Former officer questioned about plea agreement during testimony against colleagues

For the second day in a row Tuesday, a former police officer testified against two of his ex-colleagues in a federal corruption trial, revealing details about the trio's biggest theft: $30,000 stolen during the search of a heroin dealer's back yard in 2009.

But Reynaldo Vargas, who pleaded guilty to several charges as part of a plea agreement, also faced combative questioning from defense lawyers about why he pleaded and what he hoped to gain from cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The trial of Officer Edmond Robles and Sgt. Ian Furminger in Judge Charles Breyer's federal courtroom started last week and has thus far alleged that, along with Vargas, they repeatedly worked with informants to steal money and drugs from dealers they busted while working in the Mission during 2009.

Vargas' testimony Tuesday detailed several more instances where the three spilt cash stolen from drug dealers.

But the biggest haul of all, as described by Vargas, came from a heroin dealer's house in Newark in March 2009.

Sergio “Manny” Vasquez was under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and was eventually indicted after he was arrested by the three undercover officers, who then searched Vasquez's home. It was there, buried in the back yard, where Vargas found and took a sack filled with more than $30,000.

“I split the money into three exact portions,” Vargas said. “I gave $10,000 to Furminger. I kept $10,000 and I gave $10,000 to Mr. Robles.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution began its cross-examination of Vargas by intimating that he was telling a story that fit in with the prosecution's narrative so he would be treated kindly when sentenced.

“Truthful to you,” Furminger's lawyer, Brian Getz, said is “tweaking your story to the government narrative.”

Vargas denied that accusation and said he was telling the truth “because I'm guilty … I'm guilty and it was my full belief that I would be found guilty.”

The plea agreement, Vargas noted, included the dropping of one charge — civil-rights violations — but had no guarantee that his sentence would be reduced after cooperating.

“Tell me why it took so long?” asked Getz, wondering why Vargas waited more than six months after his indictment to plead.

Vargas said that as the case came closer to its court date, he saw the evidence against him and the pressure mounted.

“There came a time, it was frankly difficult for me to say, 'I'm just gonna stop lying,'” said Vargas. “There was a weight on me.”

In one of several instances brought up to apparently paint Vargas as a habitual liar, Getz brought up an incident in 2002 when Vargas lied to investigators at the Office of Citizen Complaints involving accusations against him.

“You lied in order to protect your position,” Getz said to Vargas, who assented to that fact.

Robles, Furminger, Vargas and three other officers were part of plainclothes investigation teams whose alleged misdeeds were captured on video discovered by the Public Defender's Office and released to the media in 2011.

The officers' alleged actions mostly occurred at single-room-occupancy hotels in the Mission, the Tenderloin and on Sixth Street and included searching rooms without warrants.

All six men were indicted in February and suspended without pay. Other officers involved in the incidents, whose alleged misconduct did not pass the federal criminal threshold, may face administrative penalties.

The federal charges against all six include constitutional-rights violations, extortion, lying in court and on police reports, and dealing drugs.

The trial will reconvene Monday at 9 a.m.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Currey (30) tallied 26 points and seven assists at Monday night’s game against the Lakers. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors overcome 19-point deficit to stun defending-champion Lakers 115-113

Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden State Warriors are officially back. Stephen Curry… Continue reading

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

Most Read