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Posted on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 11:08 a.m.

87-year-old man busted with 104 bricks of cocaine near Chelsea

By Lee Higgins

Update: 87-year-old caught with cocaine: Latest in long line of drug busts on Ann Arbor area highways

Update: 87-year-old tells judge he was forced 'at gunpoint' to deliver 228 pounds of cocaine

Michigan State Police troopers arrested a man Friday after investigators said they seized 104 bricks of cocaine from a pickup truck during a traffic stop on I-94 near Chelsea.

Leo Earl Sharp, 87, was charged Sunday in a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.


Leo Sharp

AP photo

He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Detroit at 1 p.m. today for a detention hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Randon, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit. Balaya said she did not know where Sharp lives.

According to an affidavit by DEA Special Agent Justin Holton, a state trooper pulled Sharp over at 5:25 p.m. Friday on eastbound I-94, roughly a mile west of Chelsea. Sharp was stopped for improper lane use and following too closely, the affidavit says.

The trooper asked to search the truck, but Sharp declined the request, the affidavit says. A police dog was brought to the scene and "alerted on the rear of the vehicle for the presence of narcotics."

Investigators searched the bed of the truck and found four black bags containing 25 brick-shaped objects each and a small gray and blue bag containing four brick-shaped objects.

According to the affidavit, the objects were turned over to the DEA and field-tested positive for cocaine. The weight and estimated street value of the cocaine is not specified in the affidavit.

DEA Special Agent Rich Isaacson, a spokesman for the agency in Detroit, could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at



Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

That's a trumpeted up charge for making the stop, they just needed a probable cause and anything would do, illegal lane change or following too close to another vehicle?? The previous mule about a year ago who was busted for transporting cocaine and was heading to Canada snitched out the operation for a plea deal and leaked all the info to authorities so they could nab this old timer. Pretty good pinch worth about $200+ million.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

" They no Tell Everything ". Sound like Gramps was mule for the big boys. Sad


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

What I want to know is why these people are driving right down I-94. Ever heard of backroads? Isn't that what GPS is for? I think I would be doing some research before I made the delivery and admiring some rural vistas as I meandered along.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 4:45 a.m.

I am a retired probation officer. While working in Washtenaw County, I had a man in his 80's on probation for selling heroin. While on probation, he was arrested and convicted again of selling heroin. He was offended when I asked him to submit to a drug test. By the way it was negative. He was sentenced by Judge Morris and got probation again!

Marilyn Wilkie

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

"He was sentenced by Judge Morris and got probation again!" No surprise there!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

@marylin wilke I think you nailed it: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;id=13014</a> Maybe he will use the flowerous hostegious harmerous defense?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

Sorry Dogpaddle, but being poor or out of a job does not justify running 228 lbs of cocanie. Come on. Being poor doesn't turn you into a criminal. Rethink your liberal bias.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

fits the profile of a coke dealer! cops know what to sniff out!

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

He is a daylily grower from Indiana. He wins awards. He lectures. He has an award named after him. He may be getting a know. I feel bad.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

Doesn't matter what Leo told the Judge, or why he was stopped. He won't out- Smart the Michigan State Police or the Judge. Thanks to all police, and I'd like to give the dog a hug.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

For once I do not know what to say.

Seasoned Cit

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

Too Bad we can't retail that coke.... Would help pay for some more cops on the road. Maybe we should check with the Feds, they might be able to sell it back to some folks in Mexico that they have been dealing guns with.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

Is *that* why so many people tailgate around here??? Ooh, does that mean they're going to crack down on tailgating and illegal lane changes? (Sorry for the pun.) That would be so cool!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

Please don't read my comment as defending the 87 year old, but more and more stories like this really do make me wonder, what is our world going to come to if some thing isn't done soon to improve people's incomes? Again, I'm not trying to justify this man's behavior, only trying to understand it and particularly if this a new &quot;hobby&quot; for him. If he is a long time drug dealer who hasn't retired yet and finally got caught, that's one thing. But as a senior citizen whose life savings might have been wiped out in these last three years of bad economy/bad Wall Street, are we just reading one of many stories like this to come of desperate times calling for desperate measures? Prohibition and bootlegging, anyone? Sound familiar? Obviously it did to him who was a little boy at the time. That muscle memory came right back it sounds like. Maybe this is his Tea Party way of rebelling against Snyder and Lansing taxing his pension or cutting his services while giving tax breaks to businesses (and those jobs they are allegedly creating are where?).


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

so because I don't have as much as Bill Gates, Steve Forbes, et would be understandable if I freakin robbed a bank? This isn't some old person trying to supplement income by setting up at a flea market...


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

I can't believe you are trying to blame the Governor for this. So he has to pay taxes. Are you suggesting that is cause to risk having to spend the rest of your life in prison? Whatever legislature agreed pensions can be tax free made a huge mistake.

Momma G

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

Would love to learn more about this person i.e. where did he retire from, his police record, who supposedly forced him into this, etc. Also wondering if the trooper took his training from the Saline cop who stopped me many years ago for &quot;following too close&quot; in a 25 mph zone when the guy in front of me turned without a turn signal at the last minute and I DIDN'T hit him. So how could I have been &quot;following too close?&quot; Just saying!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

The old forced at gunpoint to take 11 million dollars worth of coke off someones hands. The other stories this year contained similar defenses/excuses. There's obviously a corridor of some sorts along 94 and I also don't believe this guy was just pulled over for a simple infraction. They knew he was coming and they know all about this deal. This was no lucky bust. Which is fine but just sayin. Don't be fooled though this is a major take down. 104 Kilos is huge.

Bruce Cash

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

That's &quot;High&quot; way robbery.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

Now, that there is an openning where (as a senior) do I go to apply? Uncle Sam doesn't beleive in inflation for retirees after 9 years. Could try for a Reverse Mortgage; but half the value of the house is gone. Should just become a couch potato. Cokes not my thing. Hate to take away distrubutor jobs from those just starting out of college.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

According to this, it looks like they were 1 kilo apiece: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

Say hello to my little friend **waving cane**

John of Saline

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

&quot;In MY day, we smuggled cocaine on FOOT. UPHILL.&quot;

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Since the full Commentariat Legal Panel is assembled here, can anyone tell me how a prosecution of this type could be affected by an assertion that an aged defendant is non compos mentis? And how easy would it be to make that case?


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Good try...but the alleged mule's source should claim being a half wit as his/her defense cuz no reasonable drug dealer is gonna turn over that much product to an unknown and/or un-trusted driver!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

Considering how much that cocaine is worth, I would use the E pluribus unum defense.

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

Assuming that it was &quot;Non Compos Mentis&quot; that caused the confusion, it is a legal term meaning &quot;not of sound mind.&quot;


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

I haven't the slighest idea what you said, but I bet those slimy three dollar word lawyers try to say he didn't know what he was doing. They might even use English to say it.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

And something like this won't even come close to a trial.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

In this case they couldn't care less. All they want to know is where it came from and where it was going. I wouldn't be surprised if he walks out of jail bond free by Wednesday.

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

Even more amazing when you Google his name.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

great success marilyn. that is excellent detective work. we are all very grateful that you were so quick to reply. you are an inspiration to the entire organization. i will anticipate your future reactions.

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

Geez, originally they said Florida, now they say Indiana. Could he be the daylily grower? Or another Leo Sharp?

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

No, he's not the daylily grower. This guy is from Florida. lol


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

Ther is a &quot;Leo Sharp Agricultural Award&quot;


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

because hes a gardening republican? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;PN=0&amp;TPN=2</a>


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.



Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

That's awesome. Doing a little mathematics tells me that if these &quot;bricks&quot; were kilos which they mnore than likely are we are talking about an almost 11 million dollar street value. This is a huge bust. Whats with this area. There's been a number of these &quot;guy got pulled over and happens to have an enormous amount of coke in the car&quot; deals this year. One was a family with two kids and a trunk load of kilos. Are they going to Canada?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

I-94 from Detroit to Chicago is known as one of the main arteries for drug trafficking.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

what better way to try to transport drugs.....a 87 yr. old man.........give Law Enforcement some credit, no matter if they knew he had the stash...just think how long he has gotten a way with it prior to this stop.......good job......


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

hut you know if this suspect has priors? I'd say this isn't his first time at bat...

hut hut

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

and how long are you ASSUMING that the 87 year old was getting away with it?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

What is the law on search of a vehicle for a minor traffic violation?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

To quote trooper Ramathorn &quot;Mother of God...&quot; Let's see, 104 bricks of 95% Nicaraguan, I would say $875k?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

I think there is more to this case than meets the eye. Why would a MSP trooper ask to search a vehicle of an elderly man after a routine traffic stop for an alleged moving violation? Why was the driver detained so a drug-sniffing dog could be brought in to verify a positive canine alert to drugs? The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution proscribes unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. There are very serious Fourth Amendment issues in this case that will undoubtedly be raised by a criminal defense attorney. The good news for the defendant is that the criminal case has ben filed in federal court and Michigan's drug lifer law is inapplicable.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

There is nothing in this article that raises any issues on the Constitutionality of this arrest. This guy better start singing.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

Gotta side with you on this one ERMG.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

You are correct in asserting more factual development is clearly necessary, but in drug cases the most important inquiry typically by a defense counsel is the compliance of the government with the search and seizure requirements of the Fourth Amendment. If the Fourth Amendment is violated, the fruits of that violation are suppressed from evidence.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

&quot;There are very serious Fourth Amendment issues in this case that will undoubtedly be raised by a criminal defense attorney.&quot; And you, of course, know this based on an 8-sentence article in LOL Good Night and Good Luck

Are you serious?

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

There has to be more to this story. At a routine traffic stop the police cannot keep you beyond a reasonable amount of time to check your identity and write the ticket unless they have probable cause that something is going on. However, if the drug dog was there before the routine stop was over then I believe it is perfectly legal.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

Sometime last year or so they stopped an asian fellow heading to Canada, he also was hauling a good deal of coke and apparently he was released within a short period, he must of filled in the DEA about the operation and they set this old timer up for a plea deal. Funny no mention of what ever happened to that Asian guy, I'am sure the cartel would like to know where he's at?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Not to be too nit-picky on words, but... They don't need probable cause to detain you, they need &quot;reasonable suspicion.&quot; Probable cause allows them to conduct an involuntary (on your part) search of your person or property, and allows them to place you under arrest.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

Scary to think we need to watch out for the Senior Citizen Gangstaaaas going down the street on their Hoverounds.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

They see grandpa rollin', They hatin'

Buster W.

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

How much you wanna bet the police dog was at the scene within seconds???


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

If he gets a life sentence, what is that, 90 days?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

laughing myself silly. guess his retirement took a dive?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Are you certain this isn't something from &quot;The Onion&quot;? Good Night and Good Luck

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

It is now!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

How much is a &quot; brick of cocaine&quot;?

Ann English

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

I did hear on the radio that he was carrying over 200 pounds of cocaine. When I saw the headline, &quot;.....104 bricks of cocaine....&quot;, I thought a brick might weigh a kilogram, namely 2.2 pounds.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

Right nobody can because this article doesn't say. Sloppy


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

Most likely a Kilo, but can't say for certain


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Someone, somewhere, is gonna pay for the &quot;mule&quot; getting lassoed. @ Ricardo, I agree, they must have had a hunch for the old improper lane usage and following to closely to be pulled out of the bag of tricks. If they really enforced this law, they could people over all day and night and solve the budget woes. BTW, great moniker.

Ricardo Queso

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

Thanks. Glad you caught the humor. It was a toss up to use either the photo or the cover of &quot;Aperitif for Destruction&quot;.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

DEA/State Police were on to this guy. Following to close, improper lane usage wouldn't, IMHO, warrant a search. Once he refused, oh well. Guess that gave police &quot;probable cause&quot; to search. I-94 being a through way for the transport of drugs, police arrest quite a few carriers. This is very common and has occurred at least two other times this year. Wonder if he was heading to Canada.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

Dalex has it correct. It is true that refusal alone is not enough for PC. But the dog hitting is. The courts have long held that a traffic stop is a reasonable intrusion and there is no reason for a search warrant to search a vehicle, just PC. I think in this case the DEA was aware of the transport. Otherwise there is no reason for the request for the search or for MSP to pass it off to the feds. The driver can be made to wait for the K9 as long as the wait is not unreasonable. I would bet the K9 was close by.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:55 p.m.

@Roadman-I'm with you. There is more to this portion of the story that we, readers, don't know about. What led police to suggest that a drug dog be brought in? Again, as random as a stop this is, police were on to him either by a tip or, some other type of prior knowledge to be looking out for him. Mmmm....wonder if the police car had a camera showing the illegal lane change and following to closely. Probably not.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

@Dalex64: A refusal cannot be used by the courtsin the probable cause analysis. It is an assertion of a constitutional right. A non-intrusive stop and search of a person must be supported by reasonable and articulable suspicion. I have a question whether the driver could legally be detained under the Fourth Amenment to wait for a police dog to arrive.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

I would imagine that without that constitutional right, searches at traffic stops would be common, and standard procedure.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Kinda messed up that exercising your Constitutional right against illegal search and seizure is viewed as being guilty of having something to hide. In this case he obviously did have something to hide, but the point is that just refusing the search should not be looked at in a negative light.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

The refusal raised their suspicions, and the police dog gave them probable cause.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

Just trying to squeeze in a weekend visit with the grandkids, along with his hobby?

Ricardo Queso

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

&quot;improper lane usage and following too close&quot;. Can you name one person, than gramp's, that has been pulled over for the same infractions? Sounds to me they knew what he was up to before the stop.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Hmm, Ricardo Queso - I think I know who you are.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

No kidding. I *wish* people really got tickets for that sort of thing but I've never seen it.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

My first thoughts too. And then why the request for a search? Definitely tipped off.

Yeah buddy

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Is Tim Allen really 87? He looks good.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Are they sure it's not the new Brick-Style Metamucil?

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

I wonder if this was old Leo's first rodeo?


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

don't think so..been down that road before I bet.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

talk about supplimenting your social security...


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

just wow. I too wondered if the title would lead to a confused elderly person in the article. But declining the search made me feel less that way. Geez. Desperate grandpa


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

&quot;Any criminal defense attorney will tell you never to give consent to a police officer to search if he asks for it.&quot; I will remember that the next time I am stopped for just driving down the road obeying the law! Has not happened in the last 50 years though. Why would they tell you to consent if you have nothing to hide? That would not be good for their business!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

&quot;And I'd be pissed if they held me for the dog to arrive also&quot; And what would that accomplish? You being teed off is of little consequence!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Any criminal defense attorney will tell you never to give consent to a police officer to search if he asks for it. They often go into computer hard drives, cell phone records, financial documents, personal papers, to look for things and often can get damaging personal information independent of what they were looking for.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

Why would not surrendering your rights cause you to be suspicious? If police came to your home and asked to search it would you let them? I wouldn't give up my rights in my car, home or or anywhere else for that matter. And I'd be pissed if they held me for the dog to arrive also. I guess our freedoms arent as important as they used to be to some.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

With threats to our Social Security, seniors have to look for other sources of income. But, wow that's a lot of coke!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

87, are you kidding me? I thought it was a mistake in the headline until I read the article. Also thought maybe he didn't know what was in the truck til he declined permission to search it.


Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

I would NEVER grant the police permission to search my car. Have probable cause? Then get a warrant. If the police come knocking at my door asking to come in to talk, unless they have a warrant, they can stay on the porch.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

@pest...I gladly welcome a search of my vehicle at any time...I got nothing to hide and am more than happy to prove it...I'm not a lawyer nor have I played one on tv but if a cop feels there is a good reason, I got no problem with it.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

That doesn't mean anything - I would also refuse to allow police to search my vehicle. Unless they can tell me what legitimate &quot;cause&quot; there is for the search.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

Guess that new COLA approval came too late for him..

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

87 is the new 47 ?