SFPD Officer Sentenced to 12 Months for Role in Conspiracy to Provide Drugs to Informants
SAN FRANCISCO—Former San Francisco Police Officer Reynaldo Vargas was sentenced today to 12 months in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to steal money and property and provide illegal drugs to informants, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.
Vargas, 46, was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 25, 2014. He pleaded guilty on October 21, 2014, to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; distribution of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 84; conspiracy to commit theft concerning a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a); and theft concerning a federally funded program, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a). According to the plea agreement, Vargas admitted that he and two other SFPD officers, Ian Furminger and Edmond Robles, repeatedly stole money and property during searches and arrests. Vargas also admitted the officers kept the stolen items for themselves and that he provided drugs seized by the SFPD to informants.
Vargas testified at the trial of Furminger and Robles, who were convicted by a jury in San Francisco on December 15, 2014. After their convictions, Furminger was sentenced to a term of 41 months in prison and Robles was sentenced to a term of 39 months.
Vargas’s 12-month sentence was handed down by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, U.S. District Judge. Judge Breyer also sentenced Vargas to a three year term of supervised release. Vargas was given two months to voluntarily surrender to begin serving his sentence.
In sentencing Vargas, Judge Breyer described Vargas’s testimony as “crucial, essential, to the successful prosecution of the case.” Judge Breyer described the testimony as “genuine” and lauded Vargas for truly accepting responsibility and making a concerted effort to transform his life for the better. The Court acknowledged the difficulty of testifying as a police officer against other police officers and said that he “hope[d] that other police officers understand that when they see this type of activity by colleagues . . . it hurts them, as well as the police officers who are involved.”
The investigation that led to Vargas’s plea and cooperation began with the public release of a videotape showing SFPD officers entering a single room occupancy hotel room without a warrant. The investigation, which was conducted by the FBI and SFPD Internal Affairs Division, grew to include, among other things, allegations that Vargas, Robles, and Furminger engaged in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars and valuable property during the course of performing their official duties. The officers also filed false police reports that did not identify the money and property they had stolen.
“The misconduct of the police officers prosecuted in this case damaged the credibility of good police officers everywhere,” said United States Attorney Melinda Haag. “Without the trust of the community, police officers are not able to safely and effectively do their jobs,” she said.
At Vargas’s sentencing, Judge Breyer said that this is one of the most serious cases he has seen as a district judge. He described why it is critical that police officers act with honesty and integrity:
Police officers go out every day putting their lives at risk, and you have done that repeatedly. And whether they come back at night, whether they can perform their duties, in large part, depends on whether the public accepts them as guardians of their safety. You are the agents of all of us. You are the people out on the street representing every judge, every prosecutor, every defense lawyer, and everybody else who lives in this city, including those people who are so vulnerable that they have fallen susceptible to disease, to addiction, to a way of crime. You represent them. . . . And the success of your task, of all of our tasks, is that society accepts what we do, they think that the system is fair, they think that the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the judge, the police officer, will be fair in administering the law. . . . [A]nything that detracts from the credibility of the people who are involved in the justice system, jeopardizes the justice system . . . . And unless we have a system that is credible, we are no different, no different at all, from any totalitarian state in which police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, act capriciously, act without due process.
This case was prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. It is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI’s San Francisco Division, with the assistance of the SFPD Internal Affairs Division.