Trial date set for Cincinnati police officer accused of filing false income tax returns
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Cincinnati police officer indicted on three counts of filing a false income tax return as part of an investigation into alleged narcotics money laundering organizations operating at nightclubs will go to trial this spring, court records show.
Diondre Winstead, who has pleaded not guilty, wants to take his case to trial, his attorney told the court during a telephone conference on Tuesday, according to the docket.
The trial will begin May 31 following a final pre-conference trial on May 20.
Winstead, 45, is accused of failing to report more than $58,000 in cash payments earned from off-duty jobs at area nightclubs in 2015, 2016 and 2017, federal authorities wrote in court records.
The veteran officer who has been with CPD more than 16 years pleaded not guilty following his arrest in August and indictment the following month.
He remains free on his own recognizance. At last check, he was on unpaid suspension from the police department.
Winstead’s attorney says he has faithfully served the city of Cincinnati.
Winstead began as a police recruit in 2005 and became an officer in 2006, according to his personnel file.
“We deny the charges made against him in this matter. The allegations are completely unrelated to his conduct as an officer and allege that Mr. Winstead did not pay his fair share of taxes,” his attorney, Brad Moermond, said at the time of his arrest.
“I’m confident that in the months to come the truth will prevail. Not only did Mr. Winstead not willfully evade paying his personal taxes, but as to date has paid most if not all his outstanding tax liability. It is a shame that an officer of my client’s standing has been treated in such a way.”
According to court documents, Winstead was charged as part of an investigation into alleged narcotics money laundering organizations operating as Cincinnati nightclubs. Promoters allegedly use drug proceeds to pay for artists and performers at the nightclubs as a way to generate revenue that would appear to be legitimate.
When his criminal charge was released, federal court records also filed at that time show he told authorities Cincinnati police knew some nightclubs were paying them with drug money for working off-duty details.
Winstead is a former District 2 officer who previously worked in District 4.
He first lost his police powers on April 3, 2019, police records show.
At the time, he was a member of CPD’s Honor Guard.
It was the second time he was suspended and lost his police powers since 2016, according to records Cincinnati police released to us in 2017.
In the spring of 2019, Winstead was put on desk duty amid an investigation by an outside agency, according to an email Police Chief Eliot Isaac wrote then-City Manager Patrick Duhaney.
“PO Winstead’s police powers have been suspended. The City is not the lead on this investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation, the City cannot comment any further,” Duhaney then wrote in an email at the time to then-Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, chairman of the city’s Law and Public Safety Committee, which was copied to the chief.
Federal court records unsealed at the time of Winstead’s arrest show he came to the attention of authorities as part of a money laundering and drug trafficking investigation by several law enforcement agencies into local nightclubs.
“During the course of this investigation, information was received that individuals associated with nightclubs had been or were currently being warned of police activities and were in essence, being forewarned of impending investigations and/or enforcement activity and thereby protected by members of the Cincinnati Police Department,” an IRS agent, Chad A. Adolph, wrote in an affidavit unsealed in August 2019.
As part of that case, “it appears members of the Cincinnati Police Department working off-duty details were aware of money laundering activities ongoing in the nightclub and had reason to believe the cash being paid to them was derived from narcotics sales.”
CPD and the IRS began investigating Winstead “for various criminal offenses including those related to financial benefits received by Winstead as a result of his employment with CPD,” court records show.
Winstead told the IRS agent and a member of CPD he began working details at area nightclubs about 10 years ago that host performers and concerts paid for and promoted by “dope boys” so they could clean their drug money through the nightclub, court documents state.
Winstead told them promoters of the concerts are “dope boys” who go to the owner and tell the owner they want to do an event and they sign a contract with the club on how much is to be paid to the performers, the club to rent out the space, for security and agree that the club keeps all bar sales and the “dope boys” keep ticket monies, according to the affidavit.
He said “dope boys” pay for all the expenses including the cost for officers to be there and the “dope boys” paid for the expenses in cash which came from drug sales, court records show:
“Winstead stated that it was likely he and the other officers were paid with drug cash.”
He also admitted to not reporting thousands of dollars in cash income from the details for 2015, 2016 and 2017 on his federal income tax returns.
Winstead had his tax returns amended to report an additional $49,600 for that time period, according to the affidavit.
He is the third officer since 2019 who worked off-duty details at nightclubs to be accused of filing false income tax returns.
The other two are former officer Quiana Campbell and retired captain Michael Savard.
In April, Campbell was sentenced to five years federal probation after pleading guilty last year to three felony counts of filing false income tax returns.
Savard entered pleas to federal charges of bribery and filing a false income tax return.
Savard admitted to asking for and accepting a $5,000 bribe from an unnamed sergeant to retire early so the sergeant could be promoted, federal court records show.
He was sentenced to five years probation on each charge of bribery and filing a false income tax return.
The sentences are running concurrently, or at the same time.
As convicted felons, Savard and Campbell are now prohibited from having guns and being law enforcement officers.
So will Winstead if he is convicted of a felony. He also could lose his police pension.
FOX19 NOW has been seeking internal investigation records from the Cincinnati Police Department on Winstead since July 2016.
An internal investigation was launched that summer into an allegation of “Law Violation by Officer,” police records show.
At the time, he worked in District 4.
Winstead was stripped of his police powers, gun and badge and put on desk duty on June 3, 2016, according to police records.
His police powers were restored nearly two weeks later, on June 15, 2016.
He was moved to another area of the police department. His personnel file at the time did not indicate why.
Winstead was moved to District 2 and remained there until he was put on desk duty in 2019.
It was later revealed through police records we obtained from his 2016 internal investigation that Winstead was suspected at that time by his then-co-workers in District 4 of thwarting undercover drug investigations and tipping off drug dealers about police activity.
The internal investigation closed with the allegation “Not Sustained,” in March 2017, records show.
We requested the entire internal investigation file to review once a police spokesman confirmed in late May 2017 that it was over.
Cincinnati police, however, only released a handful of documents related to the internal investigation at that time.
We were told the full report would not be provided to us for several weeks while privacy redactions were made.
After multiple follow-ups for those records, a police spokesman finally confirmed in late October 2017 the case was once again considered confidential and exempt again from the public records law requiring its release due to an ongoing investigation.
In August 2018, former Assistant Police Chief David Bailey was asked about Winstead during a deposition he gave as part of a federal lawsuit filed by a former Cincinnati police officer seeking reinstatement.
According to court records, Bailey said:
“Officer Winstead was assigned to a (violent) crime squad in District 4. They do some undercover work, narcotics activity. They have the opportunity to work with other agencies. One of those agencies was the Regional Narcotics Unit.
“The commander of the Regional Narcotics Unit (RENU with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office) believed that Officer Winstead had advised a suspect of an impending search before arrival, and as a result, they believe that the contraband was discarded. That was the allegation that came to CPD.”
Bailey then stated: “CPD agreed to take on that investigation internally and look into it.”
However, the former commander for RENU, Brad Winall, told FOX19 NOW in a 2017 interview the leader of CPD’s internal investigation section at the time, Lt. Craig Gregoire, called him in June 2016 and asked RENU to turn the case over to CPD to handle.
Winall told us he honored the request, but he and RENU were ultimately disappointed at the outcome of CPD’s investigation based on what they originally were told.
Bailey said in his deposition CPD’s internal “investigation went on for many, many months. As you can imagine, there are things that we would have to do on our end to see if we can mimic that behavior. It didn’t work.
“There was a time where Internal believed that there was the opportunity to - to intervene, they went to District 4. They confiscated some cell phones that belonged to Officer Winstead, and they looked at those cell phones pursuant to a warrant to determine if there was interference with searches being done.
“The outcome of that search I will tell you proved negative. We had no more information. The case was closed non-sustained.”
Then, Bailey said in his deposition, he pulled the accused officer aside and gave him some advice.
“I will tell you, upon conclusion of that investigation, I had Diondre Winstead come to my office and I had a very, very candid conversation with him. I told him what I believed he was doing and I advised him whatever he is doing, he had better stop. He said he understood, he shook my hand and he left.”
“So,” attorney Robert Croskery said, according to the deposition, “when you’re saying that the allegation was not sustained, you’re not saying the conduct didn’t necessarily occur, but rather that you were unable to find evidence to corroborate it that you felt was sufficient, is that right?”
“That’s correct,” Bailey responded.
In March 2017, Winstead was among officers working an off-duty detail outside Cameo nightclub when a shootout occurred.
One person was killed, and 16 others were injured. Two men, but one of them, who was among those injured, died of his injuries the following month.
The other suspect pleaded guilty in 2018.
Cameo had a prior history of gun violence, including a shooting inside the club on New Year’s Day 2015 and a shooting in the parking lot in September of the same year.
Police had been called to the club upwards of 100 times since the beginning of 2016, city documents show.
Club owner Julian Rodgers, a prolific concert promoter in Cincinnati at the time, turned his liquor permit over to authorities on the day after the shooting. He also released a statement rejecting claims patrons paid to get into the club without being checked.
The club permanently shut down March 31, 2017.
Rodgers filed for bankruptcy in December 2017 after two gross negligence lawsuits were filed over the Cameo shooting.
Last year, Rodgers, 45, pleaded guilty to federal gun and tax crimes.
He is scheduled to return to federal court for sentencing on March 11.
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