WASHINGTON – Seven former public officials were sentenced this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in Tucson, for their roles in a widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.
The charges arise from Operation Lively Green, an undercover investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that began in December 2001. Forty-five additional defendants have been sentenced and four others have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
The following individuals were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cynthia K. Jorgenson:
Rocky D. Rios, 39, a former Arizona Army National Guardsman, was sentenced to 51 months incarceration, a fine of $19,500, and three years of supervised release;
Jared Alan Wright, 30, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, was sentenced to seven months incarceration, a $3,000 fine, and three years of supervised release;
Leslie Hidalgo, 26, a former Arizona Army National Guardsman, was sentenced to 18 months incarceration, a $10,000 fine, and three years of supervised release;
Travor Jarrod Richardson, 24, a civilian falsely purporting to be serving in the U.S. Air Force, was sentenced to 10 months incarceration, a $2,000 dollar fine, and three years of supervised release;
Moises Hernandez, 21, a former Arizona Army National Guardsman, was sentenced to 12 months incarceration, a $7,000 dollar fine, and three years of supervised release;
Jason Kitzmiller, 27, a former corporal in the U.S. Army, was sentenced to 15 months incarceration, a $5,000 dollar fine, and three years of supervised release; and
Viviana Hernandez, 25, a civilian falsely purporting to be an Arizona Army National Guardsman, was sentenced to 5 years probation and a $3,000 fine.
The defendants had each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to enrich themselves by obtaining cash bribes from persons they believed to be narcotics traffickers, who were actually FBI agents, in return for their assistance, protection, and participation in the activities of an illegal narcotics trafficking organization that distributed cocaine from Arizona to other locations in the southwestern United States. In order to protect the shipments of cocaine, the defendants wore official uniforms, carried official forms of identification and used official vehicles, when necessary, to prevent police stops, searches and seizures of the narcotics as they drove the cocaine shipments through checkpoints manned by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Nevada law enforcement officers.
An eighth defendant, Barnum Haitshan, 35, a former officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections, failed to appear in court and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
These cases are part of a joint investigation being conducted by the Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force (SACTF), which is comprised of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security, and the Tucson Police Department. Though not part of the SACTF, the Arizona Air National Guard, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service are also participating in the investigation. The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Michael Ferrara, Andrew Levchuk, and Peter Koski of the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, headed by Chief William M. Welch II. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma has also secured the guilty pleas of 14 defendants in a related investigation, Operation Tarnish Star.