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Police chief pledges probe

3d officer pleads guilty in drug plot; Davis to review other allegations

Email|Print| Text size + By Brian Ballou and Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / November 9, 2007

Hours after Boston police officer Roberto Pulido abruptly pleaded guilty to federal cocaine-trafficking charges yesterday, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis vowed to investigate other allegations of corruption that emerged during two days of testimony.

"There certainly was information that came out during the course of the trial that we have to review," Davis told reporters after giving a pep talk at the evening roll call of the motorcycle unit to which Pulido had belonged. "There will be a thorough investigation."

Davis, who became commissioner 11 months ago, declined to give specifics, but during Pulido's trial, an FBI agent testified that Pulido told an informant that a police sergeant ran gambling parties and that a patrol officer operated illegal after-hours parties.

Pulido was also heard in secretly recorded phone conversations played at the trial arranging sales of steroids to a former Boston police officer and a current officer who was later indicted in connection with the investigation.

Those disclosures, along with evidence that depicted Pulido as a rogue officer bent on using his badge for illegal profit, raised the specter of a more pervasive culture of corruption in the Boston Police Department.

Seeking to reassure the public and members of his own force, Davis met yesterday with officers in the motorcycle unit that Pulido had belonged to and delivered a stern videotaped message on the Police Department's website last night.

"I will continue to press for the strictest sanctions against police corruption, so that the excellent police work that I see every day from our offices will not be tarnished," Davis said in the message. "We will continue to vigorously and proactively identify and pursue any indications of corruption or mismanagement. . . . I reiterate: Any time misconduct is uncovered, it will be dealt with swiftly, forcefully, and aggressively."

Addressing reporters yesterday, Davis said the department learned about the allegations against other officers during its three-year investigation of Pulido and two fellow officers who pleaded guilty to avoid trials. The investigation of more widespread wrongdoing had begun before the trial, Davis said.

He said he took the accusations seriously but that the alleged misdeeds were "not anywhere near the magnitude that Pulido was involved in, so we just have to quickly and effectively finish this investigation."

Pulido, 42, pleaded guilty on the fourth day of his trial in US District Court in Boston, capping one of the most notorious Boston police corruption scandals in years.

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 sting operation that began in late 2003 and ended with the arrest of Pulido and fellow officers Nelson Carrasquillo and Carlos Pizarro in July 2006.

Pulido and the two officers who pleaded guilty plotted an audacious scheme with undercover FBI agents posing as drug dealers to protect trucks that brought 140 kilograms of government-seized cocaine to Boston.

The tapes 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 matters.

Jurors also saw a surveillance photograph of Pulido in a congratulatory embrace of an undercover agent in an Atlantic City casino after receiving a softball-sized wad of $15,000 that bulged in his pocket.

Taken together, the evidence made Pulido seem more like a made-for-television 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.

The 10-year police veteran, who had been suspended without pay, faces a prison sentence of 15 years to life when he is sentenced on Feb. 6.

"Our first impulse was to fight, and we had every intention to do that, but in the end we decided to make a different turn for my client," said Pulido's lawyer, Rudolph F. Miller. "He was looking at 30 years to life in prison, and because of that, we had to take a different direction."

Asked whether he had negotiated with prosecutors, Miller said, "No, they wanted his blood."

Miller said he visited Pulido in prison at 10 on Wednesday night, sat at a table with him, and they agreed that Pulido would plead guilty. Pulido was particularly concerned about the effect of the trial on his elderly mother, Miller said. "He is a man who cares about his mother and is concerned about the toll this trial would have on his mother, and that was a huge factor in his deciding to plead guilty."

Miller said he would have been able to disprove much of the evidence that prosecutors presented in court, including allegations that Pulido used Police Department computers to obtain personal information of motorists he stopped as part of his alleged identity theft scams.

Prosecutors took satisfaction in the plea. "This was an appropriate end to a very sordid case," said Assistant US Attorney John T. McNeil. "I've worked with Boston police officers virtually my entire federal career and continue to work with them, and virtually every single one of them have expressed disgust about Roberto Pulido and Nelson Carrasquillo and Carlos Pizarro. . . . These people represent a very small minority of an otherwise very good department."

Although Miller had contended in his opening statement that Pulido was a victim of entrapment, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said in a statement that that assertion "withered quickly under the stunning breadth and depth of his own criminal conduct."

Sullivan said he hopes Pulido goes to prison for more than 20 years when US District Judge William G. Young sentences him.

Only one witness testified at trial, an FBI agent named Kevin Constantine. Under questioning by McNeil, he described the undercover recordings and surveillance photographs.

In his testimony, Constantine said that Pulido told an informant that Sergeant Mark Vickers ran gambling parties. He also testified that Officer Gerrard Lett held after-hours parties in competition with Pulido. Vickers and Lett are still on the force. Calls to both officers' homes were not returned.

A former Boston police officer, Noel Docanto, was heard discussing buying steroids from Pulido on a tape.

So was another officer, Edgardo Rodriguez, who was later indicted on federal charges in connection with the investigation and is awaiting trial. He has been suspended without pay.

One of the other tapes played for jurors proved prophetic.

Shortly after he embarked on the scheme to protect truckloads of cocaine bound for Massachusetts in 2006, Pulido said his father had always warned him of the dangers of playing both sides of the fence.

"Don't [expletive] try to be . . . super cop and super crook at the same time, because it don't work," Pulido recalled.

Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com; Saltzman at jsaltzman@globe.com.

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