When a 600-pound coke run nets you 2 years

Dec 8th, 2009 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics
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I wrote this story for the Nogales International yesterday but I’ll post it here because it’s dirty and I like it. You can read the full draft plea agreement below; it’s supposed to be filed this week in court.

The United States will agree to drop counts of drug trafficking and instead charge a former high-ranking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent from Arizona with obstruction of justice, according to court documents filed last week and obtained by BorderReporter.com.

Richard Padilla Cramer, a Nogales, Ariz., native with 30 years in federal law enforcement, was arrested in September at his Green Valley home by Drug Enforcement Administration agents on trafficking and corruption charges. Padilla had initially pleaded not guilty, then entered into an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and offered to change his plea last week. Court records show that the U.S. will ask for two years imprisonment and probation. Compare that to, say, this case, a Phoenix area man, sentenced to nine years in prison for letting a drug trafficker launder money through his landscaping company. PDF).

Initial charges out of Florida had accused Padilla Cramer of investing in a shipment of 660 pounds of cocaine that were supposed to be shipped from Panama to Spain. He was also accused of selling confidential federal law enforcement database information for as little as $2,000 when he worked as an ICE attaché in Guadalajara.

A draft of his plea agreement was filed last week and made available to a reporter. Monday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s in Florida said the change of plea hearing will not occur until Friday, Dec. 11.

According to the draft of the plea agreement, Padilla queried law enforcement databases for a pair of drug traffickers who wanted to see if they had any felony warrants filed against them.

In January 2006, Arturo Yidi Quintero, a money launderer, was in Florida, wanting to return to Mexico but afraid to do so because he didn’t know if he had a warrant for his arrest in that country. His associate, Nizar Issa David, was also being cautious. They were put in touch with Padilla Cramer in Guadalajara by other drug traffickers who told them they had an agent working within U.S. law enforcement.

Padilla accessed the DEA and ICE databases as well as the National Criminal Information System, searching for both names. Between January and March, he printed out the information, confirming neither man was wanted in Mexico.

Russell Koonin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida, declined to comment on this story, but the draft of the plea agreement shows that Padilla Cramer will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Technically, the court can sentence him to twenty years in prison however federal prosecutors will ask for two, in exchange for the guilty plea.

Padilla Cramer headed the Nogales ICE office until 2004 when he transferred to Guadalajara. He retired in 2007 then went to work for Santa Cruz County Detention Center until his arrest.

According to the original criminal complaint filed against him, between March and June 2007, Padilla invested $15,000 to $25,000 in a 660-pound shipment of cocaine headed for Vigo, Spain, from Panama City, Panama. Five members of the cartel were arrested in Spain when the ship landed. Two months later, Padilla attended a meeting with drug traffickers who convinced him to retire from ICE and go to work for them.

In May 2009, he went to work for Santa Cruz County.

“I don’t suspect he would make any attempt to rejoin our department and obviously we would not be accepting an application from him,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.

“This has been a big disappointment for his law enforcement family,” he said.

“Particularly disappointing.”



CASE NO. 09-20795-CR-HUCK(s)







The United States of America and RICHARD PADILLA CRAMER(hereinafter referred to as the “defendant”) enter into the following agreement:
The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a one count information, which charges the defendant with conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2), all in violation of  Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(k).
The United States agrees to seek dismissal of the pending indictment in this case after sentencing.
The defendant is aware that the sentence will be imposed by the court after considering the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Policy Statements (hereinafter “Sentencing Guidelines”).  The defendant acknowledges and understands that the court will compute an advisory sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines and that the applicable guidelines will be determined by the court relying in part on the results of a Pre-Sentence Investigation by the court’s probation office, which investigation will commence after the guilty plea has been entered.  The defendant is also aware that, under certain circumstances, the court may depart from the advisory sentencing guideline range that it has computed, and may raise or lower that advisory sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines.  The defendant is further aware and understands that the court is required to consider the advisory guideline range determined under the Sentencing Guidelines, but is not bound to impose that sentence; the court is permitted to tailor the ultimate sentence in light of other statutory concerns, and such sentence may be either more severe or less severe than the Sentencing Guidelines’ advisory sentence.  Knowing these facts, the defendant understands and acknowledges that the court has the authority to impose any sentence within and up to the statutory maximum authorized by law for the offense identified in paragraph 1 and that the defendant may not withdraw the plea solely as a result of the sentence imposed.
The defendant also understands and acknowledges that the court may impose a statutory maximum term of up to 20 years imprisonment, followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years.  In addition to a term of imprisonment and supervised release, the court may impose a fine of up to $250,000.
The defendant further understand and acknowledges that, in addition to any sentence imposed under paragraph 4 of this agreement, a special assessment in the amount of $100.00 will be imposed on the defendant.  The defendant agrees that any special assessment imposed shall be paid at the time of sentencing.
The Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (hereinafter “Office”) reserves the right to inform the court and the probation office of all facts pertinent to the sentencing process, including all relevant information concerning the offenses committed, whether charged or not, as well as concerning the defendant and the defendant’s background.  Subject only to the express terms of any agreed-upon sentencing recommendations contained in this agreement, this Office further reserves the right to make any recommendation as to the quality and quantity of punishment.
The United States agrees that it will recommend at sentencing that the Court reduce by two levels  the sentencing guideline level applicable to the defendant’s offense, pursuant to Section 3E1.1(a) of the Sentencing Guidelines, based upon the defendant’s recognition and affirmative and timely acceptance of personal responsibility, and a decrease of one additional level pursuant to U.S.S.G. Section 3E1.1(b), if prior to any reduction under Section 3E1.1(a) the defendant’s offense level is 16 or higher.  However, the United States will not be required to make this sentencing recommendation if the defendant: (1) fails or refuses to make a full, accurate and complete disclosure to the probation office and this Office of the circumstances surrounding the relevant offense conduct; (2) is found to have misrepresented facts to the government prior to entering this plea agreement; or (3) commits any misconduct after entering into this plea agreement, including but not limited to committing a state or federal offense, violating any term of release, or making a false statement or misrepresentation to any governmental entity or official.
The defendant is aware that the sentence has not yet been determined by the Court.  The defendant also is aware that any estimate of the probable sentencing range or sentence that the defendant may receive, whether that estimate comes from the defendant’s attorney, the government, or the probation office, is a prediction, not a promise, and is not binding on the government, the probation office or the Court. The defendant  understands further that any recommendation that the government makes to the Court as to sentencing, whether pursuant to this agreement or otherwise, is not binding on the Court and the Court may disregard the recommendation in its entirety.  The defendant understands and acknowledges that the defendant may not withdraw his plea based upon the Court’s decision not to accept a sentencing recommendation made by the defendant, the government, or a recommendation  jointly made by both the defendant and the government.
The United States and the defendant agree that, although not binding on the probation office or the Court, they will jointly recommend that the Court make the following findings and conclusions as to the sentence to be imposed:
Base offense level: That the base offense level be 14, pursuant to U.S.S.G. Section 2J1.2(a).  The United States further agrees not to seek to have the offense level increased based on any underlying offense under Section 2J1.2(c)(1).
Abuse of position of trust: That the offense level be increased by two levels for the abuse of a position of trust in the commission of the offense, pursuant to U.S.S.G. Section 3B1.3.    c.  Obstruction of Justice: That pursuant to U.S.S.G. Section 3C1.1, the defendant’s offense level should be increased two levels for obstruction of justice in connection with his post-arrest interview with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), during which he provided misleading information which impeded OIG’s investigation of the offense set forth in Paragraph One of this Agreement.
d.  That the total adjusted offense level is 15 and that the sentence should be 24 months imprisonment.
The defendant is aware that Title 18, United States Code, Section 3742 affords the defendant the right to appeal the sentence imposed in this case.  Acknowledging this, in exchange for the undertakings made by the United States in this plea agreement, the defendant hereby waives all rights conferred by Section 3742 to appeal any sentence imposed, including any restitution order, or to appeal the manner in which the sentence was imposed, unless the sentence exceeds the maximum permitted by statute or is the result of an upward departure or variance from the guideline range that the Court establishes at sentencing.  The defendant further understands that nothing in this agreement shall affect the government’s right and/or duty to appeal as set forth in Title 18, United States Code, Section 3742(b).  However, if the United States appeals the defendant’s sentence pursuant to Section 3742(b), the defendant shall be released from the above waiver of appellate rights. By signing this agreement, the defendant acknowledges that he has discussed the appeal waiver set forth in this agreement with his attorney.  The defendant further agrees, together with the United States, to request that the district Court enter a specific finding that the defendant’s waiver of his right to appeal the sentence to be imposed in this case was knowing and voluntary.
16    This is the entire agreement and understanding between the United States and the defendant.  There are no other agreements, promises, representations, or understandings.

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