Former officers plead guilty to drug plot

Feb. 8, 2011 at 1:31 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Two Philadelphia police officers, fired last summer after their arrest, pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and drug possession.

A third accused of conspiracy, former officer Mark Williams, along with Robert Snyder, 30, and James Venziale, 32, was accused of a scheme to steal heroin from a narcotics dealer and resell it, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday.

Williams pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a Feb. 28 trial.

The three men allegedly plotted with Angel Ortiz, an alleged drug dealer, to steal 300 grams of heroin and split the profits when it was sold. They were accused of staging a traffic stop in May, during which Venziale and Williams pretended to arrest Ortiz right after Ortiz received the heroin from a courier.

The then-police officers and Ortiz intended for the courier to tell his supplier that the heroin had been confiscated, and they planned to give it to a man they thought was a drug dealer.

But the man was an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent and the government had ample audio and video recordings of the officer's conversations while they plotted the heist.

Both men, free on bond since shortly after their arrest, are scheduled for sentencing in May.

Venziale faces at least five years in prison, with a maximum sentence of 160 years. Snyder faces at least 10 years in prison, with a maximum life sentence.

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