Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mexican cop found guilty of drug smuggling

One down, one thousand left to go.

LAREDO — A federal jury Wednesday found a Mexican police officer guilty of conspiracy, smuggling and intent to distribute cocaine in the United States.
Ricardo Gonzalez Camacho, 37, a Monterrey, Mexico-based officer with the Nuevo León state ministerial police, faces 10 years to life in prison.

Gonzalez was arrested on Sept. 10 at the Bridge of the Americas after inconsistencies in his story to customs agents raised suspicion.

On that day, Gonzalez told agents he had driven from Monterrey to go shopping in downtown Laredo, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. But a permit to travel deeper into the United States that was hanging out of Gonzalez's shirt pocket led to an inspection of the 1994 Chevrolet truck he was driving.

Agents found 55 pounds of cocaine in vacuum-sealed bundles inside the truck's gas tank.

Gonzalez told Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that he knew that the truck had drugs in it, and that he was to be paid $2,000 for delivering the vehicle to a Burger King restaurant in downtown Laredo, the original complaint in the case states.

Court documents don't mention the names of the individuals or group in Monterrey that hired him to transport the drugs.

That city has recently become one of the hot spots for drug-related violence in Mexico, and some of the killings suggest that some cops have become entangled in the illicit business. More than 14 police officers have been killed in Monterrey and its suburbs this year. They include a few ministerial officers, members of a high-level state investigative agency that handles serious crimes.

A grand jury indicted Gonzalez in September and a plea bargain with federal prosecutors was reached the following month, court records show.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge in exchange for a lenient sentence. But during the sentencing phase, Gonzalez changed his mind and the case went to trial.

During the trial he denied having confessed to smuggling the cocaine.

Jurors came back with a guilty verdict after about two hours of deliberation, the U.S. Attorney's office said.


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