Just weeks before the start of a federal corruption trial of three San Francisco police officers, one of the trio has admitted he stole property and drugs from suspects and agreed to testify against the other officers.
During a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court federal prosecutors said former officer Reynaldo Vargas agreed to plead guilty to four courts of conspiracy to distribute drugs and theft of property.
Vargas, who has not at the hearing, also agreed to testify against his former colleagues, officers Ian Furminger and Edmond Robles.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann made clear that prosecutors were still assessing the Vargas admissions but warned that it could mean new charges will be leveled against Furminger and Robles.
Furminger and Robles, stood before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer as their lawyers argued that that they should be tried separately.
The plea bargain by Vargas “does not change to vitality of our position,”
Brian Getz told Breyer in asking that the trials be severed. “I don’t think Furminger will be implicated with the evidence comes in,” he said.
Breyer denied the move to sever the conspiracy trial, set to begin Nov. 3, into separate proceedings.
“How do you try a conspiracy with one defendant?” Breyer asked. “I know it can be done, but it is very unusual to sever.”
All three officers worked at the Mission District station.
“I took computers and other property, including gift cards and money during law enforcement operations and, rather than booking them into evidence as I was required to do, I kept them for my own personal use and enjoyment,” the Vargas plea agreement states.
In addition to pleading guilty to four counts in the indictment, Vargas agreed to cooperate with the government and testify against his alleged co-conspirators.
The indictment alleges that between 2009 and 2011, the three officers conspired to distribute marijuana, as well as conspiring to steal money, a computer, electronic devices, gift cards and other items from suspects during searches or arrests.
Among the items allegedly stolen were a $500 Apple gift card, an iPhone and iPod, as well as taking marijuana for their on benefit, according to the indictment.
In March 2009, Vargas allegedly delivered marijuana to two informants and told them to sell the pot and split the sale proceeds with him, Furminger and Robles.
Furminger alone faces a separate charge of extortion of a federal informant.
Case: U.S. v. Ferminger, No. CR14-102CRB