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Ex-Dominican anti-drug official pleads guilty to drug charges

By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former chief operating officer of the Dominican Republic's main counter-drug agency pleaded guilty on Tuesday to U.S. charges that he conspired with drug traffickers to transport cocaine into the United States.

At a hearing in U.S. district court in Manhattan, Francisco Hiraldo Guerrero, 54, said he was part of the traffickers' conspiracy. He said he had reached an agreement with prosecutors and was waiving his right to a trial.

Hiraldo Guerrero had pleaded not guilty to the charges last year. He did not explain his change of plea, and after the hearing, his lawyer did not return a call requesting comment.

Prosecutors alleged that Hiraldo Guerrero used his position at the Dominican Republic's National Drug Control Directorate to protect cocaine shipments, including some to New York.

About 6 percent of the cocaine that is smuggled to North America and Europe passes through the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, according to the U.S. State Department's 2014 narcotics control report.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic arrested Hiraldo Guerrero in October 2012, and he was later extradited to New York to face U.S. charges.

He faces a prison sentence of at least 10 years under U.S. law. He also agreed to forfeit about $1 million to the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan said he would sentence Hiraldo Guerrero on Nov. 3.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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