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San Francisco corruption probe ensnares five cops and one retired officer

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 10:45 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal authorities say the officers, one retired, stole from, intimidated hotel residents
  • They were investigated after a public defender released surveillance camera videos
  • Charges range from civil rights conspiracy to drug distribution
  • In one alleged incident, cops stole a $500 gift card, used it for personal expenses

(CNN) -- Five San Francisco police officers and one former cop were indicted Thursday by federal grand juries in connection with a corruption investigation launched after videos surfaced that showed plainclothes officers allegedly entering rooms at a residential hotel without legitimate reasons.

Officer Raul Eric Elias, 44; Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47; Officer Arshad Razzak, 41; Officer Edmond Robles, 46; and Officer Richard Yick, 37, will make their first court appearances Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. Reynaldo Vargas, 45, appeared in court Thursday, according to a written statement.

The Justice Department said the investigation began in 2011 after public defender Jeff Adachi turned over surveillance videos taken at a hotel where low-income people rented rooms. Federal authorities worked with the San Francisco internal affairs unit on the investigation, which culminated in two indictments.

"Today's indictments are confirmation that the constitutional rights of San Franciscans matter," Adachi told CNN affiliate KTVU. "I commend the U.S. attorney for taking seriously the reports from ordinary citizens who had been humiliated, stolen from and hurt by police officers sworn to protect them."

An indictment says Elias, Razzak and Yick beat or threatened residents at the hotel. They were charged with civil rights conspiracy, while Razzak and Yick were also charged with falsifying records.

In another other case, the indictment says Furminger, Robles and Vargas stole money, drugs and personal items from hotel residents that they either kept or sold.

In one incident, prosecutors allege, the three took a $500 gift card and said it was evidence, but Vargas, who has since retired, used it to purchase a cell phone and a music player two days later.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Vargas turned himself in, declared his innocence and was posted bail of $50,000.

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