After an 18-month investigation, nine Bay Area law enforcement officers were arrested by FBI agents.
The FBI targeted current and former Antioch and Pittsburg police department officers.
Arrests were made in Hawaii, Texas, and across the San Francisco Bay Area.
Nine of the accused officers are currently in custody with no bail, while a 10th officer’s arrest is still pending.
In 2022, an investigation was launched to narrow down officers who allegedly cheated on college tests to obtain salary raises.
FBI agents probed into the cheating scandal which resulted in the discovery of more unethical and criminal behavior among officers.
The arrests on Thursday pushed through after a federal grand jury handed down four indictments charging 10 police officers with different crimes.
- Indictment 1: College Degree Benefits Fraud
According to U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey, six officers claimed to have earned college credits toward degrees when in fact, they hired people to take classes and exams for them.
The officers conspired to defraud their police departments, without putting in work attending classes, Ramsey said.
Officers charged in the first indictment were identified as Patrick James Berhan, Morteza Amiri, Amanda Carmella Theodosy, Samantha Peterson, Ernesto Juan Mejia-Orozco, and Brauli Rodriguez Jalapa.
They were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy for allegedly receiving pay raises through the college credits scheme.
Investigation reveals that in 2019, Pittsburg Police Officer Berhan hired a person to complete multiple college courses for him.
The courses helped Berhan complete a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice, resulting in a salary increase at the Pittsburg Police Department.
Five more officers joined the scheme after learning of Berhan’s utilization of the person’s college “services” for fraudulent coursework, investigators said.
- Indictment 2: Steroid drug dealing
Two Antioch police officers charged in the second indictment were identified as Daniel James Harris and Devon Christopher Wenger.
They were charged with conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, possession with intent to distribute steroids, and destroying evidence.
- Indictment 3: Obstruction of a Federal Investigation
One Antioch police officer, Timothy Allen Manly Williams, was charged with destruction of evidence, obstruction, falsification of records, and deprivation of rights under color of law.
On May 6, 2021, Williams was at a crime scene when another officer deployed a police dog to make an arrest.
Williams saw a witness recording a video of the K9 incident’s aftermath.
The indictment alleges that Williams seized the witness’ phone and destroyed it.
In another incident, Williams is accused of tipping off the target of a wiretap.
- Indictment 4: Deprivation of Rights
Three Antioch police officers allegedly committed “a disturbing litany of civil rights violations. The defendants boasted about their illegal use of force in text messages,” Ramsey said.
The officers are accused of collecting trophies from shooting scenes, racist text messages, excessively deploying K9 units to attack suspects, using a 40mm launcher as “punishment,” and intentionally leaving their body-worn cameras off.
“The officers had no interest in de-escalating to avoid violence. They collected as mementos spent ammunition from their attacks on the people of Antioch. They tried to escape scrutiny by failing to submit truthful reports or use their body-worn cameras. The damage done to public trust cannot easily be calculated,” Ramsey said.
Three Antioch police officers charged in the fourth indictment were identified as Eric Allen Rombough, Morteza Amiri, and Devon Christopher Wenger. The trio was charged with conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, destruction of evidence, and falsification of records.
At a news conference held by Ramsey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Tripp, Tripp said the arrests were the results of two years of “painstaking and methodical investigative work by the FBI and United States Attorneys Office. This case is one of the highest priorities for the San Francisco Field Office.”
Sworn police officers are dedicated to uploading the law, Tripp said. “Any breach of the public’s trust is absolutely unacceptable. Law enforcement officers bear a tremendous responsibility to police our communities lawfully,” Tripp said.
Federal investigators said they uncovered evidence exposing law enforcers as lawbreakers. “No one is above the law,” Tripp said.