SF cops found guilty in corruption case 

click to enlarge S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo

Two San Francisco police officers were found guilty Friday on many counts they faced in a federal corruption trial that detailed stealing drugs and money from drug dealers.

Sgt. Ian Furminger was found guilty on four of seven charges and Officer Edmond Robles was found guilty on five counts related to conspiracy to sell drugs, extortion and theft.

They were found not guilty of conspiracy against civil rights and one theft charge.

Furminger and Robles -- along with former Officer Reynaldo Vargas, who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution -- all worked together in 2009 as part of a plainclothes unit in the Mission district.

The trio were part of several undercover teams whose actions at single-room-occupancy hotels in the Mission and Tenderloin and on Sixth Street -- including allegedly searching rooms without warrants -- were captured on video revealed by the Public Defender's Office in 2011.

In one incident, the three officers dug up $30,000 in a 2009 search of a Newark heroin dealer's house. They then split the cash, allowing Robles to pay for an expensive Belgian road bike and Furminger to buy new skylights, according to testimony.

A federal indictment against the three was filed in February.

"The convictions bring a measure of justice to the victims, who were ripped off, falsely arrested and disbelieved for far too long," said Public Defender Jeff Adachi. "Those 12 jurors sent a message -- that there are consequences for bullies who victimize the poor and powerless under color of authority."

Prosecutors characterized Furminger and Robles' actions as a breach of a solemn trust and a threat to democracy, while defense lawyers argued the U.S. Attorney's Office essentially paid for its two key witnesses.

"At its heart, this case is about the violation of the rule of law. ... What they did was far worse than just stealing," federal prosecutor John Hemann said in his closing argument Monday.

The legal teams for Robles and Furminger could not be reached for comment Friday.

Statements on the decision

Greg Suhr, chief of police:

Today, guilty verdicts were handed down in Federal Court against Sergeant Ian Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles. These verdicts come as a result of an FBI investigation initiated in March 2011, with which the San Francisco Police Department fully cooperated, into alleged warrantless searches captured on video. The convicted officers have been suspended without pay since the day of their initial arrest in February earlier this year.

As I said on the day I was sworn in as Chief of Police, and repeated on the day these officers were arrested when asked about this ongoing investigation, “There is no place in the San Francisco Police Department – and shouldn’t be in any police department - for a dishonest cop.” I meant what I said. I am seeking the immediate termination of these officers and expect that the Police Commission will act expeditiously in making that happen. Further, the San Francisco Retirement System will receive the requisite paperwork so as to terminate any future pension consideration, as appropriate.

I am grateful to US Attorney Melinda Haag and her office and to FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson and his office for their thorough and comprehensive investigation into this matter.

Of the many concerns my administration inherited from past administrations, this investigation – by far as the public’s trust is everything to us (SFPD) – has been of the gravest concern. These officers have not only betrayed the public’s trust but also the trust of the honest hard working men and women of this proud department who work so hard to keep this great City safe.

Federal authorities have represented no evidence was found that the conduct of these few officers, as alleged, is an indicator of a larger “systemic concern” within the SFPD. I want to assure the public that policies, procedures, and on-going training to these policies and procedures, along with additional supervision of officers working in plainclothes, have been put in place during the first weeks of my administration to safeguard against even the suggestion of anything like this happening again.

Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for Northern California:

Constitutional protections extend to each and every person. These men victimized those they swore an oath to protect, ruined their own careers, and tarnished the star worn so proudly by other men and women of the San Francisco Police Department. With these convictions, we reaffirm our commitment to prosecuting police officers who choose to violate the civil rights of the people of the Bay Area.

David J. Johnson, FBI special agent in charge:

Preservation of the rule of law demands that police officers who betray the public trust and violate their oaths be held accountable for their actions. Corruption—with or without a badge—is unacceptable, and today’s verdicts are a reminder that no one is above the law.

Martin Halloran, San Francisco Police Officers Association president:

Today, a Federal Jury released its verdict against two members of the San Francisco Police Department. These two officers were found guilty of several crimes, including theft and fraud. Although these findings are extremely disappointing to the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, the POA nonetheless respects the judicial process, the judge, and the work of the jury. As the U.S. Attorney stated in his Opening Statement during the trial, this three-year investigation clearly revealed that there is not a systemic problem of corruption within the SFPD.

We represent more than 2000 members of the San Francisco Police Department who every day dedicate themselves to protecting the citizens of San Francisco with honor and compassion. This verdict should, in no way, detract from the outstanding job these men and women do.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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