Two Trinidad cops charged after corruption, gang probes

Police officers PCs Don Balgobin, left, and Angelo Cedeno make their way into the Arima Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

(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.

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