A former New Orleans police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempting to possess and distribute cocaine in what he said was an effort to help pay his mortgage.
Jason Cross, 35, stole what he thought was thousands of dollars worth of cocaine from a Metairie hotel room during an FBI sting on Jan. 10, according to court documents.
Cross had pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Nov. 13. The admission Tuesday came as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
In fall 2012, according to a summary of the case signed by Cross, agents learned from law enforcement sources that Cross and a “known individual” from another state had talked about stealing illegal drugs in order to pay Cross’ debts.
On Dec. 31, 2012, the second person got a text message from Cross saying that he needed $5,000 by Jan. 4.
FBI agents by that point had spoken to Cross’ would-be conspirator, and they had him set up a meeting with Cross to steal cocaine that was being stored in a hotel room in Metairie, according to court documents.
On Jan. 9, Cross and the other person met to discuss a theft of the drugs. That conversation was recorded on video and audio.
The next day, Cross arrived at the hotel in a city-owned car and armed with his NOPD gun, according to court documents. He met with the other person, got a key to the room and then took a bag containing about three kilograms of fake cocaine.
Cross left the hotel, got into the other person’s car and gave him two kilograms of the fake drug, according to court documents. FBI agents then detained Cross as he tried to get into his own car.
Cross told agents he was trying to get money to pay his mortgage, which he was behind on by several months due to “significant” debts caused by a family medical situation.
Cross’ sentencing is scheduled for March 27. He faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $1 million fine.
Cross joined the NOPD in March 2007 and was most recently assigned to the 7th District, which patrols a portion of Gentilly and all of New Orleans East. He resigned from the department on Nov. 1, the same day he was charged in federal court.