08/07/2006

Puerto Rico officers accused of going rogue for drug dealer

The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- U.S. agents are investigating allegations that rogue police officers acted as bodyguards and informants for an accused drug dealer at the center of a fast–growing political scandal in the U.S. Caribbean territory.

Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo said FBI agents are investigating whether a dozen law enforcement officers – including up to five high–ranking officials – assisted alleged gang leader Jose "Coquito" Lopez, who was shot dead last week, by providing protection and tip–offs about police raids.

The top police official made the comments as Puerto Rico’s Justice Department was investigating allegations that at least three island legislators had close ties to Lopez, who allegedly controlled the drug trade in the northeastern part of the U.S. Caribbean territory.

Two senators and one lawmaker in the House of Representatives accused of ties with Lopez have denied any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any crime. They have said they knew Lopez or his family because he hailed from their home district of Carolina, a city just outside of the capital of San Juan.

On Friday, the chief of the island’s Corrections Department submitted several sworn affidavits from penal workers alleging one of the embattled legislators, Sen. Hector Martinez, had visited island jails in the company of the alleged drug dealer during three Public Safety Commission visits in January.

Martinez has said the accusations that he had any illicit ties with Lopez were aimed at thwarting his work investigating alleged corruption by the governor’s party as head of the Senate’s safety panel.

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