A federal investigation including wiretaps of prominent Wichita businessmen and a Sedgwick County commissioner and searches of homes led to an investigation of at least two Wichita Police Department personnel, sources say.
The federal investigation has been ongoing for more than two and a half years. The FBI has declined to comment other than to confirm that it had “a lawful presence” in early February at several homes in the Wichita area.
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said Monday that she couldn’t comment. No charges have been announced.
What’s new is sources’ confirmation in recent days that the federal investigation involves at least two Wichita police personnel. The confirmation provides a direct link between the federal investigation and the police personnel.
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What’s not clear is why the police personnel were investigated or their current status.
Wichita police Capt. Doug Nolte, in charge of the department’s professional standards unit, said Monday that he can’t comment.
A number of issues came to light on the same day – Feb. 14 – when some details of the federal investigation broke. Here’s a recap of what has occurred so far:
▪ The Police Department gave a brief statement saying that two officers had been put on leave pending an internal investigation resulting from a larger investigation, and that the investigation “possibly involves misconduct by department members,” the statement said.
“This case is the result of a criminal investigation being conducted by another law enforcement agency,” the statement continued.
▪ Wichita businessman Brandon Steven said he is a subject of a federal inquiry into high-stakes poker and his efforts to open a casino in southeast Kansas. It was not clear then that the investigation was the same one involving the police.
▪ Wichita lawyer Steve Joseph said his office and four west-side houses had been searched Feb. 8. He said the FBI confiscated from his office a pillowcase filled with jewelry and $22,000 in cash and that someone whose home had been searched brought the pillowcase to his office.
▪ The Eagle and others received letters from the Justice Department saying that telephone communications between them and Steven and current Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell had been intercepted in 2015.
▪ The day before the federal investigation surfaced, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said that the FBI had been conducting an investigation for about two years and that the Police Department was cooperating.
Brandon Steven and his brother Rodney Steven II, whose phone also was tapped, according to a federal notice, are partners in health clubs, auto dealerships and other enterprises.
O’Donnell, who was a state senator at the time of the wiretaps, said in February that he had no idea why his calls were intercepted. O’Donnell also is a former City Council member.
The investigation also included wiretaps of two other Wichita men – Danny Chapman and Daven Flax, according to records obtained by The Eagle.
In March, a federal judge denied The Eagle’s request for information about government wiretaps of Steven and O’Donnell. In 2015, the federal government intercepted the men’s communications with five current or former employees of The Eagle or its parent company.