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Puerto Rico police officers admit crime ring roles

August 26, 2014

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Sixteen former police officers in Puerto Rico have admitted to operating what amounted to a criminal enterprise in the U.S. island territory, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

The ex-officers have pleaded guilty to charges that include robbery, extortion, manipulating court records in exchanging bribes and selling narcotics while members of a police force that has been under scrutiny for corruption and human rights violations.

Thirteen of the officers were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act following an FBI investigation, the department said in a statement.

Authorities say that as recently as 2012 the officers worked together to steal from people during traffic stops and home searches, dividing up the proceeds among themselves. They would also plant evidence to make false arrests and then extort money from the victims in exchange for helping to get the charges dropped. They also sold “wholesale” quantities of drugs, the statement said.

Sentencing for the former officers is scheduled to start in December. They face a range of sentences, from about three years in prison to more than 11 years.

The department has been operating under a 10-year federally mandated oversight program since 2011 because of corruption and civil rights violations.