Laredo cop cuts a plea deal in corruption case
Web Posted: 08/16/2007 10:39 PM CDT
Express-News Border Bureau
A Laredo police sergeant accused of public corruption reached an agreement with federal prosecutors Thursday, pleading guilty to an extortion charge and widening the possibility of further indictments related to illegal gambling operations.
Sgt. Alfonso Santos, 51, admitted receiving almost-weekly bribes from an illegal gambling operation in exchange for protection from police raids.
He received $37,040 in payoffs between April 2003 and November 2006, the U.S. attorney's office said.
A second officer, Lt. Eloy Rodriguez, faces the same charges, in addition to several counts of cocaine possession and distribution.
Laredo has more than 50 licensed "game rooms" featuring eight-liners — electronic games of chance that look like slot machines. Such game rooms are not illegal, but under Texas law it is illegal for operators to pay out anything other than prizes valued at $5 or less.
A San Antonio Express-News investigation last year showed that many game rooms in Laredo dole out illegal cash awards.
As part of the plea agreement, Santos agreed to cooperate fully with federal authorities in exchange for prosecutors not opposing his expected request for a smaller sentence.
Currently, Santos faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The plea agreement stipulates that the government will request that Santos' sentencing be deferred "until all co-defendants indicted or unindicted have pled guilty."
That stipulation revives the likelihood of identifying and charging a third co-conspirator, so far unnamed, mentioned repeatedly in the original indictment.
The indictment states that on two occasions, the unnamed co-conspirator received $5,000 payments from the game room operator. At other times, Santos and Rodriguez picked up payments on the third person's behalf.
The plea agreement adds that prosecutors possess recorded conversations of Santos and Rodriguez claiming to have collected money for the unindicted co-conspirator.
The plea agreement provided more details about the two cops' plot. According to the document:
In November 2003, Rodriguez "established a relationship" with the owner of Entertainment World, one of the city's largest game rooms, who "began providing cash and benefits to Rodriguez."
Rodriguez introduced Santos to the owner — identified by city documents as "Larry" Linh Tuan Do — and Santos too began receiving cash payments from him, including many that were recorded by law enforcement. Tuan Do has not been charged.
The pair conspired to extort money from the owner, in exchange for the officers not raiding Entertainment World.
According to the document, in one recorded conversation on July 4, 2006, the owner collected money from other game room operators and paid Santos, asking him to, "Keep an eye on everything for me. Don't do anything. No raids."
"No raids," Santos replied.
haha I miss my home town... no wait, I don't.
This whole town is corrupt, this is nothing new.
And in a completly unrelated story, the Chief of police has resigned and plans to move out of the country later today.
The closest analogy I can think of is Chicago, back in the roaring 20's...