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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A former police chief in a New Mexico border town collected more than $2,000 a month from the Juarez Cartel in exchange for protection and help with smuggling drugs and guns, a former town official testified Wednesday.
Blas "Woody" Gutierrez, the former Columbus village trustee, told a federal court that former Police Chief Angelo Vega also received $1,500 each time he allowed the cartel members to use village vehicles, including police cruisers, for the syndicate's various operations, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
That testimony came in a trial involving Danny Burnett, a former school superintendent who is charged with leaking information about a federal wiretap investigation into a Columbus gun and drug smuggling ring.
It was the first time such details from the 2011 gun smuggling case have been made public since many of the defendants have pleaded guilty.
Vega is the key prosecution witness in the case against Burnett, the husband of Assistant U.S. Attorney Paula Burnett, who has not been charged with any crime.
Gutierrez faces 10 years in federal prison for his guilty plea to 37 counts of smuggling, illegally purchasing firearms and conspiracy linked to the case.
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