A 15th Baltimore Police officer has been charged by federal prosecutors in the continuing fallout of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal.
Victor Rivera, who retired in March after nearly 26 years with the department, was charged through criminal information Wednesday with lying to federal investigators about selling cocaine, which they say had been swiped from a reported record-setting cocaine seizure of 41 kilograms in 2009.
[ [Gun Trace Task Force Overview] ]
Rivera had been implicated last month, when prosecutors charged another officer in connection with that incident. The charging document in that case said “V.R.” sold cocaine to one of his confidential informants, and received the proceeds and shared them with detectives Ivo Louvado and Keith Gladstone.
Rivera’s take, according to federal prosecutors, was $20,000. He faces a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in prison.
Louvado was charged with lying to the FBI about the case last month; Gladstone pleaded guilty in early 2019 with planting a BB gun in 2014 to help justify another officer running down a man with his vehicle.
Prosecutors say Rivera sat for an interview with the FBI in November 2019, and denied bringing the drugs to his informant and splitting the proceeds.
[ [Convicted Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force ringleader speaks out, denies taking money or planting evidence] ]
The charges are the latest in the long-running federal corruption probe that started with a 2015 wiretap investigation of a drug crew in Northeast Baltimore by suburban police officers. Investigators began looking into a city police officer affiliated with the crew, and broadened the case to his entire unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, who were found to be robbing citizens, conducting illegal searches and collecting fraudulent overtime pay.
The takedown of those officers has led to several years of probing into historic corruption.
The 2009 cocaine seizure is the oldest incident to result in charges. At the time, the Police Department billed the bust as the largest in the agency’s history without federal assistance. The department spread the drugs out on a table for the media, and later gave the officers an award for their efforts.
Three kilograms of cocaine were missing, federal prosecutors now say.
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Wayne Jenkins, the eventual leader of the Gun Trace Task Force and who is now serving 25 years in prison, wrote in court papers along with Detective Craig Jester that they had received information in late 2008 that someone named “Chuck” had been supplying dealers on the west side. The officers said they knew “Chuck” was a nickname for a man named Trenell Murphy, and that he lived on Presstman Street. In February 2009, the officers set up surveillance.
After searching Murphy’s home and finding no drugs, the officers said they turned their attention to Murphy’s truck parked outside. They lifted an unsecured cover on the back of the truck and found cocaine before applying for a search warrant, but never mentioned their sneak peek when seeking permission to search the vehicle.
The officers later admitted looking in the truck, and claimed Murphy had led them to the drugs to spare his family from getting “into trouble for something he did,” they wrote in their report.
The officers submitted 41 kilograms as evidence, but Louvado, Gladstone and “V.R.” later found three more kilograms that were left behind in the transport van, the new charges say. It is not clear whether it was an oversight or intentional.
“Rather than turn this cocaine into BPD, Rivera, K.G. and I.L. agreed to sell the cocaine and split the proceeds from its sale," the charging document says. “Rivera sold the cocaine to a confidential informant of his who trafficked in cocaine. The source proceeded to sell the cocaine in Baltimore City. Rivera received the proceeds of the sale from his source and then shared them with K.G. and I.L.”
Prosecutors previously have said Louvado received $10,000 from the sale. Gladstone has not been charged in connection with the case, and has not been sentenced yet for the charges he pleaded guilty to.
Murphy had his federal sentence of 20 years reduced by five years in February 2019, after a joint motion by prosecutors and Murphy’s defense attorney. He is due to be released next January.