Listen to this article here

An 18-month long investigation by the FBI has resulted in the arrests of nine cops across three states on Thursday charged for falsifying college test scores, selling steroids, obstructing a federal investigation and civil rights violations.

More than 100 FBI agents were deployed to arrest officers in Hawaii, Texas and across the San Francisco Bay Area, but the detained cops all stem from departments in Antioch and Pittsburg, California. A 10th officer’s arrest remains pending.

The raid launched Thursday morning after a federal grand jury approved four indictments against the officers, which include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, possession and conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, destruction, falsification and alteration of records, and deprivation of rights under the color of law.

Antioch Police Department officers Eric Rombough, left, and Morteza Amiri, right, were charged in the racist text message scandal. (Image courtesy City of Antioch).

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe called Thursday a dark day in the city’s history.

“People trusted to uphold the law allegedly breached that trust and were arrested by the FBI. Today’s actions are the beginning of the end of a long and arduous process. Today’s arrests are demonstrative of the issues that have plagued the Antioch Police Department for decades,” he told KRON4.

Cheating scandal leads to “Pandora’s Box”

According to U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey, who announced the charges at a press conference on Thursday, the arrests began with a 2022 investigation that focused on officers cheating on college tests to gain higher salaries.

Six of the officers “claimed they earned college credits toward degrees, when in fact, they hired people to take classes and exams for them,” Ramsey explained.

The cheating resulted in a charge of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, listed as the first indictment. Those officers include  Patrick James Berhan, Morteza Amiri, Amanda Carmella Theodosy, Samantha Peterson, Ernesto Juan Mejia-Orozco, and Brauli Rodriguez Jalapa.

Their charges include the possibility 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Officers pay the price for selling steroids, obstructing investigation

Daniel James Harris and Devon Christopher Wenger were the cops charged in the second indictment for conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and their alleged attempts to destroy evidence. The possession and distribution-related charges carry a possible 10-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine. Meanwhile, the charge related to obstructing a federal investigation includes the possibility of 20 years in prison.

In a case that has been described as a “Pandora’s Box” of criminal and unethical conduct, U.S. Attorney Ramsey also described a third indictment, in which an officer witnessed another officer unleash a police K9 on a bicyclist because the person didn’t have a light on their bike at nighttime.

Noticing a witness recording the scene on their cellphone, Timothy Allen Manly Williams took the phone and destroyed. FBI investigators say he also tipped off the target of a wiretap in a separate case. His charge of obstructing a federal investigation also carries the possibility of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Cops charged: deprived of freedom after depriving citizens of civil rights

The fourth and arguably most heinous indictment involves a “disturbing litany of civil rights violations,” U.S. Attorney Ramsey said.

The FBI is accusing three Antioch police officers of collecting “trophies” from crime scenes, writing racist text messages, using excessive force with K9 units, using a 40mm launcher as “punishment,” and intentionally turning off body cameras.

The three officers indicted include Eric Allen Rombough, Morteza Amiri, and Devon Christopher Wenger. 

According to court documents, Rombough bragged about kicking a young Black man in the head like shooting a field goal. “I tried to knock him unconscious,” he texted.

“Bottom line it doesn’t matter some gorilla kill another gorilla,” he wrote in another text last year.

Cops charged but can trust be regained?

On July 24, 2019, Amiri pulled over a bicyclist for not having lights on at night, unleashing his K9 attack dog and bragging about having human flesh on the dog’s cheek.

“Yeah buddy good boy pursy,” another officer responded to Amiri in a text.

Antioch Police Department K9 Unit Officer Morteza Amiri was charged. (Image courtesy APD)

U.S. Attorneys and the FBI said no one is above the law at a news conference explaining the investigation.

“The officers had no interest in de-escalating to avoid violence. They collected as mementos spent ammunition from their attacks on the people of Antioch. They tried to escape scrutiny by failing to submit truthful reports or use their body-worn cameras. The damage done to public trust cannot easily be calculated,” Ramsey said.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply