CORRUPT COPS LEAD CRIME GANG
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted six gang members -- including three law enforcement officers -- on civil rights, narcotics and weapons charges for allegedly participating in an organized enterprise consisting of law enforcement officers and civilians who "invaded" private homes as though they were conducting legitimate law enforcement operations, but in reality were staging home-invasion robberies to steal drugs, money and weapons.
The case developed after feds arrested a suspended corrections officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Federal and local investigators discovered that the leader of the crime gang was actually a Los Angeles police officer named Ruben Palomares.
The more than 50 charges filed accuse the defendants of committing more than 20 robberies and burglaries from 1999 through 2001. The investigation into the gang began when Palomares and another member of his gang were arrested in San Diego on cocaine trafficking charges in June 2001.
The investigation, involving agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department, found that the robberies were generally committed after Palomares received information that a particular location was involved in the narcotics trade.
After planning the operation and conducting surveillance, the robbery team -- which usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying a badge -- gained access to the residence by falsely telling any residents that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims were often restrained, handcuffed, threatened or assaulted during the search, and on one occasion a man was hit with a stun gun.
Although many of the raids did not yield the anticipated narcotics, the crew allegedly stole any items of value found inside the residences. When the group did steal items, they divided profits from the sale of the stolen goods among themselves.
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 vehicles. 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 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."
Six defendants are named in a 54-count indictment returned by the grand jury. The three law enforcement defendants are:
- Rodrigo Duran, 35, of Tehachapi, a former deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who has been employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation since 1996 (he is currently on administrative leave;)
- William Ferguson, 33, of Huntington Beach, a former Los Angeles Police Officer who was terminated by the Department in 2003; and
- Joseph Ferguson, 31, of Garden Grove, who is William Ferguson's brother and a former officer with the Long Beach Police Department.
"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."
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 officer robbed a man of $45,000 worth of pseudoephedrine pills, which are a key precursor chemical in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
© 2006 Jim Kouri- All
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Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores.
"The depth of corruption and audacity among these law enforcement officers is nothing less than stunning,"