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Former cop takes deal, pleads guilty in drug caseMaro Robbins, EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER

A former police officer who helped sell cocaine accepted a plea deal Monday that would cap his three years in a patrol car with about three years in prison.

Enrique Hinojosa's short career in the San Antonio Police Department ended after his own colleagues arrested him during a 2003 raid on an apartment that contained cash, cocaine and heroin.

Hinojosa claimed he was simply visiting his childhood pal, Mike Flores, but his denial was silenced after Flores and others pleaded guilty last week and at least one co-defendant agreed to testify against the officer.

Rather than face a trial that was set to start Monday, Hinojosa, 32, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding drug distribution and admitted to having sold cocaine on three occasions.

The former officer's punishment will be decided by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, but the plea bargain calls for a sentence of roughly three years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Priscilla Garcia said.

"Police officers are American heroes because they are willing to put their lives on the line every day to protect us," U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said in a written statement. "Mr. Hinojosa, however, betrayed the trust of the people of San Antonio by rejecting his oath and becoming one of the criminals."

Court documents suggest that the government's evidence rested in part on a co-defendant who said he heard Flores boast that he had a friend on the police force who would warn him when investigators came near the neighborhood.

The co-defendant also told authorities that he had seen Hinojosa drive Flores to a heroin deal on Aug. 30, 2003.

On Sept. 11 that year, police raided Flores' apartment and found more than $23,000 in cash on the counter, as well as bags of cocaine and heroin in a cabinet and refrigerator.

They also found Hinojosa there.

When questioned, Hinojosa undermined his credibility by lying to investigators about various details of what he had done that day.

Phone records also revealed "constant communication" between him and Flores.

The Police Department fired the patrolman in March 2004.

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