NEW YORK — A New York City officer named Ishmael Bailey had an off-duty job as a bodyguard this year for the wife of one of the most notorious defendants to step inside a courthouse — Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo.
Bailey had a front-row seat as federal prosecutors unspooled Guzmán’s long career shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and orchestrating the deaths of dozens of people to protect his vast operation.
On Wednesday, Bailey was back in a courtroom, this time as a defendant.
Bailey was accused by prosecutors in Queens of moonlighting as a bodyguard for people he believed to be drug dealers and of selling illegal drugs, according to a criminal complaint. Bailey, who joined the police department 12 years ago, was suspended without pay.
Karlton Jarrett, an assistant district attorney in Queens, said in court Wednesday that Bailey had worked off-duty jobs, including as “escort security” for Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro.
Aispuro’s lawyer, Mariel Colon Miro, said Bailey had accompanied her client to federal court in Brooklyn the day of Guzmán’s sentencing in July.
“It was one day — three minutes walking her to the courthouse and three minutes walking her back to the vehicle,” Colon Miro said. “It’s very unfortunate.”
Bailey’s lawyer, Jeff Cohen, said his client’s side job providing security for Aispuro “is irrelevant to the charges.” His client entered a plea of not guilty and intends to fight the charges, Cohen said.
“We have a lot of investigation to do,” he said.
The accusations against the officer involve wrongdoing that occurred long after the trial of Guzmán ended and are not related to the Mexican drug cartel he controlled.
The acting Queens district attorney, John Ryan, said Bailey had betrayed his oath of office.
“Today, sadly, he is accused of taking part in an illicit drug operation,” Ryan said in a statement. “This kind of malfeasance will not be tolerated.”
The police commissioner, James O’Neill, also expressed his dismay.
“There is no place for corruption within the NYPD,” O’Neill said. “When an individual officer intentionally tarnishes the shield worn proudly by thousands before him, he will be held to the highest account the law provides.”
Bailey had worked briefly for a company that provided transportation for Aispuro, police said. Officers often work second jobs, but the department would not say if it knew at the time that Bailey had arranged to work for Aispuro.
The department also did not respond to specific questions about its vetting policies regarding officers seeking to work second jobs.
According to a police department patrol guide, an officer must file an application with details about the second employer’s name and assignments, which is later approved by more than one supervisor.
The investigation of Bailey began in July after his commanding officer raised concerns about him, according to Assistant Chief Brian O’Neill, the executive officer of the Internal Affairs Bureau. O’Neill would not say what those concerns were.
According to the criminal complaint, Bailey, 36, agreed to act as a security guard and to transport and sell cocaine from late August to mid-September.
On Aug. 27, Bailey first agreed to act as a security guard for a drug dealer who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Bailey met with the same undercover agent Sept. 4 in Astoria, Queens, and held open a duffel bag while three packages — one of them containing cocaine and the other two with material meant to look like cocaine — were placed in the bag, the complaint said.
Bailey was paid $2,500 to take the bag to a parking lot and give it to a man who was also an undercover police officer. Later, Bailey again offered security services to the first undercover officer, and he was paid $10,000 to pick up 2 kilograms of cocaine, according to the complaint.
Bailey faces a host of charges, including first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree bribe receiving and official misconduct, officials said.
Bailey’s brother, Joshua Bailey, 34, said his family was in disbelief over the accusations. He described the officer as a dedicated member of the force and a father of two.
“He’s a good man, a good father,” Joshua Bailey said. “I can’t believe this.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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