Former Police Officer Testifies that Two Officers on Trial Joined Him in Thefts

A former San Francisco police officer told a federal jury today that he stole money, property and drugs during searches and arrests and said he did it with two other officers now on trial.

“I committed these crimes with my partner, Officer Robles, and at times with my supervisor, Sgt. Furminger,” former officer Reynaldo Vargas testified.

At the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann, Vargas then pointed to San Francisco police Officer Edmond Robles and Sgt. Ian Furminger, seated at the defense table in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.

Robles, 47, of Danville, and Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill, are on trial in Breyer’s Federal Building courtroom in San Francisco on charges including conspiracy to commit theft, theft and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

The theft-conspiracy count lists five alleged examples of thefts of money, and in one case, Apple gift cards, during four searches in San Francisco and one in Newark in 2009.

Vargas, 46, of Palm Desert, was originally charged in the same indictment as Robles and Furminger, but pleaded guilty to four counts on Oct. 21 and agreed to become a prosecution witness.

Defense attorneys for the other two men claimed in their opening statements last week that their clients are innocent and that Vargas would seek to incriminate them in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

“Reynaldo Vargas is pointing his finger at Edmond Robles because he wanted to save his own skin,” Robles’s lawyer, Teresa Caffese, told jurors at the start of the trial.

Vargas, wearing a dark suit and tie with a white shirt, testified calmly for about an hour this afternoon and will return to the witness stand Tuesday morning.

He recounted one of the alleged thefts listed in the indictment, which purportedly occurred during a search of a suspected drug dealer’s room in a residential hotel in San Francisco on May 4, 2009.

Vargas said he was accompanied by both Robles, who was his partner in undercover work in the Mission District, and Furminger, their supervisor.

Vargas said he stole two Apple gift cards, one worth $500 and the other worth $50, found in the room. He said Robles later accompanied him to an Apple store, where Vargas bought a cellphone for himself and Robles bought an iPod Nano for a girlfriend.

Vargas got the more expensive of the two items, he said, because “I found it (the card). I wanted the phone.”

During searches in this period of time, Vargas said, “If I saw something I wanted, I took it.”

In testimony last week, a drug client testified he paid the dealer with the cards and an Apple representative confirmed the purchases.

Furminger and Robles are charged with eight counts and Furminger alone is accused of a ninth count of extorting property in 2011 and 2012.

The eight counts lodged against both men include conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program (namely, the Police Department); theft of more than $5,000 worth of property from a federally funded program; conspiracy against civil rights; two counts of depriving the citizens of San Francisco of their honest services; two counts of wire fraud; and conspiracy to distribute drugs between 2009 and 2011.

Robles and Furminger have been suspended from their jobs without pay. Vargas was fired from the Police Department for unrelated reasons in 2012.

Vargas pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft, and theft.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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