A former Jersey City police officer was sentenced earlier this month to 36 months in prison for his role in stealing more than half a million cigarettes from a trailer and extorting $20,000 from a drug courier who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
The defendant, 40-year-old Mario Rodriguez, also known as “Mad Dog,” had previously pleaded guilty to one count of cargo theft and one count of extortion under color of official right in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson, and announced via press release on the Federal Bureau of Investigation website on Jan. 9.
The charges stem from a July 3, 2013, incident in which Rodriguez and an individual working for the FBI as a confidential informant drove to a warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey, to break into a trailer, steal cigarettes and sell the stolen goods to the informant’s associate. Law enforcement agents had previously parked the trailer at the warehouse and established surveillance of the area.
According to the news release from the FBI, after using bolt-cutters to cut the lock off of the trailer, Rodriguez and the informant loaded 50 cases containing approximately 600,000 cigarettes and six televisions from the trailer into their vehicle. As they drove the stolen items to a parking lot in Staten Island, N.Y., Rodriguez made several phone calls seeking buyers for the TVs.
The pair met the informant’s associate, who was actually an undercover officer in a parking lot to get the $5,000 payment for the cigarettes. Rodriguez kept $3,000 of the cash and three of the TVs, the release stated.
On July 10, 2013, Rodriguez, the informant and another undercover law enforcement agent met in New Jersey and discussed the possibility of robbing a drug courier, who was also an undercover officer. On July 24, 2013, the group met again in Staten Island to discuss the plan. The undercover officer told Rodriguez the courier would be delivering cocaine to them that day in exchange for a $20,000 payment. Rodriguez suggested a Jersey City mall parking lot due to an absence of surveillance cameras and called his associate, Anthony Roman, 48, of Jersey City, who was not a law enforcement officer, to help him with the robbery, the FBI release stated. Roman was also charged with one count of extortion; the case is pending.
Later that day, Rodriguez and Roman drove an SUV to the location where the informant and the drug courier were parked. Law enforcement agents had already established surveillance and staged the car containing $20,000 cash in a plastic bag. Rodriguez and Roman approached the car and identified themselves as law enforcement officers who were investigating the informant. They pretended to arrest the informant, threatened to arrest the drug courier and took the cash.
Rodriguez, the informant and the undercover agent met in a hotel room at a Pennsylvania casino to split the cash.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Thompson sentenced Rodriguez to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine.
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