Roberto "Kiko" Pulido, the rogue Boston police officer who enlisted two fellow motorcycle patrolmen in a brazen scheme to escort and protect cocaine shipments into the city, was sentenced yesterday to 26 years in federal prison by a judge who said he had disgraced his profession.
"The people who wear that badge have a sense of honor," US District Judge William G. Young said, glaring 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."
A federal prosecutor, who described Pulido in court yesterday as a "jack of all crimes," requested the 26-year sentence. Pulido's public defender said the former officer's crimes had been fueled by steroid abuse and urged a sentence of no more than 20 years.
Pulido, who abruptly pleaded guilty to drug traf ficking and conspiracy charges in the middle of his trial last November, apologized to both the Boston Police Department and his former force, the MBTA Transit Police Department.
"It was my lifelong goal to be a Boston police officer," said Pulido, 43, clad in a khaki jumpsuit and white sneakers, reading a handwritten statement in a soft voice. "No one is more disappointed than I am in myself."
Relatives and supporters of the former officer filled two rows of seats in the courtroom. Most wore white T-shirts emblazoned with "Kiko We Love You" above a photograph of a smiling Pulido.
Michael K. Loucks, first assistant US attorney in Massachusetts, said later that Pulido "deserves every second of that sentence."
Pulido is the third and final police officer to be punished for the drug trafficking scheme, and he got the longest sentence by far. The case also led to the conviction of another Boston officer on charges of distributing steroids; it also spawned an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into allegations of steroid use by police and illegal after-hour parties purportedly attended by officers. No additional charges have resulted yet from that probe.
"Today's sentencing of Roberto Pulido closes a sad chapter for the Boston Police Department," Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said in a prepared statement. His officers, he said, "find Pulido's actions despicable and the punishment fitting."
Given federal sentencing guidelines, it was almost a foregone conclusion Pulido would be sentenced to at least two decades in federal prison. The focus of the hearing was to determine whether he deserved more because of other circumstances, including the prominence of his role in the conspiracy compared with the roles of his two codefendants, Nelson Carrasquillo and Carlos Pizarro. Carrasquillo received a sentence of 18 years in prison, Pizarro 13 years. All three officers were assigned to a police motorcycle unit.
Assistant US Attorney John T. McNeil argued that Pulido emerged as the organizer of the criminal enterprise in at least two dozen secretly tape-recorded conversations that the defendant had with other officers, a cooperating witness, and FBI agents posing as drug dealers between 2003 and 2006.
On the tapes, some of which were played for jurors in the abbreviated trial, a swaggering, expletive-spewing Pulido is heard arranging transactions involving cocaine, steroids, and fraudulently obtained store gift cards. He is also heard boasting of beating up people and setting up after-hours parties at which officers allegedly consorted with known drug dealers and prostitutes. Pulido was not charged in many of those schemes.
The tapes paint a picture of a man who was so thoroughly corrupt that no crime was too small for him and literally no crime was too big for him, McNeil said. He added that Pulido's misdeeds spread like a cancer on the entire Boston Police Department.
Miriam Conrad, the federal defender who represented Pulido, conceded that the former officer had the biggest role in the plot to bring cocaine to Boston. But, she said, he was nothing more than the hired help of undercover FBI agents conducting a sting.
She urged Young to "look at Mr. Pulido the man, not just his crime." Pulido, she said, is a Marine Corps Reserve veteran and has supported six children. In recent months, he also counseled a fellow detainee at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., who was despondent about drug and alcohol problems, she said.
Young was unswayed. He said Pulido had sought out a life in crime and had no conception of what it meant to be a police officer.
"A famous man once said that duty is the noblest word in the English language," Young said. "You have no sense of duty."
Pulido and his codefendants plotted an audacious scheme to protect trucks that brought 140 kilograms of cocaine to Boston in two shipments in the spring of 2006. The three officers did not know that the men they were involved with 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 to prevent authorities from interfering with a transfer of 40 kilograms of cocaine that took place at a garage on Washington Street, prosecutors said.
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 Boston, prosecutors said.
The officers were paid a total of $71,000 by FBI agents posing as drug dealers.
The three officers were arrested in Miami in July 2006 by federal agents. 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.
Pulido pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of heroin, plus 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 during a drug trafficking crime. He will get credit for the almost two years he has spent in jail.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story that ran on Page One on May 17 on the sentencing of Roberto Pulido incorrectly described the duties of one of three former Boston police officers convicted of participating in a scheme to protect cocaine shipments into the city. Carlos Pizarro was a patrolman in District D-4, not a member of the motorcycle unit.