CROSSING THE THIN BLUE LINE: Pulido could face up to 10 years' imprisonment
Meet Roberto Pulido, 41. He’s a 10-year veteran of the Boston Police Department and, if critics are right, he could be the poster boy for the BPD’s inability to police itself. In July, the FBI arrested Pulido, along with fellow Boston police officers Nelson Carrasquillo and Carlos Pizarro, in Miami, where the officers were nailed for protecting cocaine traffickers. They were charged with a staggering litany of serious federal crimes: identity theft, narcotics dealing, obstruction of justice, robbery, assault and battery, money laundering, insurance fraud, providing protection for illegal after-hours parties, and smuggling illegal aliens. The only one of the three to be charged with all these crimes was Pulido — whom federal authorities regard as the circle’s ringleader.
The BPD now is investigating allegations that some officers participated in drug-and-prostitution parties at a Hyde Park building owned by Pulido. Only when a friend of Pulido’s turned informant for the feds, and the feds informed the BPD of its investigation, did suspicion set in. Which raises the question, how well does Boston police its own police?
It’s not as if there hadn’t been plenty of red ﬂags. Pulido failed two drug tests in 1999. He was involved in a suspicious shooting incident in 2002. And for some reason, Pulido’s supervisors didn’t think to question how the cop had time to run several businesses while holding down his BPD job, or how he could afford to buy two buildings while supporting six children.
The department failed to learn from the self-scrutiny it endured as a result of a similar scandal just 10 years ago. In 1996, Bostonians learned that detectives Walter Robinson and Kenneth Acerra, working in Jamaica Plain and Hyde Park, had for years abused their authority, doctoring up phony search warrants and pocketing cash and drugs from people’s homes. Both later pleaded guilty and served three years in prison.
As it turns out, Pulido joined the police department — indeed, the very district — at the same time this scandal was unfolding. But he had been exposed to crime and corruption long before that. Pulido’s story illustrates how closely law-keepers’ lives can parallel those of law-breakers’ — and how little the BPD seems to have learned since 1996 about preventing its officers from crossing the line.
‘Cocaine capital of Boston’
MIAMI VICE: An FBI sting nailed Boston police officers Roberto Pulido (left), Nelson Carrasquilo (top), and Carlos Pizarro (bottom) in July. Red flags had been flapping furiously aroundd Pulido, who worked at District E-13 for years.
When Roberto Emilio Pulido was born to Cuban immigrants, on April 23, 1965, the family’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood was an Italian and Irish enclave. By the time Pulido ﬁnished high school, in 1983, JP was home to 6000 Hispanics, including hundreds of “Marielitos” — prisoners and others released by Fidel Castro in 1981.
Police at the time called the Pulidos’ Hyde Square neighborhood the “Cocaine Capital of Boston” — although Whitey Bulger’s South Boston might as easily have merited that dubious distinction — and one of the most gang-ridden neighborhoods in the city. Things got only worse after 1981, when massive layoffs in the BPD caused the closure of JP’s police station, District E-13.
Over the course of the decade, Hyde Square — a family-oriented, working-class neighborhood — found itself increasingly threatened by turf warfare. African-Americans controlled the Bromley-Heath projects; Dominicans ran the drug trade on Mozart Street; the Puerto Rican X-Men dominated Egleston Square. And Slumlords burning down their properties for insurance money were blamed for as many as 200 arsons or suspicious fires in Jamaica Plain in the early-to-mid ‘80s.
Every day, Pulido took the bus to another universe: Madison Park High School, in Dudley Crossing. Newly opened in 1976, the school was the epitome of the desegregation effort, pulling in students from white and black neighborhoods alike. Its 2400 students were 45 percent black, 35 percent white, and 15 percent Hispanic.
Along with creating ethnically diverse classrooms, Madison Park mixed together active and future gang members from across the city. Pulido was the same age as the founders of a number of Boston gangs — Castlegate, HQ Block, X-Men, Corbet Street Crew, and Columbia Point Dogs — from neighborhoods that sent teens to Madison Park High.
It was at Madison Park that Pulido became friends with Victor Lozano, the man now believed to be the federal government’s informant. In high school, Lozano was already getting into trouble and was charged with gun possession during his senior year. Lozano (who, in Madison Park’s 1983 senior yearbook, listed as his ambition “to be a pharmacist”) was later convicted of drug trafficking, among other crimes.
Pulido’s name does not appear among any sports teams or activity clubs in Madison Park High School yearbooks. But his senior picture shows a handsome, smiling young man, in short Jeri curls and a mustache, sharply dressed in a collar and a tie. At least one girl was wooed: in his junior year, Pulido fathered his first child, Charity McNeil Pulido.