Former Yuba City Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Programs Bribery
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Harminder Phagura, 36, of Yuba City, pleaded guilty today to one count of federal programs bribery in connection with a drug trafficking scheme, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, while he was employed as a Yuba City police officer, Harminder Phagura exchanged sensitive information gained from his official position and exchanged it for money. Co‑defendant Gursharan Phagura transmitted this police-only information to a government source, who was posing as a cocaine trafficker
During the investigation, on July 29, 2014, federal agents observed Gursharan Phagura meet with Harminder Phagura in a Yuba City Police vehicle. At the same time, Gursharan Phagura and the government source were exchanging text messages regarding the state of police presence in the area. Agents then caused an alert to be transmitted on the Yuba City Police Department’s dispatch system. Within a few minutes, the government source received text messages indicating, in coded language, that law enforcement was in the area.
Over the course of several undercover operations, the government source paid a total of $6,000 for the information. The Yuba City Police Department receives grant funds from a Federal program.
“It’s profoundly troubling when sworn personnel use their training and expertise to flout the law, rather than uphold it,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, the special agent in charge who oversees HSI’s enforcement activities throughout northern California. “As the charges in this case make clear, no one is above the law, least of all law enforcement. This plea is gratifying for the HSI special agents and other investigators who worked tirelessly to see justice served.”
Co-defendant Gursharan Phagura is charged with possessing, with intent to distribute, cocaine. The charges are only allegations; he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Harminder Phagura and Gursharan Phagura were arrested on April 15, 2015. Harminder Phagura is out of custody on a $100,000 bond. Gursharan Phagura is in custody.
This case is the product of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yuba City Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Paul Hemesath is prosecuting the case.
Harminder Phagura is scheduled to be sentenced on October 14, 2016. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.