TAMPA — Don Riggans spent his life serving in the Army, working up the ladder in law enforcement and building a life with his wife and two daughters.
Earlier this year, the family found their dream house, but it was just beyond their reach.
To raise some quick cash, Riggans, a former Pasco sheriff's deputy, took an illegal route and met the ultimate disgrace: arrest on federal charges that he conspired to distribute thousands of pain pills for illegal sale. Riggans admitted he used the trappings of his position — a police cruiser, vest and agency firearm — to conduct a bogus traffic stop on a drug runner (who was actually an informant) to rip off the proceeds of the drug sale.
His sentencing was Friday. His wife, Kimberly, also a sheriff's deputy, spoke through tears about the model person her husband had been before making this mistake. Riggans himself said his lowest moment was explaining to his daughters, ages 7 and 8, what he had done. His lawyer pleaded for leniency.
U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara listened, but then posed this question: "Who protects us from the protectors?"
Lazzara said Riggans' actions "undermine the rule of law, and without the rule of law we are nothing."
Riggans, 35, came to court facing a minimum of five years in prison after pleading guilty in September to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
Federal prosecutors recommended a lighter sentence because Riggans had cooperated in the investigation and admitted responsibility.
Lazzara ultimately decided on 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
The sentence was met with more sobs from the group of 30 or so friends and family in attendance. Riggans hung his head.
A second Pasco deputy has already been sentenced in the case. Rodney Philon, a former jail deputy, held Pasco SWAT deputies on an hours-long standoff at his Wesley Chapel home March 16 before surrendering on charges of illegal possession of anabolic steroids. He was accused of selling an informant 10 pink tablets of the steroid Dianabol from his own stash during a meeting in the parking lot of a State Road 54 Publix.
Philon, 38, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in September to two years of probation, including six months of house arrest and 75 hours of community service.
Also at Friday's hearing were Robert "Fat Bob" Caddick of Oviedo and Kevin Massimino of Tampa. Caddick was chief financial officer of Medipharm, a pharmacy that was raided by federal agents in late 2006 and labeled a public health risk.
Caddick made and stole prescription narcotics including hydrocodone, Xanax and Vicodin, the federal affidavit said, then falsified the company's records to cover up the theft. Massimino put the pills in circulation.
Both pleaded guilty to various drug charges. Caddick was sentenced to 27 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Massimino, who is facing the most time, had his sentencing delayed until Jan. 30.
In March, according to court documents, Riggans, Massimino and a person who turned out to be a police informant worked up a plan to sell a load of pills to a drug dealer in Miami but rip off the payment by having Riggans conduct a bogus traffic stop.
They pulled off the scheme in a Winn-Dixie parking lot in Moon Lake. Shortly afterward, according to court documents, Riggans, Massimino and the informant met at a nearby school and divided up the money. Riggans' take was $9,000.
In his speech to Lazarra on Friday, Riggans said he told his wife he'd won the money in a casino jackpot. He planned to use it to pay off debt so they could buy the new house.
"I loved being a law enforcement officer and serving the community," said Riggans, who worked up from jail deputy to field training officer and corporal. "I will probably not be able to forgive myself."
He said he hoped his actions did not harm other officers.
But that was exactly the difficulty with the case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Porcelli.
"Mr. Riggans does reflect poorly on others in law enforcement," he said. "His offense is much more egregious than any drug dealer. He knew better.
"His conduct, unlike a drug dealer's, threatens the very system we operate under."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.