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04/11/2011

Former Laredo police officer sentenced to nearly 25 years in federal prison for drug trafficking and firearms convictions

LAREDO, Texas - A former local police officer was sentenced Monday to almost 25 years in federal prison without parole for drug trafficking and using a firearm in relation to the drug trafficking offense, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by the FBI in coordination with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Orlando Jesus Hale, 28, a former Laredo Police Department (LPD) officer, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez on April 11 to 235 months for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine between Oct. 15, 2008 and Nov. 30, 2008. He also received a consecutive 60-month prison term for using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and possessing the firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking crime in November 2008 for a total of 295 months or 24 years and seven months imprisonment. Immediately following Monday's sentencing hearing, Judge Alvarez ordered Hale into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving his sentence pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future. In addition to the terms of imprisonment, Hale was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, and to serve a five-year-term of supervised release upon release from prison. Hale had been free on bond until this sentencing hearing.

According to court documents, Hale was convicted following a jury trial in September 2010 of conspiring with another Laredo Police Officer, Pedro Martinez III, to escort cocaine-loaded vehicles through Laredo, Texas, and using their police-issued radios to monitor Laredo Police Department dispatch traffic during the escort. The firearms conviction is a result of Hale carrying a firearm during a meeting at a hotel in Laredo at which the co-conspirators discussed the details of the planned escorts with each other, and with an FBI undercover agent whom they believed was a drug trafficker.

During the trial, evidence was presented proving that Hale and fellow LPD officer, Pedro Martinez III, met with an FBI undercover agent posing as a drug dealer in a Laredo hotel room on Nov. 7, 2008. During the recorded meeting, Hale and Martinez discussed how the two officers could escort loads of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) each of cocaine from south to north Laredo using their personal vehicles and police-issued radios to monitor dispatch traffic.

On Nov. 13, 2008, first Martinez, then Hale, each escorted a load vehicle during afternoon rush-hour traffic. Each vehicle contained 20 kilograms of sham cocaine. On Nov. 25, Hale and Martinez arranged to meet the payoff person in San Antonio, Texas, to be paid for their protective escort services. Hale and Martinez each received $1,000 from another undercover agent posing as the organization's moneyman. Martinez, who pleaded guilty prior to trial, testified against Hale at trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.