Monday, September 27, 2010

Jury Convicts Laredo Police Department Officer of Conspiracy to Traffic Cocaine

Jury Acquits on Wire and Mail Fraud Charges Arising from Alleged Insurance Fraud Scheme

LAREDO, TX—A federal jury has convicted Laredo Police Department (LPD) officer Orlando Jesus Hale, aka Chacho, of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and using a firearm in furtherance of that drug offense, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. The trial of Hale, 27, of Laredo, began on Sept. 20. Jury deliberations began on Sept. 24 and, after a weekend recess, resumed today and concluded with the return of the verdicts late this morning.

The jury convicted Hale of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine between Oct. 15, 2008, and Nov. 30, 2008, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and possessing the firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking crime between Nov. 7 and Nov. 25, 2008.

During the trial, evidence was presented showing that Hale and a fellow LPD officer, Pedro Martinez III, met with an FBI undercover agent posing as a drug dealer in a hotel room in Laredo on Nov. 7, 2008. During the recorded meet, Hale and Martinez discussed how the two officers could escort loads of 20 kilograms each of cocaine from south to north Laredo using their personal vehicles and police-issued radios to monitor dispatch traffic.

On Nov. 13, 2008, first Martinez, then Hale, each escorted a load vehicle during afternoon rush-hour traffic. Each vehicle contained 20 kilograms of sham cocaine. On Nov. 25, Hale and Martinez arranged to meet the payoff person in San Antonio, Texas, to receive payment for the protective escort services they had provided. Hale and Martinez each received $1,000 from another undercover agent posing as the organization’s moneyman. Martinez, who pleaded guilty prior to trial, testified against Hale.

Additional testimony heard during the trial in support of the fraud charges alleged in a superseding indictment detailed a scheme in which Hale allegedly asked Martinez whether he knew of any persons who might want their vehicles “stolen” (taken with their knowledge). The vehicle could be driven into and sold in Mexico, while the owner made a fraudulent claim of theft profiting from the theft through receipt of insurance proceeds and no longer having a loan payment. Martinez and Hale were also to profit from the scam, according to testimony. Two such “thefts” allegedly occurred on Oct. 24, 2008, then again on Dec. 13-14, 2008. The jury, however, acquitted Hale of the three mail fraud charges and one wire fraud charge alleged in the indictment arising from the alleged scheme.

The drug conspiracy conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment along with a $4 million fine. The firearms conviction charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment upon conviction, which must be served consecutive or upon completion of any term of imprisonment imposed for the underlying drug offense as well as a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 10, 2011. Hale has been permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations and Customs Border Protection with the assistance and cooperation of the LPD. Assistant United States Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez prosecuted the case.

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