20-year state attorney drug unit secretary admits dealing cocaine with boyfriend

Ginger Downs claims convicted felon fiancee 'forced' her to do it

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Ginger Downs spent the last 20 years as the secretary for the Broward County state attorney's office drug-trafficking unit, entrusted with sensitive information involving tens of thousands of felony drug cases.

But during the past five years, Downs has been living a secret life as a drug dealer herself, accompanying her fiancée, convicted cocaine trafficker Edward Barona, on hundreds of cocaine deals, she testified in a sworn statement last week.

In questioning by chief corruption prosecutor Tim Donnelly, Downs made admissions about her life with Barona, saying he was addicted to cocaine and bought and dealt cocaine for both business and personal use.

Here are some key snippets of the statement, which can be read in its entirety here:

Donnelly: Have you been present with him when any [drug] transactions were conducted where you were actually there?
Downs: Yes.
Donnelly: Did he go to pick up drugs or to sell drugs when you were with him?
Downs: Unfortunately, both.
Donnelly: How many times did that happen, Ginger?
Downs: It's been a lot, Tim, unfortunately.
Donnelly: You're saying two a week. Are you saying 100 a year over five years?
Downs: It's a lot. It's a lot.

Asked when she was last present at a drug deal, Downs conceded it took place the night before she gave the statement.

Downs testified that she supplied money for some of the drug buys herself but claimed that Barona was verbally abusive and in some way "forced" her to go along for the cocaine transactions.

"He forces me to go," she said. "We end up fighting and he wants me to be with him. And I've explained to him, 'If we, God forbid, ever get caught, I'm going to lose everything' ... It's a very, very, very, very bad core decision on my part. I understand that. I get that. And believe me, I'm embarrassed. I love the man. I love the man. He has a problem. He knows he has a problem."

"Why didn't you come forward," Donnelly asked her. "Why did you remain in the drug-trafficking unit?"

"I don't have a good answer for you," Downs said.

Downs admitted that she used state attorney's databases to supply information to Barona about an arrest of suspects, but said she never passed along information regarding search warrants or active undercover investigations.

Despite her apparent crimes, Downs will almost surely not be criminally prosecuted. When her bosses at the state attorney's office took her statement they gave her immunity for any crimes discussed. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement dropped the investigation without filing charges Friday and it is now in the hands of the Broward Sheriff's Office.

"We did attempt to proceed criminally," Donnelly wrote in a statement to Local 10 News, "but the allegations were 3 1/2 years old and after investigating them we could not prove or disprove them. Without evidence to prove a corpus to a crime, we proceeded administratively to remove the threat."

An attempt to contact Downs and Barona at her Broward condo was unsuccessful.

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