COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A former Columbus police officer will spend nine years in prison for conspiring to traffic drugs.
Marco R. Merino, 45, was sentenced in federal court Thursday nearly a year after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic more than eight kilograms of fentanyl — enough to kill more than one million people — and accepting bribes to protect the transport of cocaine, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
“We cannot allow those who took an oath to uphold law and order to begin violating the law,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth L. Parker said in a statement. “This office will hold lawbreakers accountable, no matter their profession.”
From June to September 2021, Merino conspired with fellow former narcotics officer John J. Kotchkoski to give a person fentanyl at least three times, according to the Justice Department. On one occasion, he accepted $32,500 in exchange for one kilogram of the drug.
Merino also agreed to safely protect the transport of at least 47 kilograms of cocaine for $45,000 in cash. Unbeknownst to Merino, however, “there was no actual cocaine and each of the transactions was controlled by federal law enforcement,” the Justice Department said.
While attempting to recruit someone to join his trafficking scheme, Merino promised police protection and said he could interview if other law enforcement agencies tried to investigate.
Both Merino and Kotchkoski faced disciplinary action during their time at the Columbus Division of Police, according to personnel and court files, including an alleged assault at the 2015 Dublin Irish Festival by Kotchkoski. Records indicate that Merino was found to be physically, mentally or emotionally unable to perform his work because of stress.
Merino resigned from the role in October 2021, shortly after being arrested by the FBI.
Kotchkoski, 33, of Marengo, has yet to be sentenced, according to the Justice Department.