Corrupt Puerto Rico Police Officer Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison

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Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that WILLIAM VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, a former member of the Puerto Rico Police Department (“PRPD”), was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman to 30 years in prison. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ previously pled guilty to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy and one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit murder for hire, in connection with his agreement to assist a drug-trafficking organization that shipped drugs to New York and distributed them from a Bronx daycare center.  

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “William Vazquez Baez abused his position as a police officer to help a vicious drug organization distribute massive amounts of cocaine and massacre citizens he had sworn to protect. Today Vazquez-Baez was rightly sentenced to 30 years in prison for his horrific crimes.”

According to the Indictment, other filings in this case, and statements during court proceedings:

From approximately 1994 until his arrest in connection with this case in May 2017, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ was an active police officer with the PRPD. From in or about 2004 until in or about 2016, members of La ONU distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine, including cocaine that was shipped from Puerto Rico to New York and then distributed out of a Bronx daycare center, and protected their territory and trade through numerous acts of violence. Members of La ONU paid VAZQUEZ-BAEZ a salary to corruptly use his position as a police officer to further the interests of La ONU. For example, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ provided narcotics and intelligence, including information obtained from the police narcotics unit. Members of La ONU would also contact VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, among others, when transporting large quantities of cocaine within the San Juan, Puerto Rico area to ensure the shipment avoided areas of police activity.  VAZQUEZ-BAEZ also distributed payments to other corrupt police officers who assisted La ONU.

VAZQUEZ-BAEZ also assisted La ONU in acts of violence:

In or about 2006 or 2007, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ alerted La ONU members that Freddy Mendez-Rivera, a local resident, had complained to police about drug dealing occurring in his neighborhood, which led to members of La ONU kidnapping and then killing Mendez-Rivera.  Around the same time, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ alerted a senior member of La ONU that the kidnapping was being reported over the police radio. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ advised that, because the fact that Mendez-Rivera had spoken with the police was known throughout the Carolina Narcotics division, it was important that the body never be discovered. When later updated about what had happened, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ laughed and remarked, in substance, that Mendez-Rivera would not be giving the police information any further.

On or about May 9, 2007, members of La ONU hired VAZQUEZ-BAEZ to participate in the murder of Anthony Castro-Carrillo in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in exchange for a cash bonus. VAZQUEZ-BAEZ and members of La ONU stormed Castro-Carrillo’s residence while dressed as police officers and shot and killed him.

In or about 2007, VAZQUEZ-BAEZ delivered a confidential informant, who was in VAZQUEZ-BAEZ’s custody, to members of La ONU, who pretended to be other police officers. Those members of La ONU then shot and killed the informant.

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In addition to the prison term, Judge Furman sentenced VAZQUEZ-BAEZ, 53, of Puerto Rico, to three years of supervised release.

Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the New York City Police Department.  Mr. Williams also thanked the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Department for their support in this ongoing investigation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie E. Bagliebter, Jacob R. Fiddelman, Lara Pomerantz, Justin V. Rodriguez, and Andrew Thomas are in charge of the prosecution.

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