times, Wren pulled over a drug dealer, stole his money, and then threw his car keys into the desert before releasing him.
On June 10, about 10 p.m., Wren stopped somebody he thought was a drug dealer who had $40,000 in the car in the 6300 block of West McDowell Road.
The alleged drug dealer was actually an undercover Phoenix police officer.
According to police, over the course of the traffic stop, Wren became suspicious and let the driver go.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Wren then drove to the Estrella Mountain Precinct Station where he was arrested by Phoenix police.
The arrest came after Phoenix cops made video and audio recordings of Wren and the Avondale informant discussing the previous thefts and arranging the one that ultimately led to his arrest.
Wren is on tape asking the informant details about the target of the heist, including whether the subject driving the car would be armed. He has since resigned from the department.
Wren will be sentenced on January 28, by Judge Michael Kemp.