FBI sting National Guardsmen in border coke busts

From the Arizona Star, July 25:

Two ex-Army men receive 4+ years in drug sting
A crack-addicted Army National Guard sergeant who corrupted his underlings and a Tucson Army recruiter who corrupted his soldier brother were sentenced to federal prison terms in Tucson on Tuesday.

Robert L. Bakerx, a former sergeant at the Guard’s Valencia Road armory who solicited lower-ranking troops to run cocaine, will spend four years and seven months behind bars in the latest spate of sentencings arising from the FBI’s Operation Lively Green sting.

Bakerx, 45, also was fined $13,000 — the amount of bribe money he accepted to run drugs while dressed in uniform — and was ordered to undergo 500 hours of addiction treatment.

At least three other soldiers charged in the sting said they were following orders from Bakerx when they got involved in drug running. He admitted to soliciting two of them.

“I’d like to apologize to the state of Arizona. At the time, I was a full-blown addict, and I looked at this as easy money,” Bakerx told U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson.

The judge heard that Bakerx racked up a substantial criminal record during his years in the military, including two prior felony drug convictions — crimes that his lawyer, Bradley Armstrong, attributed to a long history of abusing crack cocaine and marijuana. The sergeant was dropped from military rolls in mid-2004.

“I love you,” one of Bakerx’s supporters called out as the convict was led from the courtroom in handcuffs to begin serving his time.

The former Army recruiter sentenced Tuesday, Derreck J. Curry, 31, took part in six cocaine runs for a fake FBI drug cartel in 2002 and 2003 while assigned to the Midtown recruiting station at 2303 E. Speedway.

Curry, a former staff sergeant, was sentenced to four years and two months in prison and fined $38,600 for the payoffs he received.

His hearing provided the first public glimpse of links between the Lively Green sting in Arizona and an FBI sting in Oklahoma known as Operation Tarnished Star. U.S. Justice Department officials have long said that the two federal cases were related, but they declined to say how.

On Tuesday, the judge heard that Curry, the Tucson recruiter, helped foster the Oklahoma connection by soliciting his brother, Antonio Curry, then a staff sergeant at Fort Sill, to join him in cocaine running.

Antonio Curry, who also is a former Army recruiter, is serving a five-year federal prison term in the case. He’s one of several former Fort Sill soldiers convicted of running cocaine between Texas and Oklahoma in the Tarnished Star sting.

Both brothers were booted from the Army, a deep disgrace to their family, which has a strong tradition of military service, Derreck Curry said. Their father is a sergeant major of the Army, and two sisters and another brother are in various branches of the military, he said.

“When they found out about me and my brother, they said, ‘It’s got to be a mistake,'” Derreck Curry said, adding that he regretted being motivated by “greed and selfishness.”

Dozens of military personnel and other public officials have pleaded guilty in the Lively Green case. Nearly all accepted government-offered plea bargains, which ensured no defendant would get more than five years in prison. The loads of cocaine they helped transport ranged from 22 to 176 pounds.

In other sentencings in the sting case on Tuesday:

* Phillip A. Varona, 24, a former parking control attendant with the Nogales Police Department, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years and a $15,000 fine. He took part in two drug runs in 2002.
* Michael E. Antone, 41, a retired Arizona Army National Guard member who ran cocaine twice while in uniform, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years and a $6,000 fine.

Several more Lively Green sentencings are set to take place this week.

See our last post on the struggle for the border.