Feds charge cop with tipping off drug dealers

Posted: August 02, 2012

THAT PESKY surveillance camera on a telephone pole was pointed right at a garage in Kensington where some suspicious activity was transpiring.

According to the feds, police officer Rafael Cordero felt a filial duty to inform his half-brother, David Garcia, who was being investigated by federal drug agents, about the camera. Federal prosecutors said the garage, on Indiana Avenue near Hartville Street, was being used in a drug-trafficking operation.

"That f---ing camera is facing down that street," Cordero told Garcia, according to prosecutors. They said Cordero told his kin about the abilities of the camera: "They're strong, especially in the daytime."

Later that evening, when it was dark, a leader of the drug organization had three vehicles and three firearms removed from the garage, prosecutors said.

Cordero was charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal agents for allegedly passing along sensitive law-enforcement information about a federal investigation of the Christian Serrano and Edwin Medina drug-trafficking organizations.

Cordero, 51, of Rhawnhurst, who was assigned to the department's Criminal Intelligence Unit, pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate Wednesday and was released on $50,000 personal-recognizance bond.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon said Cordero, a 23-year veteran of the force, was an "incredibly decorated" officer who "risked his life going undercover" to make drug busts. "The only reason he's here is he has a brother who didn't take the same course in life," McMahon said. "To think he would do anything to compromise an investigation is just not true, and that's not what he did."

Garcia, Medina, Serrano and 10 others were charged with drug offenses in January. Garcia allegedly worked for the Medina organization and kept the corner of Swanson and Somerset streets supplied with heroin obtained from the Serrano drug ring, the indictment said.

Authorities said the FBI and DEA searched the garage and several other locations associated with the two drug-trafficking organizations on July 21, 2011. After learning of the searches, Cordero went to the garage to snoop around and didn't identify himself to investigators as a cop, they said. He later allegedly told Garcia details of the investigation, the indictment said.

Because of the tip-off, authorities said, Garcia removed surveillance footage from the garage that investigators had failed to seize.

Authorities also said that between January and July 2011, Cordero permitted Garcia to store drug proceeds at Cordero's home. After Garcia was arrested by the DEA on July 27, 2011, Cordero allegedly had his brother, identified as E.C., take possession of the money, further obstructing justice.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Cordero will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss. Cordero is the 46th Philadelphia police officer to face criminal charges since 2009.

Another officer, three-year force member Aisha Pleasant, was also charged Wednesday. She was accused of assaulting an Atlantic City cop.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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