Drug cartel forced ex-cop to transport heroin, federal document says

When a drug cartel offered “condolences” after the death of his 21-year-old son, former Mexican Federal Highway Patrol Officer Rolf E. Kruger decided he should transport illegal drugs across the United States, according to federal court documents.

“In 2015, Mr. Kruger received a series of phone calls, each more menacing than the last. The cartel was calling, and they not only knew where Mr. Kruger lived and worked, but they knew the intimate details of his children’s lives as well,” Kruger’s federal public defender wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.

“Mr. Kruger was given two choices: drive drugs across the country, or risk the safety of his children and grandchildren,” public defender Arthur Mullins wrote.

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Kruger is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday on an amended count of interstate travel to promote an unlawful activity. He could face up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The plea agreement includes no stipulated prison sentence.

Kruger was originally charged with intent to distribute after the 63-year-old was stopped in Preble County in February by an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper with three kilograms of heroin in a Volkswagen Jetta. The 5-foot-5, 140-pound retired officer had an estimated $1.2 million worth of drugs in a hidden compartment.

Kruger told U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigators he was to be paid $5,000 to transport drugs from Arizona to New York and that he had made one previous such trip.

The cartel “targeted Mr. Kruger because of his family, and they knew he would take their threats seriously,” Mullins wrote, adding that Kruger had a valid U.S. driver’s license and legal residency. “Yet for several months, Mr. Kruger resisted the ‘requests’ of the cartel. It was not until after his young son’s unexpected death that Mr. Kruger truly felt he had no choice but to agree to the cartel’s demand.”

The memo said Rolf Harley Kruger’s death was ruled a suicide, but that he had no history of depression. “Mr. Kruger took (the phone) call as a clear indication that the cartel orchestrated his son’s death,” the memo said.

Mullins wrote that Kruger's decision to transport drugs was "anything but a free and voluntary one," and that cartels forcing unwilling drivers to traffic drugs is becoming a more common tactic. Mullins referenced an Arizona Public Media story that says that migrants have been forced to carry drugs by armed cartel members.

In the government’s sentencing memo, assistant U.S. attorney Brent Tabacchi wrote that Kruger has no criminal history nor any other known contacts in the drug trade.

“The relatively crude manner in which he attempted to conceal the heroin within his car tends to corroborate his lack of criminal sophistication,” Tabacchi wrote. “The same facts suggest the Mr. Kruger poses little risk of recidivism.”

Tabacchi declined comment on Tuesday, while Mullins didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

In his memo’s conclusion, Mullins wrote that human rights organizations are concerned about an increase in drug trafficking being forced upon those who drive to the United States.

“Mr. Kruger was faced with the stark choice of carrying drugs across the country or potentially seeing his family murdered,” Mullins wrote. “Mr. Kruger committed the offense not because it was his chosen desire to work for the cartel, but because he was afraid of the consequences if he said no.

“Mr. Kruger knows what he did was wrong, but when faced with the death of his son and the continued threats of violence from the cartel, he simply did not know what else he could possibly do.”