HAYWARD (CBS SF) — A Hayward police officer has been arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a woman who was suspected of forging prescriptions, authorities said.
Romeo Aberin, 30, who had been placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 15 when police began investigating the incident, turned in his letter of resignation Monday, Hayward police said.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has charged Aberin with accepting a bribe and extortion, both felonies. He’s currently free on $50,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward at 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to his attorney, Michael Rains.
Hayward police Officer Ryan Sill said in a probable cause statement that Aberin first made contact with the woman on Aug. 29 when he was investigating forged prescriptions and believed she was involved.
The woman, who worked at the Med Pacific Clinic at 1260 A St. in Hayward, admitted to stealing blank prescription pads and forging prescriptions for friends, Sill said.
However, instead of placing the woman under arrest, Aberin attempted to utilize her as an informant and told her she had two weeks to come up with information related to narcotics trafficking and money laundering, according to Sill. Hayward police said in a news release that that alleged activity was unrelated to the forged prescriptions matter and Aberin never notified his superiors of his actions or intent.
Sill said on Sept. 13, two weeks after the initial contact, Aberin called the woman on her cellphone and arranged to meet with her at the Food Maxx parking lot on International Boulevard in Oakland.
Aberin arrived while he was off duty and was wearing his civilian clothes and driving his personal car, according to Sill.
When the woman told Aberin that she didn’t have any useful information about narcotics trafficking and money laundering, he asked her to give him $500 in exchange for making her criminal case “go away,” Sill said.
Aberin then drove her to her bank, where she withdrew $500 and gave it to him, Sill said.
The woman had been afraid to meet with Aberin and secretly recorded the Sept. 13 encounter on her cellphone, according to Sill.
The next day, the woman and her husband contacted San Leandro police and reported Aberin’s actions, Sill said. San Leandro police took an initial report and forwarded it to Hayward police for further investigation, he said.
On Sept. 17, the woman made two pretext phone calls with Aberin in which “he admitted to accepting $500 and told her they still needed to talk about her case,” Sill said.
When investigators confronted Aberin later that day about the woman’s allegations, he admitted to asking for and receiving $500 from her but “contended she provided the money willingly without use of threats or by fear,” according to Sill.
Aberin also admitted to still having the money at his residence in Mountain House, Sill said.
Aberin returned the money on Sept. 24 and the money was given back to the woman the next day, according to Sill.
Cellphone records, video surveillance and witness statements corroborate the charges against Aberin, Sill said.
Rains said Aberin “is a very fine officer by reputation” and hasn’t had any disciplinary actions taken against him in the six years he’s worked for the Hayward Police Department.
Rains said the charges against Aberin “come out of the blue” and are “inconsistent” with what he described as the officer’s “blemish-free career.”
Rains said, “These are serious charges and we take them very seriously.”
He said Aberin is a U.S. Army veteran who was discharged honorably and is married and has two children.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)