An Army staff sergeant accused of taking part in a scheme to import cocaine into the United States from a U.S. base in Colombia using military aircraft was set to go on trial. The trial of Staff Sgt.Victor Portales was scheduled to begin Monday at Fort Bliss. Portales was charged with conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and unlawful possession of cocaine. He also faces a misconduct charge for allegedly transporting about $48,000 from Fort Bliss to Colombia to help fund the drug ring.
The accused ringleader, Staff Sgt. Daniel Rosas, told investigators that he helped start the drug ring after becoming friends with a bartender at the U.S. base in Colombia who offered to drive the cocaine onto the base, according to an affidavit obtained by The Associated Press.
Rosas recruited Portales and two other soldiers, who all are members of the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion, the affidavit said. Portales has been jailed since his arrest earlier this year.
Two of his co-defendants, former Spc. Francisco Rosa and former Staff Sgt. Kelvin S. Irizarry-Melendez have both pleaded guilty. They have agreed to testify against Portales and Rosas, who is scheduled to stand trial later this year.
Rosa was sentenced to five years in prison, a reduction in rank to private and a bad-conduct discharge. Irizarry-Melendez was sentenced to six years in prison, reduced in rank to private and ordered to receive a dishonorable discharge, reports the AP. I.L.