"Career offender" gets 25 years for drug and weapon offenses

Posted: October 14, 2012

Criminal investigations can be oddly serendipitous, leading agents in unpredictable directions.

Take the case of Angel Maldonado. When U.S. Postal Service inspectors tracked a package of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Maldonado's North Philadelphia home in April 2010, they believed they were closing in on a drug dealer.

But they also discovered clues to a fraud that ultimately collapsed the Borinquen Federal Credit Union, an established North Philadelphia institution, and led to the arrest of its manager.

The backstory of that tip emerged for the first time on Friday, when Maldonado, 40, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick called him a career offender who showed little promise of rehabilitation.

The agents who raided Maldonado's house two years ago also found and seized $14,000 in cash, court records show.

At the time, he protested that the money was not drug proceeds, but rather a loan to his wife from Ignacio "Nacho" Morales, the manager at Borinquen. He even produced a letter from Morales vouching for the loan.

That letter prompted investigators to look more closely at the bank, its records, and manager, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene D. Fisk told Surrick.

The fraud they uncovered ultimately toppled the institution, which had served the Hispanic community for nearly three decades, and led to Morales' arrest on embezzlement, money-laundering, drug, and tax charges.

Maldonado tried to take credit for tipping agents to that case. He told the judge he agreed to help "the banker" in a drug deal only because his family needed money to avoid being evicted from their home.

"All that cocaine was for him," Maldonado said.

Maldonado pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges that together carried a mandatory minimum 20 years in prison. Fisk told Surrick Maldonado had only reluctantly cooperated with agents, and not enough to warrant leniency.

"The bulk of the information provided by Maldonado or on his behalf was either blatantly untrue or of no value, and in some occasions, even jeopardized the safety of the investigating investigators," she wrote in a memo.

Morales pleaded guilty last month to embezzling $2.3 million, including $500,000 for one cocaine deal.

He is to be sentenced on Dec. 7.

Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774, jmartin@phillynews.com, or follow @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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