A Prince George's County police officer accused of using his powers to protect illegal shipments of liquor and cigarettes has pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a federal court Wednesday.
Sgt. Richard Delabrer faces more than 20 years behind bars.
Delabrer allegedly used his authority to cover-up the illegal shipments for the owner of Tick Tock Liquors in Langley Park.
Federal prosecutors say the smuggling was uncovered during the investigation of former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson.
Delabrer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, arising from a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol and cigarettes.
The office of United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein issued a statement with the following details:
"According to Delabrer's plea agreement, in June 2009, a co-conspirator began discussing with a source and an undercover agent working with the FBI, the transport and sale of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol across state lines. Shortly thereafter, the co-conspirator introduced Delabrer to the source and undercover agent as a police officer who could protect the shipments of contraband cigarettes and alcohol.
"By July 2009, Delabrer began protecting loads of untaxed alcohol that the source brought from Virginia into Maryland to sell to a retail liquor store in Prince George's County. Delabrer followed the vehicle transporting the liquor while possessing his police identification and police-issued firearm. Delabrer assured the undercover agent that he would be armed to protect against robberies. Delabrer was observed possessing one or more firearms while dealing with the source and undercover agent. On another occasion, the undercover agent observed two handguns in the trunk of Delabrer's unmarked police car. Delabrer was paid cash for his protection activities.
"Delabrer also sold the contraband alcohol to another conspirator who had interests in numerous ventures, including liquor stores in Prince George's County and elsewhere. Delabrer worked part-time for the owner, providing security at one of the businesses. Delabrer initially served as a go-between, coordinating the sale of contraband liquor from the undercover agent to the owner. Eventually, Delabrer introduced the undercover agent to the owner, who began transacting the shipment of illicit goods directly with the undercover agent. During the course of the conspiracy, Delabrer, the owner and the other conspirator paid the undercover agent $116,505 for the contraband alcohol they purchased.
"Shortly after Delabrer began protecting the alcohol shipments, he also began buying contraband cigarettes from the undercover agent and re-selling the illicit goods to other persons. Delabrer would travel to Virginia to pick up a rented truck that had been loaded with the contraband cigarettes by the undercover agent, and drove the loads to a storage unit in Maryland.
"The conspirators conducted at least 33 illicit transactions with the undercover agent and the source involving the sale of contraband cigarettes and/or alcohol. Delabrer was involved in each transaction. The first cigarette transaction on July 23, 2009 involved a shipment of 14 master cases, each containing at least 12,000 cigarettes. The largest shipment, on November 6, 2009, involved 160 master cases. Altogether, Delabrer and his conspirators paid the undercover agent $1,770,230 for 1,420 master cases of contraband cigarettes, for a total of more than 17 million contraband cigarettes. The tax loss attributable to Delabrer relating to the illegal cigarette trafficking is $2,820,120: based upon unpaid taxes of $1,704,000 owed to Maryland, $255,600 owed to Virginia, and $860,520 owed to the federal government. The tax loss to Maryland attributable to the shipment and sale of contraband liquor was approximately $15,000.
"Delabrer faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for the extortion conspiracy; and a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to life, for the gun offense. Additionally, as part of his plea agreement, Delabrer has agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture in the amount of $2,820,120. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
"On May 19, 2011, Jose Moreno, age 50, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to his participation in the extortion conspiracy. Moreno drove truckloads of contraband cigarettes from Virginia to Maryland in return for money, and helped unload and store the contraband at pre-determined locations. Moreno faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing scheduled for July 21, 2011, at 9:30 a.m."