(Trinidad Guardian) Two police officers from east Trinidad have been granted a total of $285,000 bail after appearing in court on corruption and gang charges.
PCs Don Balgobin and Angelo Cedeno were granted bail after appearing before Magistrate Joanne Connor in the Arima Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Cedeno, 40, from Jitman Drive, Five Rivers, Arouca, was charged for misbehaving in public office by trafficking cocaine and supplying ammunition to his neighbour Ken “Renaldo” Gomez. He was also charged under Section 9 of the Anti-Gang Act for counselling and providing support to the gang operating in his
community, which carries a sentence of 25 years imprisonment upon conviction.
Cedeno is alleged to have committed the offences between 2017 and earlier this year.
Balgobin, 39, of KP Lands, Valencia, was not charged under the gang legislation but rather for accepting an undisclosed bribe from Gomez for forgoing a marijuana trafficking investigation between March and May, last year.
Dressed in T-shirts and jeans, the officers, who each has over 15 years’ service, stood silently during their individual court appearances and spoke only through their attorneys. Before the hearing, they were also seen briefly greeting and communicating with some of their colleagues, who were in the court for unrelated cases.
They were not called upon to plead to the charges, which were laid indictably.
Police prosecutors did not object to bail for the duo but noted that Cedeno had pending charges for common assault against a woman and her son and for obstruction of justice.
Balgobin was eventually granted $85,000 bail with a cash alternative of $15,000, while Cedeno was granted $200,000 bail with a cash alternative of $30,000.
Connor ordered them to surrender their passports and to reappear before her on April 2.
Moments after the officers’ court appearance, a third man, Jean-Michel Staple, appeared before Connor charged with counselling the gang just like Cedeno. Staple was charged alongside Gomez and six others, who had previously appeared in court, for being members of a gang.
Gomez has also been charged with being the leader of the gang, for coercing people to join it and for retaliating against people who refused to join.
Staple pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Connor did not consider bail for Staple as police prosecutors did not receive his criminal record tracing in time for the hearing. She adjourned his case to this morning, when she is expected to decide on bail.
During the brief hearing, Staple’s lawyer Criston J Williams requested that police disclose all evidence against his client, including intercepted telephone communication.
Cedeno, Balgobin and Staple were among a group of police officers and civilians who were detained as part of a recent investigation by the Organised Crime and Intelligence Unit (OCIU). Investigators were forced to obtain detention orders under the gang legislation in order to delay their release while investigations were ongoing. The orders, which allowed the men to be held without being charged until yesterday, were upheld by High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds last week.
The T&T Guardian understands that some of the suspects, including a police officer related to former police commissioner Stephen Williams, were released after investigators received advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
When the gang legislation was first proclaimed in 2011, persons who were charged could not apply for bail for 120 days. The provision was not implemented when the legislation was reintroduced in May last year.
Cedeno was represented by Sheldon Guerra, while Terry Boyer represented Balgobin.