Trial opens in case of an ex-cop, his lover and a drug dealer

Posted: January 23, 2014

DID ROBERTITO Fontan, who was a cop working undercover, leak information about a drug investigation to a paramour and then lie about it to the feds?

Or are the feds after him just because he initially lied about having sex with the woman?

Those are questions a federal jury will ponder in a trial that opened yesterday. Fontan, 42, is charged with three counts of making false statements to federal authorities.

Fontan's story with the woman, Elizabeth Sanchez, goes back to 2003, when he met her at the Criminal Justice Center. She was facing drug charges.

"He told her he was a police officer and might be able to help her," Assistant U.S. Attorney Neuman Leverett told the jury in his opening statement.

Fontan introduced Sanchez to two other law-enforcement officers so she could work as an informant, the prosecutor said. Then, from 2004 to 2008, Fontan and Sanchez's "relationship evolved into an intimate relationship," Leverett said.

Fontan learned that his lover had a prior boyfriend named Jose Sanchez. Then, Fontan, who was detailed to the District Attorney's Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit, happened to join a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation targeting that ex-boyfriend, who was a drug dealer in Kensington and North Philadelphia.

In January 2008, Fontan was asked to make an undercover cocaine buy from Jose Sanchez in Kensington, but the dealer didn't make the sale, prompting the feds to wonder whether he had been leaked details about the investigation.

After Jose Sanchez was indicted in July 2008 on drug charges, the FBI began looking into whether information had been leaked to him. Agents interviewed Fontan as part of the investigation in October 2008.

In an Oct. 5, 2008, interview, Fontan lied to the FBI, saying he did not have an intimate relationship with Elizabeth Sanchez, did not give her money and gifts, and did not feed her information about the investigation of Jose Sanchez, Leverett said.

The feds contend, though, that Elizabeth Sanchez told Jose Sanchez, her ex-boyfriend, about the DEA's investigation of him.

When Fontan's defense attorney, Jack McMahon, stood before the jury for his opening statement, he forcefully told jurors, "There was never any leak . . . in this investigation, or any investigation, ever."

Critical to this case is that Fontan is married, McMahon said, telling jurors Fontan's wife was in the courtroom gallery yesterday.

When Fontan was interviewed "out of the blue" by FBI agents on Oct. 5, 2008, he told them about Elizabeth Sanchez, "except when asked if he had sex with her," McMahon said. "He said 'no' because he was married."

After Fontan went home and had an opportunity to tell his wife about his infidelity, he went back to the feds and told them he did have sex with Sanchez, McMahon said.

"They're indicting him on - that he had sex - if that was material here," McMahon scoffed.

Fontan, a bald man with a mustache, is expected to testify during the trial.

Fontan is no longer a cop. He was dismissed by the police department after his December 2012 indictment.

Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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