Michael Lock’s Milwaukee……….Part III: The begining of the end.

Written by on August 12, 2010

 

Third of five parts

Michael Lock started a small drug-dealing ring and developed it into a criminal network.

When federal agents finally busted him with 9 ounces of cocaine, they treated him like a run-of-the-mill drug dealer – despite evidence Lock was one of the largest dealers in the city. He was moving 10 pounds of cocaine a week.

Drugs were just one piece of Lock’s sprawling operation.

By this time, the man who grew up preaching in his grandfather’s church also had ordered kidnappings, torture and at least two murders of other drug dealers. Four law enforcement agencies had investigated Lock separately for years but failed to put the pieces together.

Lock had escaped charges for his big crimes but now had to get out from under the cocaine charge, which could mean decades in prison.

So Michael Lock, Milwaukee crime boss, became a snitch, allegedly.

He took advantage of the lack of communication among law enforcement, joining thousands of defendants who save themselves by telling on someone else.

It has become law enforcement’s top tool for solving crimes. Critics who believe it is used too often say that savvy criminals can manipulate the system to get off easily – and keep committing crimes. Lock did just that.

Lock not only earned big reductions in his punishment by serving up lesser criminals and competitors, he even won praise from the police, the prosecutor and the judge.

All the while, Lock kept dealing drugs and looking for opportunities to grow a crime organization that generated as much as $100,000 a week.

Busted at restaurant

Lock’s deal with the FBI had its roots in a drug transaction at a McDonald’s parking lot on W. Silver Spring Drive.

Federal authorities had been watching Lock for months before an informant set up a drug buy in May 2002.

Lock and his uncle, Carl “Uncle Ed” Davis, pulled into the McDonald’s just before the dinner rush. They were in a Dodge Ram pickup owned by the Lock family church, Unity Gospel House of Prayer.

Lock and Davis had 9 ounces of cocaine they had stolen from another dealer. When they handed the informant the coke, federal agents swooped in and arrested them.

During the interrogation, police Detective Dave Baker and FBI agent Matt Gibson almost immediately offered Lock a deal: If he gave them enough other dealers, he could avoid a long prison term. Baker said he didn’t know at that time Lock was a major dealer.

“We played that hand with him,” Baker said. “That is how we have to do business.”

Gibson and other FBI officials refused to comment.

Eleven days after his arrest, Lock posted $50,000 bail and left jail.

Baker and Gibson alerted prosecutors to Lock’s willingness to help, and the prosecutors responded.

They dropped a criminal count and at least 10 possible years in prison after Lock agreed to give investigators information about other dealers.

His handlers would include FBI agents and detectives from the Police Department and sheriff’s office – people from the same agencies that had investigated him years earlier.

Lock and Davis always answered the investigators’ calls. They even let them install video cameras at Davis’ house to record drug sales. In the eyes of the court, they were model informants.

“All I can say is that Mr. Davis and Mr. Lock have been easier to work with than other persons in their position,” Baker said at sentencing.

Informed on gang

The dealers Lock delivered to law enforcement paled in comparison to him.

The first dealer he handed over to authorities was Armando Rivera, a leader in the Maniac Latin Disciples gang. He, too, was caught with 9 ounces of cocaine. Rivera, like Lock, would become an informant.

But Rivera got 7 1/2 years in prison, much more than Lock. Authorities cited his involvement in the murderous gang.

Lock then delivered Michael Navedo, one rank below Rivera in the gang. Navedo was nabbed with about 3 1/2 ounces of cocaine. He got six years.

Prosecutors sweetened Lock’s deal again, down to five years. In the end, he wouldn’t do half of that time.

Lock even tried to set up a top lieutenant from his own outfit, the Body Snatchers. It would prove to be a major tactical error.

Lock and Louis Jackson weren’t just crime partners, they were friends. But Lock saw in Jackson another opportunity to knock years off his sentence.

The two men traveled to Atlanta to make a drug deal. Lock tipped off police that Jackson had drugs in the back of the car. They got pulled over in rural Alabama, but police found nothing. Lock didn’t know Jackson had stashed the dope elsewhere.

Jackson wondered how authorities knew they were driving through Alabama. He smelled a set-up and assumed his boss had tried to sacrifice him. He vowed to never trust Lock again.

And he would get his chance to even the score.

‘Poses a great danger’

Confidential informants working for police must stay close to other criminals. How else would they set them up?

But they aren’t supposed to commit additional crimes.

Lock didn’t bother with those rules during the 15 months he worked for law enforcement.

He continued selling drugs and tending to his other criminal enterprises. He arranged robberies of more out-of-state drug dealers. Investigators suspect that some of those dealers may have been murdered.

Prosecutor Mark Sanders said Lock would not have gotten a light sentence if he and the judge had been aware of Lock’s entire criminal résumé.

Lock earned his deal like many others do, Sanders said.

“That is what we do with cooperators,” he said. “We try to trade. We try to leverage people into helping to arrest other more-involved drug dealers.”

Critics say relying heavily on informants is risky because prosecutors can mistakenly go easy on the biggest criminal – as they did in Lock’s case.

Former county drug Detective Daniel Ornelas investigated Lock before his first drug arrest and said he would not have used him as an informant.

“Some people are too dangerous to let out,” he said.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Lock denied working as an informant.

Sixty-five pages of court documents and his own words in court show otherwise. They tell exactly how Lock and Davis led authorities to at least four dealers.

He hadn’t convinced everyone of his goodwill.

In the presentence report, probation agent Wendy McCormack wrote she was skeptical of Lock’s promise to change.

“Lock poses a great danger to the community by selling and delivering drugs on the street,” McCormack wrote.

Mortgage work praised

On Sept. 2, 2003, during a closed sentencing hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys discussed Lock’s and Davis’ cooperation.

“I am sorry to the community,” Lock told Circuit Judge Michael Brennan, according to transcripts later unsealed.

“My ways of amending was dealing with these young men that I was a confidential informant on, and I just want you to take into consideration that I did put my life on the line.”

The prosector said Lock and Davis earned the light sentence he was recommending.

“Mr. Lock and Mr. Davis have served to protect the public themselves through this cooperation,” Sanders said.

The judge commended Lock and Davis for “a very high level of cooperation.” Without it, Brennan said, he would have hit them with a lengthy sentence.

Instead, he gave Lock 21 months in prison. Davis got 13 months.

As a parting note, Brennan congratulated Lock on beginning to work in the mortgage business.

“If you properly channel your energies, your intellect, you could make a substantial amount of money in a legal way,” the judge said. “And that should be your goal going forward.”

Lock followed the judge’s advice – all but the legal part.


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