CONCORD, N.H. — A former Manchester police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to misprision of a felony following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
Under federal law, it is unlawful for anyone who has knowledge of the commission of a federal felony to conceal the crime and withhold information about it from federal authorities.
Joseph Cespedes, 37, a Manchester police officer at the time of the HSI investigation, was associating with an individual in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who was the target of a separate drug- related investigation. Federal investigators discovered that the targeted drug dealer enlisted Cespedes to run criminal records checks on certain stolen identities to determine whether they were clear of outstanding arrest warrants. Cespedes ran the criminal records checks through unwitting Manchester Police Department dispatchers. When those criminal records checks came back negative, Cespedes sold that information to the drug dealer for $350.00 and a small quantity of cocaine. Rather than report the drug dealer's activities to the proper authorities, Cespedes affirmatively concealed that felonious conduct.
HSI shared the results of its investigation with the FBI, who, in turn, shared it with the Manchester Police Department. Within days, Cespedes preemptively resigned from the Manchester Police Department, ostensibly for reasons unrelated to this investigation. Despite his resignation, the investigation into his activities continued. During a subsequent interview conducted by federal investigators and Manchester police, Cespedes admitted his association with the drug dealer and his illegal conduct on the drug dealer's behalf.
U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas said, "I want to commend HSI, the FBI and the Manchester Police Department for their joint efforts in bringing this rogue former police officer to justice. His illegal conduct is a betrayal not only to the community he was sworn to serve but also to the officers of the Manchester Police Department with whom he served. His guilty plea today is a testament to the determination of law enforcement and this office to find, deter, and punish criminals regardless of their status or occupation."
Cespedes faces up to three years in federal prison and a possible fine of $250,000.00. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4.
The case was investigated by HSI, the FBI, and the Manchester Police Department.