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Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-066

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

FIRST DEFENDANT LINKED TO ROBBERY CREW RUN BY POLICE OFFICER SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS


Los Angeles, CA - A Paramount man who provided information to a gang consisting of law enforcement officers and civilians who raided residences as though they were conducting legitimate law enforcement operations was sentenced this afternoon to the statutory-maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for conspiring with the robbery crew to violate civil rights.

David Barajas, 32, a longtime friend of the robbery crew leader, was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess. Barajas, who pleaded guilty in March to the conspiracy charge, is the first defendant in the long-running investigation to be sentenced.

During today's hearing, Judge Feess said a "reasonable" sentence would have been from about 12 to 15 years, as called for by the sentencing guidelines, but federal law capped the sentence for the conspiracy charge at 10 years.

Barajas is among 13 defendants who have already pleaded guilty in the scheme, where police and civilians identified themselves as police officers and executed "searches" that, in reality, were nothing more than home-invasion robberies to steal drugs, money and weapons. Barajas provided information to the robbery crew and then sold drugs that were stolen, taking 50 percent of the profit for himself.

Among the 13 defendants already convicted is the leader of the group, former Los Angeles Police Officer Ruben Palomares.

The charges filed in this case allege that the defendants committed more than 20 robberies and burglaries from 1999 through 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 occupants 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.

Earlier this year, six defendants were named in a 54-count indictment, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/news/pr2006/026.html. The defendants named in the indictment are scheduled to go on trial in February 2007. Following that trial, the remaining 12 defendants who have pleaded guilty will be sentenced.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The cases related to the Palomares robbery ring are the result of a lengthy and ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department. The cases are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

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Release No. 06-066

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