Drug Courier Pleads Guilty in NYC Police Corruption Case
NEW YORK (AP) -- A drug courier at the heart of a police corruption scandal pleaded guilty to a narcotics conspiracy charge Monday after signing a deal with prosecutors.
Christian Joel Hernandez told a judge in federal court in Brooklyn that he had been shuttling cocaine and money among Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens for Colombian drug dealers for at least three years.
He was caught in November, when a federal surveillance team spotted him carrying $169,000 in cash through Queens. The surveillance was interrupted when the federal agents spotted police Detective Julio Vasquez and his former partner, Thomas Rachko, stopping Hernandez and taking his money.
The agents determined that Rachko and Vasquez were not working in any official police capacity. The veteran detectives were arrested, and at least 10 other current and former police officers, all one-time members of the same narcotics task force, have been implicated in the theft of drugs and drug money.
Facing a federal indictment, Vasquez and Rachko began cooperating with investigators. The widening investigation has embarrassed the nation's largest police department and threatened to tarnish its war on drugs.
Vasquez and Rachko pleaded innocent last month to charges including money laundering, narcotics conspiracy and lying to federal agents.
Prosecutors and Hernandez' attorney declined to comment on the terms of his deal.