Pubdate: Sat, 19 Aug 2000
Source: Arizona Daily Star (AZ)
Copyright: 2000 Pulitzer Publishing Co.
Author: Inger Sandal


S. Tucson Officer Receives 3.5 Years In Corruption

A former South Tucson police officer who hired himself out as a bodyguard to an FBI agent masquerading as a drug courier was sentenced yesterday to 3 1/2 years in prison and ordered to forfeit the $14,000 he received from the undercover agent.

U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins also sentenced Steven B. Smith to 5 years of supervised probation.

The FBI arrested Smith in May 1999 as he arrived for patrol duty. He was charged with two counts of money laundering, one count of attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it and one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.

In March, Smith pleaded guilty to attempting to possess with intent to distribute 10 kilos of cocaine. He had faced at least 10 years in prison if convicted of all the charges, but as part of the agreement could have received between 3 years and 7 1/2 years in prison when sentenced. He also agreed to forfeit the cash and to resign from the Police Department.

Smith told the magistrate at the time of his plea: "I received a duffel bag from a subject that I later found out was an undercover FBI agent."

Smith was caught in a federal corruption probe started in August 1998 after the South Tucson Police Department received complaints the officer was associating with underworld figures, Police Chief Sixto Molina said. He suspended Smith without pay when he was indicted.

Smith's annual salary was about $26,000 after four years with the department, which had 25 sworn officers. Smith automatically loses his badge with a felony conviction.

Although Smith only pleaded guilty to an April 19, 1999, trip, a federal complaint alleges Smith rented a limousine 16 days earlier when he picked up a woman at the Phoenix airport he thought was carrying drug money to Tucson. For his assistance, he was paid $5,000, the complaint said.

Smith drove back to Sky Harbor in his own car on April 19, where he picked up another courier and brought him and $200,000 back to Tucson, the complaint alleges.

When the pair arrived in Tucson, the complaint alleges, Smith helped count part of the money, then went back to Phoenix carrying what he thought to be 10 kilograms of cocaine.

Smith received $9,000 for transporting the money and what he believed to be cocaine, according to the complaint.

Before being hired by South Tucson in September 1994, Smith worked briefly as a Pima County sheriff's deputy. He was hired in September 1991 but left in January 1992 before his probational year expired.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager