Roberto Pulido, 41, Carlos Pizarro, 36, and Nelson Carrasquillo, 35, were arrested late Thursday in Miami. Authorities described Pulido as the ringleader and said he was involved in a broad range of other illegal activities, from identity theft to smuggling illegal immigrants to selling steroids.
All three officers appeared briefly Friday in federal court in Miami but did not enter pleas. The judge said he would appoint attorneys to assist with their Miami proceedings and ordered them held until a detention hearing, set for Wednesday.
"The alleged criminal activities of Pulido, Pizarro and Carrasquillo are truly appalling and are an affront to every decent law enforcement officer," said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan.
John McNeil, an assistant U.S. attorney from Boston, said the three officers were in Miami to "celebrate" their alleged drug transaction and to discuss further deals with undercover agents they thought were cocaine dealers.
"This was supposedly the dealers' base," McNeil said.
More arrests are possible in the continuing investigation. Pulido "unwittingly provided extensive information about the illegal conduct of other Boston police officers, other public officials, and private citizens," Boston FBI Agent Michael J. Kreizenbeck said in an affidavit made public after the arrests.
Sullivan declined to say how many other officers could be involved.
The investigation into Pulido started in November 2003 when authorities discovered he was buying and selling fraudulent retail store gift cards from stores including Home Depot and Best Buy, Sullivan said.
In a court affidavit, authorities alleged that Pulido bought the fraudulent gift cards from an identity theft ring operating along the East Coast.
Pulido allegedly provided names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of more than 160 people to the group, according to the affidavit. He is accused of getting the information by running the license plates of people he stopped or arrested.
Authorities allege that Pulido participated in a wide range of other criminal activities, with Pizarro and Carrasquillo taking part in some. The allegations include protecting drug shipments, identity theft, sponsoring illegal after-hours parties with prostitutes, money laundering and insurance fraud.
Authorities allege that in conversations recorded during the investigation, Pulido admitted smuggling illegal aliens into the United States for $5,000 per person, fixing tickets, trafficking in stolen electronics and aiding loan sharking. Authorities said he also imported and sold steroids.
Under Massachusetts law, the officers will remain on paid administrative leave unless they are indicted by a grand jury, when they would be switched to unpaid leave, McNeil said. A hearing on their removal to Boston was set for Aug. 2 in Miami.
A message left at the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association was not immediately returned.