SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A grand jury has issued two indictments charging Santa Clara County Undersheriff Rick Sung, Sheriff’s Captain James Jensen, a local business owner and the head of Global Security for Apple with bribery in the concealed weapons permit scandal, prosecutors announced Monday.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced that Sung and Jensen are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms (CCW) licenses.
Meanwhile, insurance broker Harpreet Chadha and Apple’s Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer are accused of offering bribes to get them.
Earlier this year, Jensen was among several people indicted on felony bribery and conspiracy charges in a scheme tied to Sheriff Laurie Smith’s 2018 reelection campaign. Prosecutors said Jensen and three other defendants are accused of conspiring to engineer a $90,000 bribe — $45,000 of which allegedly went to support Smith’s re-election — to obtain the permits.
Sheriff Smith has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
The defendants will be arraigned on January 11, 2021. If convicted, the defendants could receive prison time.
“Undersheriff Sung and Captain Jensen treated CCW licenses as commodities and found willing buyers,” Rosen said. “Bribe seekers should be reported to the District Attorney’s Office, not rewarded with compliance.”
The two-year investigation revealed that Undersheriff Sung, aided by Jensen in one instance, held up the issuance of CCW licenses, refusing to release them until the applicants gave something of value.
“Call this quid pro quo. Call it pay-to-play. Call it give to get. It is illegal and deeply erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system,” Rosen said. “When high-ranking members of a law enforcement agency are at the heart of a bribery scheme, it tarnishes the badge, the honor, the reputations and – tragically – the effectiveness of all law enforcement agencies.”
In the case of four licenses withheld from Apple employees, Sung and Jensen managed to extract from Thomas Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the Sheriff’s Office.
The promised donation of 200 iPads worth close to $70,000 was scuttled at the eleventh hour just after August 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned of the search warrant that the District Attorney’s Office executed at the Sheriff’s Office seizing all its CCW license records.
In the case of the CCW license withheld from Harpreet Chadha, Sung managed to extract from Chadha a promise of $6,000 worth of luxury box seat tickets to a San Jose Sharks hockey game at the SAP Center on Valentine’s Day 2019.
Smith’s family members and some of her biggest political supporters held a small celebration of her re-election as sheriff in the suite.
Last month, two former managers of Silicon Valley international security firm AS Solution Inc. pleaded guilty to charges related to the scandal.
Under state law, it is a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a CCW license. Although state law requires that the applicant demonstrate “good cause” for the license, in addition to completing a firearms course and having good moral character, the sheriff has broad discretion in determining who should qualify.
Sung’s indictment brings the concealed carry permit bribery investigation into the highest levels of the sheriff’s office, one step away, possibly from the sheriff herself.
“Given the fact that Laurie Smith ultimately is the person who has to sign off on whether someone receives a concealed weapons permit, it would appear that she could be, logically, the next target,” said attorney Jaime Leanos.
“She is the person who would have benefited from this scheme if they’re actually making political contributions for her campaign, with an understanding that if they contributed sufficient amounts of money that they would be put first in line to receive these permits,” Leanos went on to say.
A statement released by Moyer’s attorneys maintained that their client was innocent of the charges filed against him and that he would be acquitted when the case came to trial.
“Ultimately, this case is about a long, bitter, and very public dispute between the Santa Clara County Sheriff and the District Attorney, and Tom is collateral damage to that dispute,” the statement read. “We look forward to making Tom’s innocence clear in court and bringing an end to this wrong-headed prosecution.”
While Sheriff Smith has not been charged, legal analysts told KPIX she is clearly in the crosshairs of an investigation that has reached the highest levels of her administration.
“Prosecutors, if they can get the highest person they think is responsible, that’s going to be their goal,” explained criminal defense attorney Jaime Leanos. “And often to get to that person, they have to begin at the bottom and work their way up to the top.”
“They’re sworn public servants and their duty is to uphold justice and the law. And it’s disheartening to hear there’s corruption or allegations of corruption,” said South Bay civil rights activist Pastor Scott Wagers.
On Monday morning, the Sheriff’s Office released a statement regarding the indictment against Sung and Jensen.
“As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest ethical and moral standards,” the statement read in part. “This is a difficult time for our organization, however our goal remains to provide the highest level of public safety to the residents of Santa Clara County.”
The Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the Silicon Valley NAACP, had a CCW permit that was not renewed for unknown reasons. Moore said the growing scandal is a reflection of the failure of Smith’s leadership.
“If she truly had respect for this community, she would step down and walk away and turn over the keys,” Moore said.
Devin Fehely contributed to this story.