Former State Employee Sentenced to 12 months in Prison for Role in $2 Million Scheme to Defraud the Office of AIDS
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Harminder Phagura, 37, of Yuba City, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to 18 months in prison for one count of federal programs bribery in connection with a drug trafficking scheme, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, Harminder Phagura worked as a police officer for the Yuba City Police Department, which receives grant funds from a Federal program. During the course of his crime, Phagura exchanged sensitive information gained from his official position for money. Co‑defendant Gursharan Phagura transmitted this police-only information to a government source, who was posing as a cocaine trafficker.
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.
At sentencing, Judge Burrell characterized Phagura’s conduct as reprehensible and as a breach of the public trust.
U.S. Attorney Talbert said: “When a police officer violates the public trust, the community suffers. My office takes seriously any allegation of official misconduct. We hope that this prosecution makes clear that no one is above the law – especially those who have taken an oath to protect the community.”
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. His next court date is March 31, 2017.
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.