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Monday, May 12, 2008
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Former Los Angeles Police Officer and Co-Conspirator Sentenced for Civil Rights Violations

WASHINGTON – Former Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ruben Palomares and his cousin and co-conspirator, Gabriel Loaiza, were sentenced today in federal court in Los Angeles for their roles in a series of home-invasion robberies over a two-year period, the Justice Department announced. Palomares was sentenced to 158 months in prison and 5 years of supervised release. Loaiza was sentenced to 108 months in prison and 5 years of supervised release.

Palomares and Loaiza both previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, deprivation of rights under color of law, and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Palomares and Loaiza also testified in the January 2008 trial in which a federal jury found their fellow co-conspirators, William and 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.

Evidence presented at the plea hearings and the January 2008 trial of co-conspirators William and Joseph Ferguson revealed that Palomares and Loaiza were members of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that committed over 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Los Angeles area between early 1999 and June of 2001. Palomares was the ringleader of this conspiracy, which included other law enforcement officers as well as drug dealers. The robberies generally were committed after the group received information that a particular location was involved in illegal drug-trafficking. The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying badges who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were restrained, 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 drugs, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs, then split the profits from these sales among the group.

In all, 17 defendants, including 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 been convicted of federal crimes in connection with the conspiracy. Co-defendant Joseph Ferguson was sentenced to 97 months in prison on May 5, 2008.

“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.”

“With brazen disregard for the safety of those he was victimizing, Ruben Palomares repeatedly violated the sanctity of the law he was sworn to uphold,” said Thomas P. O’Brien, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. “Public corruption cases like this are among the most serious and important cases that we prosecute. Preserving the public’s right to integrity throughout all levels of government is one of the Justice Department’s highest priorities.”

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 Special Litigation Counsel Jeffrey S. Blumberg and Trial Attorney Josh Mahan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas M. Miller of the Central District of California.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as the laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights law enforcement prosecutions. 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. During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants (391 v. 256) in law enforcement prosecutions than the previous seven years.