Justice moved slowly for an Arizona Army National Guardsman who fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution after a 2002 drug trafficking and bribery case came to light. The former Arizona Army National Guard (AANG) sergeant was sentenced on February 20 to serve fifty-two months in prison for the scheme where he accepted bribes in exchange for using his military position to protect shipments of cocaine.
Sergeant Raul F. Portillo will now spend more than four years in a federal prison for his complicity in the crimes. In his plea agreement (attached below) Portillo stipulated that from January, 2002, through April, 2002, he and other members of the AANG, along with active duty military members, police officers, corrections officers and employees of various federal agencies agreed to accept money from an FBI agent who represented himself to be a narcotics trafficker. Portillo, along with five other public officials, transported 30 kilograms of cocaine for the sting organization in exchange for $6,000 in cash.
He transported the drugs in official vehicles while wearing his uniform and carrying official forms of identification. Portillo accepted cash bribes on several occasions. In April, 2002, he accepted $2,000 to recruit another public official to participate in the trafficking scheme.
For a reason not disclosed in the plea agreement, Portillo was not charged and arrested until May 25, 2011. After making bond, Portillo fled to Mexico where he was able to hide until September, 2014. He was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States for prosecution.
The sealed criminal complaint (attached below) against Portillo was not filed until October, 2006. An arrest warrant was issued for Portillo at that time. It was another five years before he would be arrested and formally charged.
Portillo received a general discharge from the AANG. The discharged was marked as being under “honorable” conditions despite the fact he was wanted by the State of Arizona for an unrelated marijuana trafficking charge, according to a 2006 article by Carol Ann Alimo in the Arizona Daily Star.
The Army claimed to not have known about the state charges at the time of his discharge. Colonel Richard Palmatier, an AANG attorney, said if they had known about the charge, Portillo wasn’t convicted so the case couldn’t be used against him upon discharge. He did not say why Portillo received the general discharge under honorable conditions instead of an honorable discharge.
Portillo was stopped on northbound I-19 in a vehicle filled with pot in July 2003, and is thought to have left the country to escape prosecution, said Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva.
The federal trafficking and bribery case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Public Integrity Unit instead of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge James A. Soto in the Arizona District Court.
A total of fifty-eight defendants have been convicted and sentenced in cases that resulted from the “Operation Lively Green” investigation.
Portillo was part of a National Guard Deployment ordered by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The AANG was mobilized to assist various federal agencies including the Department of Defense and the U.S. Border Patrol to support drug interdiction and other counter narcotics activities. In less than four months, Portillo and his co-conspirators had been in operation long enough to pop up on the FBI’s radar. The criminal complaint against Portillo states that in January, 2002 he told the FBI undercover agent he had been involved in narcotics trafficking in the past and would be willing to help transport drugs for their organization.
The FBI press release obtained by Breitbart Texas states, “This case is part of a joint investigation conducted by the Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force (SACTF), which is comprised of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Tucson Police Department. Though not part of the SACTF, the Arizona National Guard, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division also participated in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Monique T. Abrishami and Peter N. Halpern of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.