Wearing a black-and-white striped prison outfit, former Chicago police officer Antonio Martinez Jr. admitted Friday morning that he used his badge to help steal drugs, guns and money from people in Illinois and Indiana for the Latin Kings.
“Do you agree you abused your position of trust as a Chicago police officer?” U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano asked Martinez in U.S. District Court in Hammond.
“Yes, I do, your honor,” Martinez answered.
Martinez, 40, described how co-defendant Sisto Bernal would give orders to him and his partner, Alex Guerrero, to shake down competing drug dealers and rival gang members by using their badges to coerce their way into homes and to pull over vehicles under the ruse of a legal traffic stop. Bernal would pay them in return for the stolen goods, Martinez said.
Guerrero, 41, who is also charged in the case, and Bernal have both pleaded not guilty.
“Yeah, basically my partner and I used our position of authority … to not only facilitate but conduct various acts of criminal conduct,” he said.
The men, along with 18 other defendants, were charged last month with conspiracy to racketeer along with numerous other drug, weapons and murder charges. Martinez reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to one count each of racketeering, conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, using violence to interfere with commerce and carrying a gun during a crime of violence.
He faces between 15 years and life in prison on the charges, according to the plea agreement. Prosecutors will recommend, however, that he receive the minimum under federal sentencing guidelines, which will be established later. Martinez has agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick also described Martinez’s crimes, adding that he at various times collected drugs from Lake County, Ind., and would then give them to Bernal and co-defendant Alexander Vargas, 34, of Highland, Ind. On at least one occasion, Nozick said, Martinez went with Bernal to give the drugs to customers.
He also helped steal drugs from a warehouse in Rockford, and rob numerous homes in Lake County, including the home of James Walsh in December 2006. Walsh, who was a leader of the rival Latin Dragons gang, was shot to death outside a Griffith restaurant a few months later. Prosecutors claim Vargas ordered the shooting in retaliation for his brother’s death.
Martinez admitted he wore his Chicago Police badge and bulletproof vest, and used his department-issued gun, when committing the crimes, which included the armed robbery of a marijuana trafficker during a Chicago traffic stop; the armed robbery of a drug trafficker in East Chicago, Ind.; the armed robbery of a drug trafficker near South Massasoit Avenue in Chicago; and the armed robbery of a drug trafficker in Chicago while the trafficker and leader of the Latin Kings were conducting a drug deal, prosecutors said.
He also admitted to the armed robbery of a woman at her Hammond home during which two guns were stolen.
Nozick added that Martinez would often commit his crimes while he was on the clock as a Chicago cop.
Lozano set a sentencing date for June 14, although he said it would likely be postponed if the rest of the co-defendants’ cases are not wrapped up by then.
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles