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Former law officials sentenced to prison

Three former anti-drug police officers from Hallandale and an ex-Customs inspector got prison sentences Monday _ and offered public apologies _ for taking payoffs to protect drug shipments and traffickers.

The four also admitted to government charges they used their expert knowledge of trafficking routes to steal drug dealers' drugs.

U.S. District Judge Lenore C. Nesbitt gave prison sentences ranging from six years to 7{ years. All four defendants pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and extortion charges in a plea agreement four months ago.

A month earlier, in May, prosecutors charged then-Hallandale police Officers Gilberto Hernandez, Thomas Murphy and John Salazar _ along with Customs Inspector Edwin Perez Martinez _ with taking bribes to protect undercover agents who posed as drug traffickers.

"I want to apologize to my family and friends, and to (Customs) Service for what I have done," Perez, a senior inspector in Miami when he was charged, told the court before Nesbitt gave him 6{ years in prison.

Nesbitt sentenced Hernandez to 7{ years in prison, while giving Murphy 7\ years and Salazar six years.

Had no plea agreement been reached in the case, each would have faced up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.

"I am truly sorry for what I have done," Hernandez said at his sentencing. He said that after his arrest in May, "I tried to make up 100 percent for the harm that I have caused."

Similar apologies came from both Salazar and Murphy.

After consulting with the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Paylor, Nesbitt ordered the three former officers from Hallandale, a coastal city just south of Fort Lauderdale, to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 15.

Perez asked to begin serving his earlier, and Nesbitt then ordered him to surrender by Nov. 21.

Until then, all four remain free on $150,000 bail.

In September 1996, prosecutors charged, Perez, Hernandez and Salazar met with an undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker, and agreed to a $1.6-million bribe in exchange for Customs clearance and protection for a 1,900-pound cocaine shipment.

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