LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – Former Los Angeles Police Officer Ruben Palomares was sentenced this afternoon to 158 months in prison for organizing a group of law enforcement officers and associates who staged a series of home invasion robberies that were made to look like legitimate searches, but in fact were nothing more than drug rip-offs.
Palomares, 38, was sentenced by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess.
Palomares pleaded guilty four years ago to conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to possess narcotics with intent to distribute, violating civil rights and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. When he pleaded guilty, Palomares admitted committing more than 40 home invasion robberies throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area between early 1999 and June of 2001. Palomares and his co-conspirators used their law enforcement status to gain entry into the homes of suspected drug dealers and to steal whatever drugs or money they found inside.
“With brazen disregard for the safety of those he was victimizing, Ruben Palomares repeatedly violated the sanctity of the law he was sworn to uphold,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Public corruption cases like this are among the most serious and important cases that we prosecute. Preserving the public’s right to integrity throughout all levels of government is one of the Justice Department’s highest priorities.”
Palomares was previously sentenced to 15 years in prison for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine in a case brought by the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego. He has already served just over six years in custody on that case. With today’s sentencing, Palomares is facing a cumulative sentence of 20 years in federal prison, where there is no parole.
“These defendants and their fellow conspirators repeatedly abused their positions of trust to invade the homes and prey upon the very people they had sworn to serve and protect,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line and commit such wanton and unlawful acts.”
Palomares is one of 19 defendants and one of five former police officers to be convicted of participating in the scheme. Palomares’ sentencing comes one week after Judge Feess sentenced Former Long Beach Police Officer Joseph Ferguson to 97 months in prison for participating in the robberies. Three former police officers are still awaiting sentencing, including William Ferguson, a former LAPD Officer and Joseph Ferguson’s older brother, who faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 82 years imprisonment when he is sentenced next Monday.
Judge Feess today also sentenced Gabriel Loaiza, Palomares cousin, to 108 months in prison for helping Palomares commit the robberies. Loaiza has also served more than six years after being convicted along with Palomares in the San Diego cocaine case.
Palomares, who admitted he was the organizer and leader of robbery ring, had faced up to life imprisonment, but prosecutors recommended that he receive a lower sentence after he testified against the Ferguson brothers, who were the only conspirators who went to trial. During the Fergusons’ trial earlier this year, Palomares described how robberies were generally committed after the conspirators received information that a particular location was involved in narcotics trafficking. After planning the operation and conducting surveillance, the robbery team – which usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers either in uniform or displaying a badge – gained access to the residences by falsely telling any occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims were often restrained, handcuffed, threatened or assaulted during the search. The assaults included firing a stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons and putting a gun in the mouth of a victim. When the group stole narcotics, they would use civilian co-conspirators to sell the drugs and then split the profits among the group.
The investigation in the Palomares robbery ring was conducted by a task force comprised of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department. The prosecution team was made up of Assistant United States Attorney Douglas M. Miller and Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Jeffrey S. Blumberg and Joshua D. Mahan.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Douglas M. Miller
Release No. 08-058