APPLETON, Wis. – The Lake Winnebago Metropolitan Enforcement Group (LWAM) investigates the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and use of illegal drugs in northeast Wisconsin.
The group consists of 15 investigators from police departments and sheriff’s offices in the region. One of them, former Appleton Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Haney allegedly committed serious crimes during an investigation last year, according to a criminal complaint.
The 15-year veteran of the force was charged with forgery, misconduct in office, and obstructing an officer in connection with an external special assignment.
According to the criminal complaint, Haney’s downfall began with a subject named Randy D. Mack. He was suspected of “conspiring with others to distribute large quantities of fentanyl.”
Haney was assigned as the case manager for a drug trafficking investigation in April 2022. Mack became a suspect in drug trafficking when Haney listened to jail phone calls, and a suspect said that a person named “Dutch” would be taking over the operation.
Dutch was determined to be Randy Mack, and Haney then authored a court order to request a 90-day timeframe to track Mack’s grey Mustang convertible via GPS tracker, in this case, known as a GPS warrant.
The unnamed prosecutor Haney was reportedly working with wanted to reduce the timeframe to 45 days because they believed that “some judges find 90 days to be excessive, and 45 days to be more reasonable.”
The prosecutor said that the steps to getting a court order approved typically involve the officer authoring a court order which is then reviewed by a prosecutor. Then, the officer and prosecutor meet in person for the prosecutor and officer to sign the order in the presence of a notary public to verify the signatures.
The prosecutor will also make changes to make the court order more appealing to the judge, and in this case, the timeframe of 45 days was changed.
After that meeting, the officer takes the court order to the circuit court judge, who signs the court order after reviewing it and is the last step before the court order goes into effect.
Haney and the unnamed prosecutor met on May 24, 2022, and after consulting with the judge, the timeframe was changed from 90 to 45 days for the GPS warrant, and the notary public signed the document.
Haney reported that he installed the GPS tracking device on Mack’s convertible on May 26, 2022. He removed the device on July 7, 2022, 44 days after the court order was signed.
The criminal complaint says that Haney told the federal prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney Alex Duros, that “the case started out very small with very little evidence to support a federal prosecution. In December of 2022, as more evidence of a large-scale drug trafficking
organization was uncovered, and the scope of the investigation broadened to the State of
Arizona, the US Attorney’s Office decided to open a case.”
Mack’s phone tolls and ping orders were also tracked through various court orders, and this led Haney and his team to establish a relationship with an informant.
Mack was arrested on December 7, 2022, after a package containing fentanyl pills shipped from Arizona to him was intercepted as part of a sting operation with the help of the informant.
Mack was indicted on federal drug charges on December 19, 2022. Duros called the case the “largest fentanyl distribution case in northeast Wisconsin history.”
Fast forward to this spring, when Mack’s co-conspirators were charged through the Wisconsin Circuit Court in Outagamie County. The unnamed prosecutor began reviewing Mack’s case, including the GPS court order, in May 2023. That is when they realized that there were several issues with the 90-day court order.
The unnamed prosecutor noticed the signature was not theirs, and the unnamed judge’s signature was also not consistent with their handwriting.
In addition, the timeframe for the GPS tracking device was listed as 90 days, not the 45 days that was previously agreed upon. The court order also had a signed date of May 23, 2022, a day before the unnamed prosecutor and the unnamed judge met with Haney.
Another major issue was found as the notary public’s signature was left blank.
That is when the unnamed prosecutor knew there was something wrong and asked the Outagamie County Clerk of Courts for the original court order. The clerk said that no such order had been returned to their office.
The unnamed prosecutor called Duros and explained this list of discrepancies. Duros also recognized that the signatures did not look right and eventually reached out to the unnamed judge, who said that the signature on the document was not theirs.
In the midst of the confusion, Duros reached out to the LWAM leader, Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Jeremiah Winscher, who said he would look into the problem.
After looking through the details, Winscher reportedly told officials that he could not provide an explanation for the inconsistencies.
Duros then contacted his supervisors and Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis, and the ensuing investigation into the court order discrepancies has halted Mack’s court hearings.
Brown County Sheriff’s Deputies Sgt. Michael Horst and Sgt. Phil Nelson launched an investigation into the Mack GPS warrant debacle, traveling around Outagamie County to meet with those involved.
The two met with the unnamed prosecutor, who told them about the noted discrepancies. In addition, the two met with the unnamed judge, who also noticed several discrepancies.
The unnamed judge also noted that the signature on the order was not theirs, as the middle initial was missing. The date was allegedly handwritten as “23,” when instead, it should have appeared as “23rd.”
The judge also noticed that Haney’s signature was not notarized, and, per policy, they never sign unnotarized documents. Finally, the unnamed judge realized that the term expires field on the document was not crossed off when they reportedly always cross it off because their term is permanent.
Winscher was also interviewed by Horst and Nelson and found that Haney’s signature was not notarized, and the date next to his signature didn’t match the one he wrote on his report.
Winscher said that when he called Haney to inquire about the situation, Haney was “very surprised and commented that he was sick to his stomach about it.”
While meeting with Winscher, Horst and Nelson reviewed the online server’s audit trail that revealed that Haney’s account was used to upload the forged 90-day GPS court order on August 8, 2022. Three minutes after Haney uploaded the court order, he also updated the report in the case file.
Haney said that he reportedly destroys sensitive documents by putting them through a shredder, and the pieces are disposed of by a company.
When the deputies asked Haney if the unnamed prosecutor had made any changes to the 90-day court order, he said, “I remember having the discussion about, yeah, either 45 days or 90, I can’t remember if [the prosecutor] changed it to 45-days or if [the judge] changed to 45-days. I can’t remember which one did it, but one of those two changed it to 45 days. Otherwise, it looks like the same document.”
The deputies then asked Haney about the signatures of the unnamed prosecutor and the unnamed judge and how they were not matching the 90 and 45-day court orders.
Haney allegedly said he believed that the ones on the 90-day court order were not authentic signatures and had no idea why that was.
Horst analyzed photographs of Haney’s handwriting and the forged signatures and reportedly told Haney that “[He] knew [Haney] authored the search warrant. [He] knew [Haney] signed every word on the search warrant, and [he] knew that [Haney] scanned it and uploaded it.”
Horst continued to talk to Haney and said that if there was some other innocent explanation for the forged signatures, he needed to hear it.
Haney claimed he didn’t know how it got signed and said, “This has caused me a ton of issues. This has caused me a ton of stress. I got the warrant signed.”
Haney eventually said that he had no idea where the original warrant was after Horst said neither the 45 or 90-day GPS court order was ever returned to the Outagamie County Court of Clerks.
When Horst and Nelson told Haney that it looked like he forged all the signatures on the warrant, Haney agreed.
“100%,” Haney said. “Why do you think I’ve been losing sleep over this? If I was in your guy’s shoes, I would come to the exact same conclusion.”
At the end of the interrogation, Haney allegedly admitted that he lost the 45-day warrant that was signed and got the original 90-day warrant from an email to the unnamed prosecutor. Haney said he was scared the case was going to fall apart due to the warrant going missing, and he “panicked and just hoped the situation would just die.”
Haney did not confess to forging the signatures.
Haney resigned from the Appleton Police Department on July 17. If convicted, Haney could face up to ten years and three months in prison, as well as up to $30,000 in fines.