HAMMOND - A federal judge on Friday sentenced a former Gary police officer to life in prison for assisting in a violent campaign against rival drug dealers as part of a cocaine trafficking operation in northwest Indiana.
A federal jury in November 2003 convicted James Ervin of several counts of drug-related felony charges.
He was convicted of helping Jay Zambrana, who investigators said directed a gang of 16 members who imported millions of dollars worth of illicit drugs into northwest Indiana and sold them to street-level dealers. Prosecutors said Zambrana used Ervin to extort money from competitors.
Jurors, after hearing 16 days of evidence gathered by local and federal authorities, deliberated a day and a half before returning guilty verdicts against both men.
The nine-year veteran of the Gary police department also was ordered to execute Chicago drug dealers Raul Huartado and Gil Nevarez in 1998, prosecutors said.
The men were strangled with electrical extension cord in a Gary nightclub, investigators said. The bodies were then put into the trunk of their car, which was set afire on Chicago's South Side.