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Former Los Angeles Police Officer and Former Long Beach Police Officer Found Guilty of Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights

WASHINGTON – A Los Angeles, Calif., jury today found former Los Angeles Police Department Officer William Ferguson and his brother, former Long Beach Police Department Officer Joseph Ferguson, guilty of conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess narcotics with intent to distribute, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, the Justice Department announced. William Ferguson was also found guilty of several firearm offenses and deprivation of rights under color of law.

William Ferguson faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment and a significant fine. Joseph Ferguson faces a sentence of up to 50 years imprisonment and a fine. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 21, 2008. Fifteen other co-conspirators, including other 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 previously pleaded guilty to federal crimes in connection with the conspiracy.

The evidence at trial consisted of testimony from victims and multiple co-conspirators, including former Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ruben Palomares. The evidence showed that the Ferguson brothers were part of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that committed over 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Central District of California between early 1999 and June of 2001. The robberies generally were committed after the group 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 occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims were often restrained, handcuffed, threatened or assaulted during the search. These assaults included firing a stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons, and putting a gun in the mouth of a victim. When the group stole narcotics, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs and they would then split the profits among the group.

“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 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.