By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
A deeper look at the Curry case, which was headed by narcotics Detective John Murray, shows that shoddy police work led to the entrapment. It further shows how misconduct masquerading as aggressive investigation pervades the department's culture. Murray declined to comment for this article. Mackey, currently in federal custody awaiting deportation after admitting to beating a girlfriend and stealing $3,000, could not be reached.
"I know why Mackey did what he did," Curry says. "It has to be scorn. I rejected him."
The ninth of ten children, Curry was born Valarie Brown in Hollywood to a Bahamian mother, Emerald Roberts, and an American father, Wilson Brown. Unlike many of her siblings, she was from the start an American citizen. She lived a reasonably common childhood, attending elementary school in Hollywood and then South Broward High.
After high school, she worked a series of odd jobs, mostly entry-level clerical jobs at area hospitals. She fell in love with her high school sweetheart, Alfonso McGee, and the two had a daughter, Alquavia, in 1986, when Brown was 19 years old. McGee and Brown never married; Curry raised her daughter alone. "She is a good parent to her child, or children, as far as I know," says John Hardwick, a Hallandale Beach barber and Curry acquaintance.
Curry admits that she had one prior brush with the law when she was 22 years old. In 1988, she says, Bahamian police arrested her after they found her sister trying to board a plane with cocaine. She spent five years in prison in the Bahamas. But according to attorneys who worked on her case in Broward, the conviction was later overturned and the records expunged.
Cocaine trafficking from the Bahamas across the roughly 50 miles of sea to Florida is a decades-old enterprise. The year Curry was arrested in the Bahamas, the island chain thrived as a major transfer point for Caribbean and South American cocaine smugglers. The U.S. Coast Guard seized 11,800 pounds of cocaine in 1988, stopping only 5 to 7 percent of the total amount believed to be shipped into the country, according to Coast Guard estimates at the time. The porous border between the Bahamas and the United States made people like Curry and her sister potential targets for authorities, who were cracking down with unusual zeal in the late '80s.
After serving time in the Bahamas, Valarie met Whitney Curry, and the couple married in January 1995. One year later, Laquitney was born. In 1997, the couple purchased a 1,453-square-foot home in Hallandale Beach, near Dixie Highway, for $44,000. Behind it was a small in-law's quarters the couple rented out to help pay the mortgage. The next year, Curry landed a job at Pearle Vision and enrolled in McFatter Technical Center in Davie to earn an optician's certificate.
Although no records indicate that Curry was involved in drug trafficking, several people surrounding her have been implicated in such activity. James Williams, a 46-year-old family friend, was caught with cocaine in Tennessee, New Jersey, and Florida in the mid-'80s. He's now a pastor in South Carolina. McGee, the father of Curry's first child, is serving 28 years in state prison for four 1999 felony cocaine charges. Those weren't isolated incidents. Hollywood police first nabbed McGee for cocaine possession in 1988. And Curry's brother, John Bousfield, was a crack dealer in South Broward whose first bust was in March 2000.
Whether Leon Mackey, the Bahamian Casanova who claimed to be a pilot, knew of Curry's family history is unclear. But it is clear that after she rejected Mackey, he continued to pursue her.
"He wanted a relationship," Curry says. "I was not ready for it. I was dealing with my mortgage and trying to get over my husband."
On July 4, roughly six weeks after the two met, Mackey called Curry's cell phone. He explained that he had a way to help her out financially. "He said he came across some cocaine that he brought over on the plane that he rides and he needed me to help him get rid of it and that would be my money for the mortgage and to help me out," Curry recalls. "At first, I said no."
But things were tight. Curry's $659 mortgage payment was due. Laquitney needed day care. The bank had threatened to repossess her car. Credit card bills were piling up. Her mother, who had recently been diagnosed with throat cancer, needed help financially. Mackey's proposal came at a time of weakness. "It was like someone slammed my head against the wall," Curry says. "That's how it felt. My whole world was crashing down."
Curry had the connection. Bousfield, a brother three years older, dealt drugs and needed suppliers. She could make easy money, she thought, acting as a broker between two people she trusted. "At that moment," friend Schillingford remembers, "she had her mortgage, she had her kids, her husband had left her, and I guess temptation brought her to it."
Curry would have never been enticed, she says, had Mackey not been trying to seduce her. "I know it was my decision, period," she says. "But I was desperate. Desperate."
Curry didn't know that Mackey was a party boy who had an unfortunate gift for running into the law at inconvenient times and who'd been in and out of trouble since coming to Florida from the Bahamas in the mid-'90s. Nor did she know that he was a police informant. His full name was Lorenzo Leon Mackey, though he often went by the alias Lorenzo Bodie.