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In a relatively free and reasonable society, heroin addiction would be treated as a medical problem, not as an excuse to put people in cages. The perverted priorities of prohibition, however, dictate that people struggling with addiction not only be punished as criminals, but be manipulated into an obscene inverted pyramid scheme in which they are offered a reduction in punishment for informing on their friends. This helps explain how 22-year-old Megan Meyer of Plymouth, Wisconsin faces up to 19 years in prison for selling fake heroin to a police informant.

Last November, Meyer -- who was on probation for previous drug-related convictions -- was arrested after officers affiliated with the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG), a federally subsidized narcotics task force, used another socially marginalized petty offender to target her for a "controlled buy." Since Meyer was already "in the system," police could have arrested her for probation violations without the trouble of manufacturing a drug charge. The incentive structure of the "war on drugs" dictated a different course of action, however. Accordingly, a confidential informant (most likely someone looking for a "downward departure" on her own charges) bought a small quantity of what looked like heroin and an unmarked pill identified as Percocet.

Lab tests showed that the alleged heroin was actually crushed dog food, and the "Percocet" was actually an aspirin tablet. In a society that valued property rights, and recognized that the government has no authority to punish people for freely consuming anything they choose, Meyers might have been charged with defrauding her customer. As things stood, the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office had to wait for another opportunity to carry out a triumphant drug bust.

Last December 13, officers responded to a reported drug overdose in Plymouth. Three people in their 20s -- Ryan and Cody Diekow and Amelia Laduke -- were arrested for possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. Because Cody Diekow refused to remain seated while officers obtained a search warrant, and was later slammed to the ground and handcuffed, he was hit with three additional charges -- "recklessly endangering safety," "resisting an officer," and "obstructing an officer." This allowed prosecutors to threaten him with more than 11 years in prison, despite the fact that there is no evidence he actually committed an offense against person or property.

While in police custody, one member of the trio claimed that Meyer and another friend named Jerome Brost had been present with them in Milwaukee earlier that day when the heroin had been purchased. A few hours later, following a pretext traffic stop, Meyer and Brost were arrested. A search of the vehicle uncovered "paraphernalia" but no heroin. Investigators claim that the suspects admitted to buying heroin, but that Brost had lost it.

All hopes of busting Meyer on drug-related charges would have vaporized, were it not for the "controlled buy" that the MEG had arranged a month earlier. When asked about the incident, Meyer -- who never learned the indispensable lesson that citizens should never talk to the police beyond demanding a lawyer -- reportedly explained, "I only sell fake."

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When the MEG's informant approached her to buy a Percocet and some heroin, Meyer slipped her the aspirin and dog food as revenge for stealing a car seat from her.

This report of an alleged theft was the only evidence of an actual crime extracted from that interrogation. However, the Wisconsin Legislature, as if anticipating this very scenario, has enacted a measure describing the delivery of an "imitation controlled substance" as a Class I felony. County prosecutors, displaying the inventive cruelty for which their profession has become properly notorious, have filed five charges against Meyer which in the aggregate could cost her 19 years in prison.

It should be pointed out that the Lake Winnebago MEG is the same task force that in September 2012 staged a bogus "controlled buy" near Eagle Nation Cycles in Neenah, Wisconsin. This led to a SWAT raid in which investigators "found" eight-tenths of a gram of marijuana under circumstances strongly suggesting that the evidence was planted on the scene. The following day, while business owner Steve Erato was in jail, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson conducted a "health and safety inspection" of Eagle Nation Cycles. No evidence of drug manufacturing was found, but Erato was hit with fifteen felony charges -- all of which were later dismissed.

Erato and business partner Michael Funk, along with two others, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the City of Neenah and its police department. Former Neenah Police Detective Dan Dringoli, who was driven from the department after blowing the whistle on misconduct within the SWAT team, is now a private investigator working with the attorney who filed the suit. Dringoli believes that the September 2012 SWAT raid, and the "controlled buy" that led to it, were prompted by a desire to seize the commercial property on behalf of politically connected developers.

Last December 5, the same SWAT team that had raided the business two years earlier responded to a hostage situation at Eagle Cycles. The suspect surrendered and was taken into custody -- after one of the officers shot and killed Funk as he escaped the building.

“I think they may have just taken the opportunity, and erred on the side of `Let’s eliminate this problem,’” Dringoli told the Free Thought Project in a telephone interview. According to the police abuse lawsuit that may have gotten Funk killed, that "problem" began with a "controlled buy" staged by the MEG, which -- like all of their comrades in the War on Drugs -- has a singular gift for ruining or ending lives in the name of pursuing the delusional ideal of a "drug-free society."