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Two Men Cleared In FBI Drug Sting

Fifty Others Have Pleaded Guilty

CLEVELAND, Updated 8:02 p.m. May 12, 1998 -- The suspected ringleader of a drug-deal protection ring is the lone remaining defendant among 53 people indicted in an FBI sting.

Michael Joye, 29, is scheduled to go on trial May 26, but has been in talks that could result in a plea agreement, his lawyer, Henry F. DeBaggis, said Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Wooley declined to say whether a plea bargain was likely, but added: "I don't have any right to make a public spectacle of this if we can reach fair resolutions."

The sting involved bogus drug deals staged and videotaped by the FBI using undercover agents. They hired jail guards and police officers to protect purported cocaine shipments.

Arrested in a roundup January 21 were police from Cleveland and the suburbs of East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Brooklyn, plus a Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy and county jail guards.

They were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Nine other men who allegedly joined in the ring were indicted on the same charge. Many ended up pleading guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy.

A federal judge on Monday cleared two men. Raymond Knudsen, 26, and Michael Tucker, 36, are the only defendants in the case to have charges entirely dismissed. Wooley said they did not know they had agreed to protect supposed drug deals when they were hired as bodyguards last year.

Joye, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, was also charged with distributing cocaine. FBI agents have said Joye sold cocaine to an undercover agent in October 1996.

FBI Special Agent Stephen Vogt, who described the drug protection ring in an affidavit, has described Joye as the key recruiter for the operation.

"I trust every one of 'em 'cause they worked for me before we do it right, we do it precise, military type," the document quotes Joye as saying.

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Copyright 1998 by The Associated Press



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