ROHNERT PARK (CBS SF) – Two former Rohnert Park police officers were indicted Friday in federal court for their alleged roles in a years-long shakedown racket involving large amounts of drugs and cash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
Former officers Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion “under color of official right,” with Tatum also facing charges of falsification of records in a federal investigation and tax evasion, according to federal prosecutors.READ MORE: Rain Helps Wash Away Fears Of Another Devastating Wildfire For Santa Residents
“The public entrusts police officers to enforce the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds. “The public faith erodes when that trust is violated. The abuse of police powers cannot be tolerated and must be vigorously prosecuted.”
The charges stem from the pair’s time with Rohnert Park’s drug interdiction team, on which they served at various times between 2015 and 2017.
The indictment alleges that Tatum and other officers stopped drivers along U.S. Highway 101 from Rohnert Park to Mendocino County in order to extort cash and marijuana from people by threatening to arrest them if they did not give up the money and drugs, according to prosecutors.
After these seizures, officers allegedly failed to report the incidents, deliver the marijuana and money into evidence storage or seek destruction of the drugs.
While the officers did not document their alleged activities, which prosecutors say continued even after the drug interdiction team was disbanded, evidence of their behavior was captured by body cameras, according to the indictment.
The complaint also alleges that Tatum and Huffaker stopped a driver along Highway 101 while neither were wearing uniforms, claimed to be agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and extorted marijuana without reporting the stop.READ MORE: San Francisco Reverses Ban On Collecting Data On Sexual Orientation Of City Workers
Tatum is also alleged to have done something similar with another officer on at least one other occasion.
After media reports of the shady stops began to surface, including news stories about an FBI investigation into the incidents, prosecutors allege that Tatum drafted a press release and a false police report to cover his tracks.
Tatum is also alleged to have deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to his and his wife’s bank accounts in 2016 and used cash to buy a $46,000 fishing boat — all of which he allegedly failed to report on his taxes.
Tatum was employed as a Rohnert Park officer between 2003 and 2018 and Huffaker was employed with the department between 2012 and 2019.
The pair was scheduled to make an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.
If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy charge.
Tatum faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years on the false records charge and five years on the tax evasion charge.MORE NEWS: Fmr. SF Public Utilities Commission GM Harlan Kelly Charged With Bank Fraud In Bribery, Corruption Scandal
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