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Another So.Cal Police Officer Sentenced In the wake of Rampart corruption scandal

by Michael Webster Investigative Reporter Wednesday, May. 07, 2008 at 9:44 AM
mvwsr@aol.com 949 494-7121

The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying a official police badge, who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were police officers and that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were violently restrained, threatened or assaulted during the search.



By Michael Webster: Investigative Reporter May 7, 2008 12:00 PM PDT

U.S. Justice Department reports that former Long Beach police officer Joseph Ferguson was sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles, Calif., for his role in a series of home invasion robberies over a two-year period which were connected to the LAPD in the wake of the 1999 Rampart corruption scandal. Ferguson was sentenced to 97 months in prison and four years of supervised release.

On Jan. 30, 2008, a Los Angeles jury convicted the defendant of conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess narcotics with intent to distribute, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. The defendant’s brother and co-defendant, former Los Angeles police officer William Ferguson, was also convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law and several firearms offenses and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19, 2008.

As previously reported by this reporter the evidence at trial showed that the defendant and his co-defendants were members of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, led by former Los Angeles police officer Ruben Palomares and including other law enforcement officers and drug dealers. Together, they committed more than 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Los Angeles area between early 1999 and June of 2001. The robberies generally were committed after the group received information that a particular location was involved in illegal drug-trafficking. The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying a official police badge, who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were police officers and that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were violently restrained, threatened or assaulted during the search. These brutal assaults included firing point blank stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons and putting a gun in the mouth of victims. After these on and off duty police officers stole the drugs, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs and they would split the profits among the group.

In all, 17 defendants, including law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections have been convicted or have previously pleaded guilty to federal crimes in connection with the conspiracies.

 “This former police officer violated his oath as a public servant when he, along with his co-defendants, began engaging in violent criminal conduct,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute those who cross that line.”

During the course of the conspiracy, Palomares provided associates with official LAPD badges, uniforms, radios, firearms and other equipment. Some of the robberies were committed after the thieves drove to the location in official LAPD police black and white squad cars. The robbers used the LAPD equipment to make victims believe they were the subject of legitimate law enforcement operations and to minimize the defendants’ risk of being questioned if confronted by law enforcement officers.

The indictment alleged a series of incidents in which the robbery crew broke into houses and commercial establishments with the goal of obtaining narcotics, cash, guns and other valuables. Palomares was involved in all of the incidents, with the Fergusons and Loaiza participating in many of them. In one burglary, members of the gang allegedly stole 600 pounds of marijuana. In another incident, several co-conspirators allegedly stole television sets from an 18-wheel truck in Montebello. And, in another robbery outside a Fontana market, Palomares and another man dressed as a police officers robbed a man of ,000 worth of pseudoephedrine pills, which are the key precursor chemical in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The other three defendants named in the indictment are fugitives at this time. They are:

- Michelle Barajas, 38, of Paramount;

- Armando Contreras-Lopez, 35, of Paramount; and

- Oscar Loaiza, 35, of Montebello, who is a cousin of Palomares.

These three defendants are accused, along with the three law enforcement defendants, of conspiring to violate civil rights and conspiring to possess both marijuana and cocaine with the intent to distribute the narcotics.

"The depth of corruption and audacity among these law enforcement officers is nothing less than stunning," said United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. "While having a badge imparts some degree of power to an officer of the law, it also imparts a great deal of responsibility. In addition to rejecting their responsibilities to the law, these officers rejected their sacred responsibilities to their communities and their departments."

  

“These defendants, who were sworn to serve and protect the people of Los Angeles, went from enforcing the law to breaking the law,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute those who cross that line.”

“This case exposed a dark world of corrupt law enforcement officers who defiled their badges and compromised the good work of their colleagues,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien.  “The home invasion robberies committed by these former officers shocks the conscience and will lead to lengthy prison sentences that they so richly deserve.”

"The reality is, no police department is immune from bad cops," stated Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. "I have no tolerance for intentional misconduct and will deal with it forcefully and aggressively. Supervision, safeguards and civilian oversight are used to monitor employees and ensure quality police service. No good cop wants to work with a bad cop. No good cop wants a bad cop in their Department. Today's announcement proves we are committed to getting rid of those who would tarnish the LAPD badge."

Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts stated: "When a police officer violates the laws that he has sworn to uphold, it erodes the public trust that we in law enforcement work so hard to build. The men and women of the Long Beach Police Department take great pride in their work and are fully committed to the safety of our community. Reckless actions by individuals that undermine the integrity of this department and damage the public trust will not be tolerated."

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.



- Ruben Palomares, 36 of Diamond Bar, who was arrested on federal narcotics charges in 2001 and was terminated by the LAPD in 2003;

- Gabriel Loaiza, 30, of Montebello, who received law enforcement training and unsuccessfully applied to be a non-sworn employee of the Long Beach Police Department in 2000, was arrested with Palomares in 2001;

- Jesse Moya, 29, of Whittier, who was a Los Angeles Police Officer until late 2004;

- Manuel Hernandez, 25, of Pico Rivera, who is a cousin of Palomares;

- Alvin Moon, 30, of San Gabriel, who also received law enforcement training and unsuccessfully applied to the Los Angeles Police Department, was arrested along with Palomares and Gabriel Loaiza in 2001;

- Manny Martinez-Godinez, 25;

- Jessica Treat, 31, of Whittier;

- Steve Quintero, 30, of Montebello, a custodial police officer with the Garden Grove Police Department;

- Geronimo Sevilla, 32, of Whittier, who met Palomares while he was a LAPD explorer scout and who unsuccessfully applied to the department in 2000;

- Jesus Estrada Dominguez, 40;

- Pablo Estrada, 29, of La Puente, a friend of Gabriel Loaiza;

- Juan Pablo Mendoza, 29, of Muscoy, who is a cousin of Palomares; and

- David Barajas, 32, of Paramount, a longtime friend of Palomares who is currently in custody on unrelated narcotics charges.



“The FBI counts public corruption as its top criminal program priority, and this case illustrates that commitment.  Investigators and detectives tirelessly pursued a small number of law enforcement officers who, in betrayal of their sworn duty to serve the public, used their badges and guns as instruments of terror and personal gain,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.  “The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, will continue to root out the small percentage of sworn personnel that act outside the law.”           

          

This case was investigated by Special Agent Phil Carson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of Steve Sambar, Roger Mora and Mark Bigel of the Los Angeles and Long Beach Police Departments.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas M. Miller of Los Angeles and Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Jeffrey S. Blumberg and Joshua D. Mahan.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of the federal criminal civil rights statutes, such as laws that prohibit willful acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials.  In Fiscal Year 2007, the Criminal Section convicted the highest number of defendants in its history, surpassing the record previously set in Fiscal Year 2006.

The Department of Justice has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights law enforcement misconduct prosecutions in the last seven years.  During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants (391 v. 256) in color of law cases than the previous seven years.

Related article: Los Angeles, Long Beach And Other Police Officers Found Guilty Of Home Invasion Robberies & Trafficking In Drugs

PBS - frontline: l.a.p.d. blues: the scandal: rampart scandal timeline Rampart Scandal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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