PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Two former Philadelphia police officers face five years or more of prison after pleading guilty Monday in a plot to steal heroin from a suspected drug dealer and sell it.
The pleas were entered by Robert Snyder, 30, and James Venziale, 32, although only Venziale agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against several co-defendants, including a third former officer and Snyder's wife.
Their arrests last year came in a string of police corruption cases that prompted Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to vow to clean house. In response, he has beefed up the Internal Affairs unit and proposed stricter hiring requirements, including two years of college.
In May, Venziale and Officer Mark Williams staged a traffic stop of suspected dealer Angel Ortiz after Ortiz obtained heroin from a supplier on credit, authorities said. With the supplier's courier looking on, the officers appeared to arrest Ortiz, who was allegedly in on the scheme, and seize the drugs, they said. Ortiz paid the officers $6,000 for their help and an unspecified amount to Christal Snyder, according to an indictment.
The group then tried to sell the heroin through an undercover federal agent, prosecutors say.
Venziale spoke softly Monday as he pleaded guilty to conspiring with drug dealers and possessing heroin, once near a charter school. Venziale, who faces a mandatory five years in prison, admitted he took part in the staged traffic stop and heroin seizure.
Snyder, who is not cooperating with prosecutors, faces a mandatory 10 years in prison on drug and gun charges related to the scheme. His wife, Christal, who is accused of using her phone to pass information between the officers and suspected dealers, also faces a mandatory 10-year term if convicted.
Ortiz is set to plead guilty Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney said.
Prosecutors have not forged plea agreements with the other co-defendants, including Christal Snyder, Williams and the suspected heroin supplier, Miguel Santiago, according to McCartney.
Snyder and Williams also were charged with plotting to rob a man they believed was a mobster collecting gambling proceeds, an alleged plan that was never carried out. Snyder pleaded guilty to those charges as well on Monday.
"He's accepting responsibility," defense lawyer Will Spade said.
Venziale's lawyer declined comment.
Robert Snyder and Venziale are set for sentencing in May.
--- Information from: Philadelphia Daily News, http://www.philly.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)