For more than a decade, Tiffany Lipkovitch wore a badge and carried a gun.
The Grosse Pointe woman got into trouble along the way, losing one job for allegedly fraternizing with felons and helping them smuggle drugs into prison.
That didn't stop her from getting another law enforcement job, however — though her bad behavior would eventually catch up with her.
On Thursday, the 46-year-old Highland Park detective pleaded guilty to selling fentanyl-laced heroin while working in the line of duty with the help of a friend. Her accomplice, Amber Bellamy, 38, of Detroit, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs — a crime the two carried out in Target parking lots, parks and a casino.
Lipkovitch, who had been a police officer with the Highland Park police department since 2011, faces a five-year mandatory prison sentence, but could get up to 40 years. So does her accomplice.
"Instead of upholding her oath to protect and serve, this police officer endangered the
community by conspiring to distribute a dangerous and deadly drug," Detroit's FBI chief Josh Hauxhurst said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, here's how the drug dealing worked:
Lipkovitch's associate provided her with the drugs. The detective would then give "samples" or "pictures" of the drugs to a confidential informant, all while federal agents were watching.
Federal agents recorded numerous calls and meetings between Lipkovitch and the informant, including one conversation in which she explained the prices.
One was $80 a gram, she told the informant, the others were $100 per gram. Lipkovitch then asked the informant a question.
"What's that stuff ya'll cuttin with?"
"Fentanyl," the informant responded.
This did not surprise Lipkovitch, who, prosecutors said, explained that her associate was getting “a package of fentanyl . . . from overseas.”
Lipkovitch soon introduced the informant to her dealer-friend, who met the informant at a Target parking lot in Novi and sold him $3,200 worth of heroin mixed with fentanyl. It was 45 grams.
Two months later, the informant met Lipkovitch at a gas station in Highland Park to thank her for setting up the drug deal and gave her $300 cash.
“Drug trafficking and drug addiction have created a crisis in our communities, something our law enforcement partners know all too well,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said. “It is an affront to the good men and women in law enforcement, and to the communities that they serve, for a sworn law enforcement officer to betray her oath in this manner."
This was not Lipkovitch's first brush with controversy.
She was fired more than a decade ago by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office for allegedly fraternizing with felons and helping them smuggle drugs into prison. According to court records, she admitted that she "maintained a relationship" with an inmate for three years, sent money orders to her, contacted her lawyer on her behalf and used the sheriff’s office equipment to look up information regarding other inmates for her — including accessing the website sugardaddies.com.
One year after her termination from the sheriff's department, Lipkovitch got a job with the Highland Park police.
Lipkovitch was featured in a 2017 Free Press investigation of problem officers who landed new jobs despite earlier troubles that included criminal convictions, histories of misconduct and, in some cases, being fired or forced out of previous departments.
According to court records, it was prison phone calls flagged by corrections officials that cost Lipkovitch her sheriff's deputy job.
A decade later, phone calls would again land her in trouble, this time involving a confidential informant who was recording calls and meetings with Lipkovitch about the fentanyl-laced heroin she was dealing with her friend, Bellamy.
The final drug deal that triggered charges went down at a Highland Park gas station.
Lipkovitch took $300 in cash from the informant and said she had to go respond to a police call at a local bank. Her scout car was parked outside the gas station. The FBI's cameras were rolling.
Contact Tresa Baldas: email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Highland Park cop pleads guilty to dealing fentanyl-laced heroin