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05/20/2009

Former county corrections officer sentenced on corruption charges

MIAMI - A former Miami-Dade County Corrections officer was sentenced to federal prison yesterday following a five year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD.

Shynita Townsend was sentenced on May 19, 2009, to 45 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. She was sentenced on corruption charges related to her involvement with fugitive, Humberto Febles.

Shynita Townsend was convicted on Nov. 24, 2008, following a ten-day jury trial on bribery, accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice charges. According to the evidence at trial, Humberto Febles was arrested in May 2003 by state authorities on charges of drug trafficking, armed home invasion and fleeing from the police. Febles posted a $500,000 bond on the condition that he be held in home confinement and wear an ankle bracelet. At that time, Townsend was a sworn law enforcement officer employed at the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCR) and was assigned to supervise Humberto Febles in the Monitored Release Program. In this capacity, Townsend had the authority to revoke Febles' bond if he violated any conditions of his monitored release program.

Witnesses testified at the trial that both before and during his monitored release, Febles ran a large marijuana hydroponics operation in south Miami-Dade County and continued to grow and sell large quantities of marijuana while on bond. One witness testified at trial that Febles earned more than $400,000 in four months in his drug organization. According to trial testimony, in late 2003, Febles bragged about bribing Townsend, who repeatedly allowed him to violate his curfew. Additionally, evidence at trial showed that in early 2004, Febles gave Townsend diamond and gold earrings and other cash gifts.

On July 6, 2004, Febles was arrested in Hialeah. That night, a member of the Febles organization gave Townsend cash in the amount of $5,000 as payment for not causing the revocation of Febles' bond. In August of 2004, Febles removed his ankle bracelet twice so he could party in the Florida Keys and both times Townsend reconnected the device upon his return.

On Sept. 1, 2004, local, state, and federal law enforcement officers executed 10 federal search warrants on Febles' marijuana grow houses. The searches resulted in the seizure of approximately 800 marijuana plants, 13 kilograms of cocaine, numerous loaded firearms, including an assault weapon, and $536,000 in cash. Febles was not home during the execution of the warrant, as he was required under the monitored release program. Immediately after Miami-Dade Police called Townsend to find out Febles' whereabouts, Townsend called Febles to warn him. As a result, Humberto Febles and two other members of the organization fled. Febles, still a fugitive, was killed in Mexico in early 2008. The other two fugitives were eventually captured and returned to the U.S.

The Febles and Townsend cases were brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida as part of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force program of the Department of Justice.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the DEA Miami Field Office, ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami, ATF, MDPD, the Miami-Dade Corrections Professional Compliance Division/Internal Affairs Unit, the Homestead Police Department, the Hialeah Police Department, and the North Bay Village Police Department for their work on this five year investigation.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara Jean Throne, Arimentha Walkins, and Kelly S. Karase.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at FLSD US Courts or on Pacer FLSD US Courts