Thursday, June 05, 2008

Boston police officer sentenced to 26 years in drug case

May 16, 2008

By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff

Roberto "Kiko'' Pulido, the rogue Boston police officer who enlisted two fellow patrolman in a brazen scheme to escort trucks bringing cocaine into the city, was sentenced today to 26 years in federal prison by a judge who said the defendant had disgraced his badge.

24747722H6284723.jpgBoston Police Department photo

"The people who wear that badge have a sense of honor,'' US District Judge William G. Young said, staring at Pulido, the ringleader of one of the most notorious police corruption scandals in recent Boston history. "You are ... dead to that sense of honor.''

The sentence was what a federal prosecutor had sought and six years longer than that recommended by Pulido's public defender, who said her client's abuse of steroids contributed to his crimes.

Pulido, who pleaded guilty in the middle of his trial in November to drug trafficking charges, apologized to both the Boston Police Department and the MBTA Transit Police, of which he had previously been a member.

"It was my lifelong goal to be a Boston police officer,'' said Pulido, wearing a khaki-colored jumpsuit and white sneakers. "No one is more disappointed than myself.''

Two rows of the courtroom were filled with supporters and relatives of Pulido. Most of them wore white T-shirts emblazoned with a photograph of a smiling Pulido beneath the words "Kiko We Love You.''

Michael K. Loucks, the first assistant US attorney in Massachusetts, who watched another federal prosecutor argue for the harsh punishment, said afterward that Pulido "deserves every second of that sentence.''

Pulido's guilty plea came on the fourth day of his trial in US District Court in Boston, capping an extraordinary police corruption scandal whose reverberations are still being felt.

In the previous two days, jurors heard a swaggering, expletive-spewing Pulido in two dozen conversations secretly recorded by the FBI as part of a carefully constructed sting that began in late 2003 and culminated with the arrests of Pulido and fellow officers Carlos Pizarro and Nelson Carrasquillo in July 2006. All three officers belonged to a police motorcycle unit.

Pulido and the two officers plotted an audacious scheme with men they thought were drug dealers to protect trucks that brought 140 kilograms of cocaine to Boston. The three officers did not know that the drug dealers were undercover FBI agents and that the cocaine had previously been seized by the government.

On April 23, 2006, Pulido and Carrasquillo monitored Police Department radio channels while a transfer of 40 kilograms of cocaine took place at a garage on Washington Street with the undercover FBI agents, according to prosecutors.

Then on June 8, 2006, the three police officers guided a truck containing about 100 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of more than $2 million from Western Massachusetts to the city, prosecutors said. The officers were paid a total of $51,000 by FBI agents posing as drug dealers.

The three officers were arrested in Miami in July 2006 by federal agent. Shortly before the arrests, the officers had arranged a deal to protect another shipment of 1,000 kilograms of cocaine and five kilograms of heroin.

The secret tape-recordings also featured Pulido allegedly running numerous other rackets involving identity fraud, fraudulently obtained store gift cards, steroid sales, and prostitution. Pulido was never charged in those schemes.

Jurors also saw a surveillance photograph of Pulido in a congratulatory embrace of an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer called Big Manny in an Atlantic City casino. Pulido hugged the phony drug dealer after receiving a softball-sized wad of $15,000 that bulged in his pocket.

Although the government had only presented part of its case against Pulido, the tapes and photographs had already made the defendant seem more like a grade B movie crime boss than a crimefighter.

Pulido pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of heroin and two counts of attempting to aid and abet the distribution of the cocaine. He pleaded no contest to a fourth charge of carrying a gun in a drug-trafficking crime.

In a Globe interview from a New Hampshire jail shortly after his plea, Pulido said he was pumped full of steroids when he suggested to undercover agents in Atlantic City that he knew a good way to transport cocaine into Boston.

He said a steroid addiction made him exaggerate many of the statements he made on the surveillance tapes and called many of his comments pure fantasy. In his mind at the time, he said, he was playing a role in a Hollywood movie. He even recited lines from "Training Day,'' the film about a corrupt officer.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I was acting,'' he said. "It was pure puffery.''

Pulido's co-defendants, Carrasquillo and Pizarro, were recently sentenced to 18 years and 13 years, respectively, after pleading guilty last year.

Authorities in March also charged an acquaintance of Pulido with helping to plant drugs and a gun on an innocent man and then breaking into his apartment to steal a safe containing $18,000 as part of a conspiracy with the rogue officer.

In addition, as many as a dozen Boston police officers have been summoned before a federal grand jury investigating steroid use and after-hours parties -- an offshoot of the probe that led to the convictions of the three officers, three law enforcement officials familiar with the case told the Globe in March.