SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Sixteen former and current police officers in Puerto Rico have been charged with running a criminal ring to generate money through bribes, robberies and drug sales, authorities said Thursday.
The officers are suspected of planting evidence to make false arrests and then extorting victims, demanding money in exchange for their release, said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez.
They also are charged with entering homes used by suspected criminals to steal money, drugs and other items. The police officers are additionally accused of providing false testimony, manipulating court records and not appearing in court to force the dismissal of cases in exchange for bribes, officials said.
Two officers are specifically charged with conducting a traffic stop and stealing about $22,000 in what authorities say was illegal drug money.
“Officers who use their badges as an excuse to commit egregious acts of violence and drug trafficking are an affront to the rule of law,” Rodriguez said.
The indictment states that the alleged ring operated from 2009 until January 2014.
Puerto Rico’s police department is undergoing a 10-year federally mandated reform after a 2011 report accused officers of illegal killings, corruption and civil rights violations.
The U.S. territory has the second-largest police force in the United States with roughly 17,000 officers.
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