Pretending to be cocaine traffickers, undercover &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/usa/2001/12/25/24428.html ' target=_blank>FBI agents in Arizona snared 16 current and former law enforcement officers and U.S. soldiers who accepted more than $222,000 in bribes to help move the drugs past checkpoints, the government said Thursday.
Those charged include a former Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector, a former Army sergeant, a former federal prison guard, seven members of the Arizona Army National Guard, five members of the Arizona Department of Corrections and a police officer, officials said.
All 16 agreed to plead guilty to being part of a bribery and corruption conspiracy, said Noel Hillman, a Justice Department official.
Eleven defendants entered guilty pleas Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court, acknowledging that they used their positions as uniformed public figures to assist in transporting cocaine for people they believed to be &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/cis/2002/09/20/36964.html ' target=_blank>drug traffickers, tells the Guardian Unlimited.
Those who pleaded guilty were freed on their own recognizance. Justice Department prosecutor John W. Scott said all probably would start out facing sentences of 34 to 36 months for a single conspiracy count, but that the sentences could be less depending on the defendants' cooperation. He said he would ask for an indefinite delay in sentencing.
The defendants in the nearly 3 1/2-year-long sting were not arrested and agreed to cooperate with an investigation expected to bring more arrests and involve people from additional agencies, said Hillman and FBI Agent Jana D. Monroe, who is in charge of the bureau's operations in Arizona.
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