A former Baltimore Police officer who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about stealing and selling cocaine in 2009 — a case that was uncovered in the fallout of the Gun Trace Task Force corruption case — revealed that he cooperated with two outside investigations of the scandal.
Victora Rivera, a 26-year veteran who retired in 2019, sat for lengthy interviews with the state Commission to Restore Trust in Policing, which issued its report in December, and the Baltimore Police Department’s own outside investigation led by former Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Bromwich. Rivera spoke of his misconduct “and about the misconduct of others,” his attorney said.
But federal prosecutors are asking that he receive a longer prison sentence than the sentencing guidelines range, which calls for probation or up to six months incarceration. Prosecutors say such a sentence would be far less than others convicted in the case, and asked for a sentence of two years.
Rivera, of Nottingham, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about the 2009 cocaine theft, which occurred too long ago and thus outside of the statute of limitations to be charged on its own. Rivera admitted that after officers in his squad made a record drug bust of more than 40 kilograms, he took three kilograms and gave it to an informant to sell on the street.
He and the informant split tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds along with two other officers, Keith Gladstone and Ivo Louvado. Both officers have pleaded guilty; neither has been sentenced.
Rivera’s “unlawful action to provide false information, or to conceal or cover up material facts, during voluntary interviews with federal law enforcement, were motivated by a desperate, misguided desire to shield his family and fellow officers from his own failures,” wrote defense attorney Stephen B. Mercer. “From that very difficult place and time, Mr. Rivera has struggled to reconcile his life-long desire to be a ‘good cop’ with his criminal actions.”
In its report, the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing said only one officer had cooperated with its investigation, but did not identify the person. Rivera said he voluntarily spoke with the commission, describing “in strong detail a timeline of events that culminated in the integrity test that he failed.”
In a letter cited in Rivera’s sentencing memorandum, Peter Keith, an attorney who led the commission’s work, said: “Mr. Rivera described in detail for the Commission his unlawful misconduct. He also identified for the Commission others who had engaged in misconduct. He apologized for his misbehavior, expressed remorse for his actions, and his remorse appeared to me to be genuine and heartfelt. He freely acknowledged that ‘my integrity was tested and I failed.’”
Mercer said Rivera told Bromwich “about every aspect of his career experiences, about the personal struggles that impacted his decision making and life choices, about his own misconduct, and about the misconduct of others.”
Mercer added that Rivera donated $20,000 — the same amount he took as his cut from the cocaine sale — from his retirement to the Helping Up Mission in East Baltimore.
Rivera declined to be interviewed through his attorney.
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise said that the sentencing guidelines fail to capture the seriousness of what Rivera did, and responded with a sentencing memo asking for two years. He noted that no one convicted in the Gun Trace Task Force case and its fallout have received less than 24 months in prison.
“A Defendant who stole and sold a large quantity of drugs and then lied about it to federal law enforcement should not be the first,” Wise wrote.
The maximum penalty for his charges is 10 years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines take factors into account including prior criminal history and acceptance of responsibility.
Court records indicate that Rivera’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 26, though Wise wrote in his court filing Friday that that could change.
The charges against Rivera grew out of the Gun Trace Task Force investigation, in which a squad of plainclothes officers were charged with robbing citizens, stealing drugs, taking unearned overtime pay and lying on official documents. Those officers received between seven and 25 years in prison.
Federal authorities learned about Rivera’s theft of the drugs during their investigation, and later charged Gladstone with planting a BB gun on a man in 2014 after he was run over by one of the eventual task force officers. Following Gladstone’s charges and guilty plea, Louvado and Rivera were charged with lying to investigators about the 2009 cocaine theft.
Neither Gladstone, Louvado or Rivera ever worked in the Gun Trace Task Force, but they were part of the department’s plainclothes enforcement units hailed over the years as key to the agency’s crime-fighting strategies.