Plea hearing set today for fired Raleigh police detective charged in fake-drug scheme

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Former Raleigh Police Department detective Omar Abdullah has been accused in civil court of framing more than a dozen men on trumped-up drug charges. Today he is scheduled to appear in criminal court on a charge filed against him.

Abdullah faces a single obstruction of justice charge for allegedly lying to a court official by saying evidence in a drug trafficking case was heroin when it wasn’t, according to an indictment.

It’s not clear whether Abdullah will plead guilty at his hearing or, if he does, whether he will receive time in prison.

If convicted of the Class I felony obstruction of justice charge, Abdullah could be sentenced to a minimum sentence of probation or some other community punishment. The maximum punishment he could face on the charge is eight to 19 months in prison, according to the state’s sentencing guidelines.

Suspicions about Abdullah, who worked for Raleigh ‘s police department for 13 years, surfaced in early 2020 after a defense attorney representing men arrested by the detective brought questions about false drug evidence to District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, according to interviews.

By September 2020, Raleigh police and Freeman were investigating cases of false evidence in more than a dozen drug cases. Abdullah was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and was fired about a year later.

But details of the scandal didn’t surface until April 2021, when people Abdullah had arrested filed a 24-page federal lawsuit accusing the detective of conspiring with a confidential informant to send more than a dozen Black men to jail and prison in a fake heroin scheme.

The lawsuit included individuals who faced heroin charges, and in one case a marijuana charge, for substances provided by a police informant that turned out to be fake.

About a dozen men spent a collective two and a half years behind bars before their charges were dismissed, the lawsuit states. They lost jobs and missed cancer treatments and time with their children.

Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in the Triangle and across North Carolina for The News & Observer. Her work is produced with financial support from the nonprofit The Just Trust. The N&O maintains full editorial control of its journalism.

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