Former Arizona Army National Guard sergeant protected drug runs

az-nat-guardA former member of the Arizona Army National Guard was sentenced today to 52 months in prison for his role in a scheme to accept bribes from purported drug traffickers in exchange for using his military position to protect shipments of cocaine during transportation.

Raul Portillo, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona, pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2014, to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and interfere with commerce by attempted extortion. U.S. District Judge James A. Soto of the District of Arizona imposed the sentence.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Portillo, a sergeant in the Arizona Army National Guard, conspired with others from the Arizona Army National Guard to accept cash bribes to protect narcotics traffickers who were purportedly transporting and distributing cocaine from Arizona to other locations in the southwestern United States. Unbeknownst to Portillo and the other co-conspirators, however, the supposed narcotics traffickers were actually undercover FBI agents.

Specifically, Portillo admitted that he wore his official uniform, carried official forms of identification, used official vehicles and used his official authority, where necessary, to prevent police stops and searches as he drove cocaine shipments through checkpoints manned by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Nevada law enforcement officers. Portillo admitted that he took bribe payments totaling $12,000 for transporting cocaine on two separate occasions. Portillo also admitted that he accepted a $2,000 cash payment in exchange for recruiting an Immigration and Customs Enforcement inspector into the conspiracy.

In 2006, an arrest warrant was issued for Portillo, and Portillo was arrested in May 2011, arraigned and released on personal recognizance. Portillo admitted that in or around July 2011, he fled to avoid prosecution.

To date, 58 defendants have been convicted and sentenced for charges stemming from this investigation.