- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A former Prince George’s County police officer admitted to organizing the sale of black-market cigarettes and alcohol and using his authority as a police officer to protect the shipments.

Richard Delabrer, who retired from the police department after he was charged in November, pleaded guilty Wednesday 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. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the gun offense, but a sentence of 10 to 12 years is more likely based on sentencing guidelines, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.

“Crimes like this are particularly egregious,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “He not only provided protection for this conspiracy but also facilitated the transactions.”

While a large number of police officers attended Delabrer’s initial hearings in court to offer their support, they were absent as the 20-year department veteran entered his plea.

The scheme cost the state and federal governments about $2.8 million in taxes, prosecutors said. Six other people, including the husband and wife owners of Tick Tock Liquors in Hyattsville, also were arrested in November and face similar charges as part of an ongoing and wide-ranging federal corruption probe that also resulted in charges against former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson.

Delabrer initially acted as a go-between who coordinated sales of illegal liquor and cigarettes, but he eventually began buying the black-market items and selling them, according to his plea agreement. He used his police-issued gun, cellphone and unmarked police car to arrange the purchases and protect shipments as they were moved across state lines.

Wiretaps on Delabrer’s police-issued cellphone captured conversations detailing the crimes, while an undercover FBI agent acted as a buyer for Delabrer and the others from about June 2009 to January 2010, prosecutors said.

The 46-year-old police officer traveled with the untaxed cigarettes and alcohol from Virginia to a storage unit in Maryland at least 33 times, prosecutors said.

No sentencing date has been set.

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