Ex-Manchester police officer pleads to felonies related to helping drug dealer
CONCORD - Joseph Cespedes, 37, was a Manchester police officer when he did favors for a known drug dealer in Massachusetts for which he received $350 and a small quantity of cocaine.
Cespedes pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court to a charge of misprision of a felony, which U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas explained means he knew about a federal felony being committed and concealed it from authorities.
Cespedes, who had been a New York City police officer before joining the Manchester Department in November 2006, was living in Lawrence, Mass., across from a barber shop named ChaCha's, where a suspected drug dealer known as El Fuerte worked.
Kacavas said the Department of Homeland Security was investigating the drug dealer, an illegal alien, and learned about Cespedes' association with him in 2011.
Kacavas said Cespedes not only didn't report the drug dealer's activities, but also ran checks through police dispatch on two false identities the dealer was using to find out if there were any outstanding warrants for those names.
On one of the occasions, Cespedes used his personal cell phone for a check on Abraham Machado Lopez, saying he was thinking of purchasing a car from the man.
Cespedes received two payments totaling $350 and a small amount of cocaine and continued to purchase small amounts of cocaine from the dealer.
Information about Cespedes' association with the drug dealer was passed on to Manchester Police Chief David Mara, who began an investigation. Cespedes resigned in January 2012.
The following month, El Fuerte was arrested in a raid in which 28 grams of heroin, cocaine and cash were recovered.
Cespedes applied for reinstatement in November 2013.
Kacavas said "The Manchester Police Department did a great job in luring him back."
That led to Cespedes admitting to his involvement and the negotiations that led up to his plea Tuesday.
Cespedes will be sentenced Nov. 4 following a pre-sentencing investigation. Based on the federal advisory sentence system, he faces a maximum of three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine up to $250,000.
Mara said that Cespedes, who had been honored for helping talk a woman out of committing suicide, violated the trust not only of the people of Manchester, but also of his fellow officers.
Mara said there was no way of predicting that Cespedes would become a "dirty cop." He had undergone the intensive screening all prospective officers do, including a polygraph examination, and his background as a New York City Police Officer had been examined.
The department was unaware that he was living in Lawrence, which violated departmental rules requiring officers to live within 20 miles of Manchester.
Cespedes is free pending sentencing, but under federal supervision and subject to drug tests. He was ordered to surrender his passport, but will be able to get permission from the court for specific trips to the Dominican Republic.