By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two Baltimore City Police Officers admitted to stealing from citizens, lying on police reports, taking tropical vacations while claiming they were on the job.

The officers were praised for taking almost 140 guns off the streets last year. Now, a number of those cases have been dropped, and the two officers who pleaded guilty today could be powerful prosecution witnesses in the cases against five of their colleagues.

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Body camera video shows what was an elite gun task force of the Baltimore City Police Department at work.

“You can see the cocaine in the visor,” says one officer on camera.

Federal prosecutors allege they went rogue. The seven officers repeatedly shook down citizens for cash, wrongly imprisoning them, and filing false reports.

Now, two of the officers, Maurice Ward, and Evodio Hendrix, have pleaded guilty to charges that are expected to put them behind bars for nearly a decade.

The officers admitted vacationing in the Dominican Republic in the sun and sand while claiming they were working regular shifts. The two almost doubled their salaries in fraudulent overtime claim, cheating taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars.

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“When you see that law enforcement officers aren’t living up to their oath and committing crimes, you need to go after them vigorously,” says Stephen Schenning, Acting U.S. Attorney.

“I’m a career law enforcement person and native Baltimorean. It’s disheartening,” he says.

The two guilty pleas mean these officers may testify against the remaining five charged in the scandal. Their lawyers won’t say whether they’ll turn.

Officers Hendrix and Ward remain behind bars for now. They’ll be sentenced early next year. Federal sentencing guidelines call for seven-to-nine years in prison.

This happens as Baltimore is reeling from another police scandal that broke this week, involving an officer caught on a body camera appearing to plant drug evidence, which has put almost 100 other cases in jeopardy.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for Feb. 20 for Hendrix and Feb. 21 for Ward.

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