A federal trial opened in New Orleans this week for a veteran Houston police officer accused of supplying the “tools of the trade” — high-powered weapons, bullet-proof armor and even police scanners — to a violent Mexican drug cartel that smuggled thousands of pounds of narcotics into southeastern Louisiana and other parts of the country.
The former officer, Noe Juarez, has been charged with conspiring with drug traffickers to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and with providing an array of firearms and vehicles to the violent criminal syndicate known as Los Zetas. He has denied the charges and insisted he never knowingly sold weapons to drug dealers.
Juarez, who has been held without bail, requested his proceedings be transferred to Houston, contending he never set foot in New Orleans during the alleged conspiracy and noting that his family and many of the witnesses he intends to call live in Texas.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance denied that motion last year, pointing out that the government’s investigation began in Houma.
Prosecutors on Tuesday portrayed Juarez as a rogue cop who betrayed his oath and for years sought to exploit his role in law enforcement for personal gain.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched a wide-ranging probe nearly a decade ago into a drug trafficking organization that had been supplying drugs to a street gang in Terrebonne Parish known as UBB, or “Up Da Bayou Boyz.”
Authorities traced the cocaine to Efrain and Sergio Grimaldo, brothers who headed up a distribution cell for Los Zetas out of Monterrey, Mexico. Sergio Grimaldo turned state’s evidence, while Efrain, who authorities say surgically altered his fingerprints to conceal his identity, was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 33 years in federal prison.
According to the DEA, the cartel forged a relationship with Juarez and relied on him to provide sensitive law enforcement data, including license plate numbers and names of investigators.
The officer is also accused of teaching traffickers various ways to detect police surveillance.
“DEA also learned that Juarez, for a fee, would run license plates and names for drug traffickers because the conspirators were concerned they were the subject of surveillance by rival drug dealers or law enforcement officers,” Agent William Johnson III wrote in an affidavit.
Prosecutors alleged in court filings that Juarez was involved in other drug-trafficking activity in Texas even as he wore the Houston Police Department uniform, “thereby giving him some cover to appear to be acting in a police role in public, while actually advancing the objectives of illegal conspiracies.”
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