Updated 04/19/11 – 8:44 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A former Chicago cop pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking part in three robberies in which he and other officers stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from suspected drug dealers and innocent civilians after conducting illegal searches or traffic stops.
As CBS 2′s Mai Martinez reports, Keith Herrera, 33, pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation count and a tax fraud count during a hearing on Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Blanche M. Manning.
He and other officers with the now-disbanded Special Operations Section had been charged with conducting illegal searches and traffic stops of suspected drug dealers and innocent civilians and then robbing them of cash and drugs.
Another former officer, Stephen Del Bosque, pleaded guilty to a civil rights charge on Monday. Former officer Jerome Finnigan and officer Eric Olsen also have agreed to plead guilty in the case.
As WBBM’s Lisa Fielding tells us, one of the officers involved now faces prison time.
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Herrera admitted pocketing about $40,000 from the robberies in 2004 and 2005 and to failing to report the money as income on federal tax returns. He could be sentenced to up to 13 years in prison when he is sentenced July 14.
He was charged in 2006 as part of a federal investigation into “rogue officers” within the SOS unit. The Chicago Police Department disbanded the unit a year later.
Herrera has since resigned from the department.
Del Bosque, 35, admitted lying on a police report in 2005, when he claimed he saw a suspect drop two bricks of cocaine and when he testified about the same claims to a grand jury, leading to false charges against the victim.
Del Bosque faces up to 12 months in prison.
Federal prosecutors announced last week that Herrera’s and Del Bosque’s pleas were in the works, along with guilty pleas from former officer Jerome Finnigan, the alleged ringleader, and current officer Eric Olsen.
Finnigan, 48, has been jailed since 2007, awaiting trial for allegedly plotting to have another officer killed, because he believed the officer was cooperating with the investigation of the SOS unit. He resigned from the department after his initial arrest in 2006.
At least seven other officers have pleaded guilty to state charges in the investigation into corruption in the SOS unit.
According to prosecutors, the officers plotted to stop mostly Hispanic male motorists without probable cause and write false police reports about the stops. They also stole money from their targets and inventoried only a portion of the cash. They would split the rest among their fellow rogue officers.
When suspected drug dealers objected to the illegal searches, the cops would sometimes handcuff them and ordered them to show the officers where they stored additional cash and narcotics, prosecutors said.
They also illegally searched several homes, stealing cash, drugs and other valuables.
Herrera later cooperated with investigators, secretly wearing a wire and recording Finnigan discussing his alleged murder-for-hire plot.