(NJ.com) A veteran Jersey City police officer pleaded guilty today to stealing some 600,000 cigarettes from a trailer parked at a Secaucus warehouse by federal agents who were watching as the crime played out.
The officer, Mario Rodriguez, 39, also admitted extorting $20,000 from an FBI agent posing as a drug courier who was robbed of cash from a cocaine deal, Newark federal prosecutors say.
Rodriguez, who used the nickname “Mad Dog,” faces up to 30 years in prison following his guilty plea today in U.S. District Court to charges of extortion and transporting stolen goods.
Rodriquez remains suspended from the Jersey City Police Department where he had worked for nearly nine years.
(See how busy these cops are keeping me; governmentondrugs.blogspot.com)
His attorney, Brian Neary, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Federal prosecutors say that on July 3, 2013, Rodriguez and a confidential informant working for the FBI drove to a Secaucus warehouse where they used bolt cutters to cut the lock off a trailer packed with cigarettes that had been left there by law enforcement agents.
Together, they unloaded 50 cases containing 600,000 cigarettes and six televisions into their car and drove to a parking lot in Staten Island where Rodriguez called potential buyers for the TVs, prosecutors say.
There, they also met an undercover officer pretending to be the informant’s partner who paid $5,000 for the load of cigarettes, prosecutors say. Rodriguez kept $3,000 and three of the televisions, they say.
The following week, Rodriguez, the informant and an undercover officer, hatched a plan to rob a drug courier after he delivered cocaine to the officer and the informant, prosecutors say.
Rodriguez suggested a Jersey City mall parking lot that did not have surveillance cameras, prosecutors say.
Later that same day, Rodriguez and an alleged accomplice, Anthony Roman, drove to the mall lot where the informant and the drug courier – also an undercover officer -- were parked, according to a statement issued by New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Rodriguez and Roman, identifying themselves as police officers, pretended to arrest the informant and took $20,000 that was stuffed into a plastic bag, prosecutors say.
All the while, law enforcement officers were watching, prosecutors say.
Rodriguez, the informant and the undercover officer later met up in a Pennsylvania casino to divvy up the cash, prosecutors say.
Roman 48, of Jersey City, has been charged with extortion. That charge is pending.
Rodriguez’s sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 26, 2014 before U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson.