Watch CBS News

Antioch, Pittsburg police officers arrested in corruption investigation – 'A dark day'

10 Antioch and Pittsburg officers indicted for civil rights violations, other charges
10 Antioch and Pittsburg officers indicted for civil rights violations, other charges 05:35

ANTIOCH – Federal agents held a series of raids and arrested officers from the Antioch and Pittsburg police departments early Thursday as part of a lengthy corruption investigation into the embattled law enforcement agencies.

The raids, first reported by the Bay Area News Group, were held in multiple locations across the Bay Area after a federal grand jury in San Francisco handed down an indictment. The newspaper reported that current and former officers are accused of a "wide range of offenses, including criminal conspiracy."

At a news conference Thursday, federal officials announced that 10 people were charged under four separate indictments.

"The charges are wide ranging. They include conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, wire fraud, numerous civil rights violations, destruction, alteration and falsification of records in federal investigations, and obstruction of justice," Northern California U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said.

Northern California U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey shows a chart listing the Antioch and Pittsburg officers indicted by a federal grand jury on August 16, 2023. CBS

In the first indictment, Ramsey said six officers were accused in a scheme where they allegedly claimed to their departments that they had earned college degrees but had hired people to attend classes and take tests for them.

"These defendants conspired to defraud their police departments and to reap the financial benefits of earning college degrees, without putting in the work or obtaining the knowledge that comes from real educational achievement," Ramsey said.

According to Ramsey, Morteza Amiri (Antioch PD), Patrick James Berhan (Pittsburg PD), Brauli Rodriguez Jalapa (Pittsburg PD and Oakland Housing Authority), Ernesto Juan Mejia-Orozco (Pittsburg PD), Samantha Genoveva Peterson (Antioch PD) and Amanda Theodosy (Pittsburg PD) were charged in the first indictment.

A second indictment accuses Daniel Harris and Devon Wegner, both of Antioch PD, in a scheme to distribute anabolic steroids. In the third indictment, Timothy Manly Williams of Antioch PD is alleged to have obstructed a federal investigation and falsified records. 

Ramsey said the fourth indictment involves a "disturbing litany of civil rights violations by three officers of the Antioch Police Department." Eric Rombough, along with Amiri and Wenger, were charged in the fourth indictment.

Raw Video: Feds briefing on arrests, raids in Antioch, Pittsburg police investigation 10:26

"Collectively these four indictments describe a group of officers who acted as though they are above the law," the U.S. Attorney went on to say.

"Today is a dark day in our city's history, as people trusted to uphold the law, allegedly breached that trust and were arrested by the FBI," Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said in a statement following the raids. "As our city absorbs this tragic news, we must come together as one. Today's actions are the beginning of the end of a long and arduous process."

Antioch's acting police chief Joe Vigil issued a statement late Thursday afternoon.

"Today's announcement reporting the arrest of current and former APD officers is disheartening and undermines the incredible work our staff does on a daily basis. Any police officer who breaks public trust must be held accountable, especially because our effectiveness relies heavily on confidence and support from our community."

"I would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Contra Costa District Attorney's Office, California Department of Justice, and United States Attorney's Office for their diligence in this investigation," Vigil added. "From the beginning of this investigation, our administration has been fully cooperating with these agencies, and will continue to do so. No individual -- including a police officer -- is above the law."

Over the past 18 months, both police departments have been under investigation. In early 2022, the Contra Costa DA's office first confirmed that officers were being investigated for multiple offenses, including "crimes of moral turpitude."

The FBI then investigated officers for alleged drug distribution, bribery, excessive force and civil rights violations. During the course of their investigation, racist text messages among officers were also found.

As a result of the investigation, nearly half of the officers in the Antioch Police Department were placed on leave, including several in management positions. 

Meanwhile, Antioch PD is currently without a permanent chief after Steven Ford abruptly resigned earlier this month. A 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, Ford joined Antioch PD last year and had set out to reform the agency.

In the wake of the scandals, California Attorney General Rob Bonta's office launched a civil rights investigation into Antioch PD. Civil rights attorney John Burris has also called for federal monitoring of the department, akin to what has been done with the Oakland Police Department following the "Riders" scandal of the early 2000s.

Thorpe addressed critics of measures to reform the city's police. "To those that have accused me and others of being anti-police for seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department, today's arrests are demonstrative of the issues that have plagued the Antioch Police Department for decades," the mayor said.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.