Entrapped

Hollywood police used a Bahamian Casanova to set up Valarie Curry

At 10:10 p.m. on August 28, 1995, five years before he met Curry, Mackey was stopped by Polk County Sheriff's deputies outside Briggitt Collins' house. Collins, a former girlfriend who had filed a restraining order against Mackey, reported to police that the man had been banging on all the doors and windows. She said that she wouldn't let him in and that Mackey was menacing her.

Sheriff's deputies searched Mackey's car and found "three packages that were packaged to look like kilograms of narcotics," according to the police report. They opened them. Inside, the deputies found Bibles. Mackey told the cops that he was working undercover for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). That seemed unlikely. "The defendant could not provide a full name or number for the alleged agent he was working for," the deputy wrote in his report. Mackey later pleaded guilty to trespassing; adjudication was withheld.

Two weeks later, on September 10, police in Winter Haven nabbed him for stealing a car. The charges were later dropped. No additional information is available. Daytona Beach police cited him twice for disorderly intoxication in 1996. On February 14, 1997, police in Tampa arrested Mackey after he racked up a $75 taxi fare and then couldn't pay. He allegedly told the cabbie that he didn't have any money because a wire transfer from the Bahamas hadn't come through, according to the police report. He pleaded guilty to petty larceny, a misdemeanor, and paid restitution and court costs.

Valarie Curry worked at this Pearle Vision.
Colby Katz
Valarie Curry worked at this Pearle Vision.
After serving three years in state prison, Valarie Curry is trying to rebuild her life in Broward County.
Colby Katz
After serving three years in state prison, Valarie Curry is trying to rebuild her life in Broward County.

All the while, Mackey appeared to be building a life in South Florida. In the mid-'90s, he struck up a relationship with Kristy Scott, a Fort Lauderdale woman four years his junior, and the couple had twin boys on July 26, 1997. Fatherhood must have had a calming influence on Mackey. A three-year gap in his rap sheet begins in February 1997. Sometime between then and May 2000, the couple split, and Mackey moved into a room at the Hollywood La Quinta Inn.

Scott, who could not be reached for comment, moved the twins to Fayetteville, North Carolina, but encouraged Mackey to have a role in their lives, according to court records filed in Miami-Dade County.

In 1999, about a year before Mackey met Curry, the Bahamian man called the South Broward Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force, a kind of local DEA. John Murray, a Hollywood police narcotics detective who at that time had 18 years' experience on the force, fielded the call. Mackey claimed to have worked with the DEA and police in Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas.

Murray arranged to meet Mackey in a parking lot. "We had a conversation regarding, you know, how we work, you know, what he had in mind, and, you know, if he had any specific targets..." Murray said. "He didn't have anything at all. As a matter of fact, I believe, after that conversation, he left the area, and we didn't see him for maybe a little over a year."

In 2000, Mackey called back. This time, he had a mark: Valarie Curry. "The informant advised us that [Curry] had several subjects that were looking to purchase cocaine," recalled Murray's partner, Detective James Callari.

The case was perfect for Murray. In 2000, the year of Curry's bust, the detective specialized in reverse stings. He made at least 18 such busts that year, according to commendations listed in his personnel file. Reverse stings are an aggressive form of law enforcement in which police agencies pursue buyers rather than dealers. But, Callari explained in court, "If people are looking for it, we will sell it." Many agencies have since quit employing the process.

Most of the cocaine used for reverse stings in South Florida comes from the DEA or FBI. At any given time, Callari said in court, Hollywood police have about 20 kilograms at their disposal.

In his meeting with police, Mackey explained to the detectives that Curry had discussed drugs and "had numerous individuals looking to purchase large-scale amounts of cocaine powder," Murray said in court. Murray also claimed that he was unaware that Mackey had pursued a romantic relationship with Curry. "She was an employee at an eyeglass place," Murray said, "and he went in there to purchase some eyeglasses and engaged in conversation with the defendant."

How much Hollywood police knew about Mackey and his prior relationship with Curry is crucial. When asked in court whether he had verified Mackey's claims of working for the DEA and police in Washington, D.C., Murray said he talked to one official but could not recall the agency. "I'm pretty sure it was a detective in Orlando," he said vaguely. Had Detective Murray known that Mackey was romantically rejected by the mark, he might have realized the sting operation was improper. If he didn't know of the liaison, it's clear that he failed to properly vet his confidential informant.

Prior to any conversations taped by Hollywood police, Mackey had asked Curry if she could help him sell cocaine. She said she would talk to her brother, Bousfield. On July 6 at 10:12 p.m., Mackey called Curry and handed the phone to Detective Murray, who posed as a drug dealer named Jay.

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