Five San Francisco police officers, including one who hails from Danville, and a former officer have been indicted on charges of civil rights violations related to alleged illegal searches and theft of property seized from people arrested, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The six men were charged in two separate indictments issued under seal by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Tuesday and unsealed Thursday. The indictments were announced by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
In one indictment, two current officers and one former officer previously assigned to the San Francisco Police Department's Mission Station are accused of conspiracy against civil rights, conspiracy to distribute drugs, conspiracy to steal from a government program and sale of marijuana.
The indictment alleges they took for their own benefit property, money and drugs they had seized during an arrest in March 2009.
Those defendants are Officer Edmond Robles, 46, of Danville; Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill; and former officer Reynaldo Vargas, 45, of Palm Desert.
Vargas pleaded not guilty to the federal counts Thursday afternoon and was granted release on a $50,000 bond by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte. He was ordered to return to court next for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the trial judge assigned to his case.
Robles and Furminger are due in court on Friday.
Haag said the federal probe began after District Attorney George Gascon, who was police chief at the time of the incidents, cited a conflict of interest and referred the matter to U.S. authorities.
In the second indictment, three officers formerly assigned to the department's Southern Station are accused of conspiracy against civil rights and deprivation of rights in connection with unauthorized searches of single-room-occupancy residential hotel rooms in 2010 and 2011.
Those officers are Arshad Razzak, 41, and Richard Yick, 37, of San Francisco, and Raul Eric Elias, 44, of San Mateo.
The indictment alleges the trio conspired to "injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate" residential hotel occupants by entering and searching their rooms without legal justification. The officers are accused of additional counts of illegally searching two rooms in December 2010 and January 2011.
Razzak and Yick are also each charged with two counts of falsifying records and reports of the searches. All three officers were due in court Friday.
The allegedly illegal searches came to light in March 2011 when San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released surveillance videos from a Tenderloin neighborhood hotel that showed events that he said were inconsistent with police reports and sworn police testimony
Adachi said in a statement, "(The) indictments are confirmation that the constitutional rights of San Franciscans matter."
"I commend the U.S. Attorney for taking seriously the reports from ordinary citizens who had been humiliated, stolen from and hurt by police officers sworn to protect them," Adachi said.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said at a news conference, "Our department has been shaken," and announced he suspended the active five officers without pay.
"I don't know that it gets any worse than this," Suhr said. "My officers know I will not have dishonest cops among us.... They sully the ranks of the honest men and women out there doing the job."
San Francisco Police Officers Association President Mark Halloran said in a statement, "These indictments are apparently based on the questionable testimony of unreliable informant witnesses.
"However, we do understand that these are nonetheless serious charges. It is important to remember the accused officers will have their day in court since federal grand juries hear only one side of the story," Halloran said.