Former police officer convicted of drug charges Gerant had been key witness, but his immunity had been rescinded.

January 17, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

John G. "Jerry" Gerant, the former Miami police officer who flew drugs into the United States for a Colombian cartel, has been convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy and three related counts in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

His conviction yesterday was a victory for federal drug agents and prosecutors, who used Gerant as a key witness in a major drug trial here several years ago but later rescinded his immunity agreement after learning he had lied about the extent of his involvement in international drug trafficking.

"Where the government learns that a cooperating witness has in any way failed to be truthful, our office will investigate to the fullest and prosecute where appropriate," said U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett, who praised work by prosecutors and investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service.

A jury of nine women and three men deliberated nine hours before finding Gerant guilty on all five charges prosecutors had brought against him.

Gerant, 42, bowed his head into folded arms at the defense table as Senior Judge Alexander Harvey 2nd announced the jury's verdict on each of the counts. The man who prosecutors say once lived a lavish lifestyle in affluent Boca Raton, Fla., now faces life in prison without parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Prosecutors, in closing arguments, described Gerant as a high-level supervisor in a conspiracy that imported hundreds of kilograms of drugs to Florida between 1985 and 1987.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew G.W. Norman and Bonnie S. Greenberg told the jury that Gerant was a key figure in the drug ring who organized, hired and supervised lower-level drug traffickers. They said he ultimately was to blame for large quantities of drugs that came into Maryland.

"Defense attorneys hate conspiracy laws," Greenberg said. "You know why? It makes people at the top responsible for what those at the lower end do."

She said Gerant organized two major shipments of high-quality TC cocaine from Colombia to Florida. The drugs were flown from South America to the Bahamas where they were stored temporarily, she said, until they were brought into this country.

Greenberg said the conspirators transported marijuana and 113 kilograms of cocaine into the country in the first shipment. They planned a second shipment of 482 kilograms, with Gerant receiving $6,000 for each kilogram.

In the second shipment, however, 200 kilograms of cocaine were mysteriously lost in the Bahamas and only 282 kilograms arrived at the Boca Raton destination.

During the trial, Agent Robert J. Betkey, an IRS investigator, testified that Gerant spent $1.5 million during a three-year period and made several cash deposits of $10,000 or more in South Florida banks.

Betkey testified that Gerant bought an expensive house -- which he later said cost $350,000 -- a $24,000 Mercedes-Benz, a $30,000 bridal set of matching wedding and engagement rings and a $7,000 Rolex watch.

Greenberg said Gerant's lawyer had "thrown in the towel" on all but one of the five counts against Gerant, because the defense admitted that he was guilty of conspiracy.

E. Thomas Maxwell Jr., Gerant's lawyer, said that although his client flew planes for the drug conspiracy, other members of the group played larger roles and received more favorable treatment from prosecutors.

Gerant, who worked as a Miami police officer from 1970 to 1980, testified as a key government witness in the trial of Steven A. Silvers and his brother, Gary Silvers, and an associate, George Chaconas. They were convicted of federal drug charges in 1988 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Gerant had signed an agreement with prosecutors for immunity from prosecution. But a federal grand jury indicted him last year after investigators learned that he had played a much larger role in the smuggling operations than he had revealed during interviews and testimony in the Silvers trial.

Prosecutors said Gerant's immunity agreement was invalid because he had violated its provisions by lying. Harvey ruled last September that authorities could withdraw the agreement and prosecute him.

"The government now, having used him, is trying to unload on him," Maxwell said, "and what we're saying is, it's not fair."

Norman, the lead prosecutor in the case who has obtained more than 50 convictions in related cases, said witnesses proved that the former police officer was a high-level drug figure because he paid those who transported and stored the cocaine.

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