Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2 city workers charged in park drug deal

HUMBOLDT PARK | Firefighter, Water Dept. worker accused of cocaine transaction
February 17, 2009

A 62-year-old Chicago firefighter has been charged with selling cocaine to a worker in the Department of Water Management, which was at the center of a 2005 heroin-trafficking scandal.

Fire engineer Ruben Santiago has been placed on an unpaid leave of absence after being charged Thursday with manufacture, delivery and possession of more than 15 grams of cocaine.

Waldemar Cruz, a 63-year-old Water Management rate taker who allegedly bought drugs from Santiago, was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. His employment status was not known.

The alleged drug deal between two city employees in their 60s allegedly took place in the inner drive of Humboldt Park.

Officers from the Chicago Police Department's gang enforcement unit conducting surveillance in response to complaints of narcotics sales in Humboldt Park reportedly observed the hand-to-hand transaction.

After the 2 p.m. street sale, Santiago allegedly got into his personal vehicle and threw drugs on the ground after being stopped by police. Cruz was also driving his personal car, sources said.

"At this time, there is no indication that anything illegal was done on city time. However, the conduct alleged clearly violates the oath taken to protect life," said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

In 2005, a Water Management hoisting engineer who served as a deputy voter registrar for the Hispanic Democratic Organization was accused of heading the Chicago arm of a Colombia heroin-trafficking ring. George A. Prado was arrested along with two other city employees.

Santiago's arrest marks the latest in a series of black eyes for the Chicago Fire Department.

In December, firefighter Jose Moreno was charged with sexually molesting three young children, including a 3-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 6. He was hired to be their caretaker three or four times a week.

Two weeks later, another firefighter was charged with fraud and forgery; he allegedly stole natural gas after the heat was cut off at his home.

Chicago firefighters and paramedics are subject to random drug testing that traditionally yields a 1 percent positive rate, "which is good," Langford said.

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