Press conference held on arrests, indictments of 3 current, 3 former APD officers, 3 former PPD officers and 1 Oakland Housing Authority officer
Three Antioch officers charged with civil rights crimes for their alleged conspiracy to use unnecessary force in deploying munitions and a police K-9
“This is a complicated investigation. These always are.” – U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey – “Every defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. No defendant is charged with all the charges in all the conduct.”
By Allen D. Payton
U.S. Attorney for the Northern California District Ismail Ramsey in his first press conference in San Francisco and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Francisco Division Robert Tripp, shared information about the 10 current and former Antioch and Pittsburg Police officers who were arrested this morning on multiple charges. It follows the four indictments issued by the federal Grand Jury, yesterday and which were unsealed, today.
Joining Ramsey and Tripp at the press conference were Contra Chief Assistant District Attorney Simon O’Connell and several members of the prosecution team, Laura Vartain, Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Northern California Special Prosecution Unit including Alethea Sargent, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Criminal Division, Eric Cheng Assistant U.S. Attorney, Special Prosecutions, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ajay Krishnamurthy.
Indicted and arrested are current Antioch officers Morteza Amiri, Eric Allen Rombough and Community Service Officer Samantha Genoveva Peterson, former APD officers Daniel James Harris, Devon Christopher Wenger and Timothy Allen Manly Williams, as well as former Pittsburg officers Amanda Carmella Theodosy (aka Nash), Patrick James Berhan and Ernesto Juan Mejia-Orozco, and Oakland Housing Authority officer Brauli Rodriguez Jalapa.
After a year-and-a-half investigation by the FBI and Contra Costa DA’s Office for what were referred to as “crimes of moral turpitude”, committed by the current and former officers were finally described. Ramsey said they include conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, distributing anabolic steroids, obstruction and civil rights violations.
“Every defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. No defendant is charged with all the charges in all the conduct,” he stated.
Ramsey then described the four indictments against the officers.
The first he labeled the “college degree benefits fraud indictment” in which “officers sought to defraud the Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments. They hired people to attend classes and take exams for them. They conspired…to reap the financial benefits without putting in the work.”
“Two defendants are charged with distributing anabolic steroids,” Ramsey continued. “One of the two defendants destroyed evidence. Those are former Antioch officers Daniel Harris and Devon Wenger.
“One defendant is charged with obstruction indictment,” he continued. “A police officer destroyed, altered evidence to obstruct a federal investigation…monitored a wiretap. He used his own personal phone to call a defendant in the wiretap.” That refers to former Antioch officer Timothy Allen Manly Williams.
Ramsey said he is “Also charged with a civil rights violation in confiscating a citizen’s phone and destroying it to conceal evidence.”
The fourth he referred to as the “deprivations of rights indictment…a 29-page indictment of three officers in the Antioch Police Department.” They include the “improper deployment of canines and weapons to harm individuals in and around Antioch. They boasted about illegal use of force and texted photos of injured individuals,” Ramsey said. That indictment includes current officers Morteza Amiri, Eric Allen Rombough and Wenger.
He referred to them as “a group of officers who acted is if they were above the law. They tried to escape scrutiny by failing to submit truthful reports and deploy body warn cameras.”
Asked later about that claim since Antioch officers didn’t have body worn cameras during the time period of their alleged crimes, DOJ Nor Cal spokesman Abraham Simmons responded, “I am certain he is referencing the allegations actually in the indictments. I can look again at the indictments.”
“Officers take an oath,” Ramsey continued during the press conference. “The indictments paint a picture, today that demonstrate officers who have violated that oath.
“All officers indicted have been arrested,” he added and thanked those involved including CCDA Becton.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Tripp said, they “arrested nine subjects. All are or were associated with the Pittsburg or Antioch Police Departments. Three were current employees who had been placed on administrative leave.”
The arrests were made in “the Bay Area, Hawaii and Texas” and “more than 100 law enforcement employees participated,” he stated.
Tripp said it was the result of “more than two years of painstaking work.”
“The FBI treated these arrests like any other operation,” he said. “We used the same techniques and assessed the risks.
“This case has been the SF Field Office’s top priority,” Tripp continued. “We use the term color of law for the shorthand of someone using their official position to undermine public confidence in the law and undermine the fundamental rights of our citizens.”
“Color of law violations will not be tolerated. Not all indictments are color of law violations. Any breach of the public trust is unacceptable. Nobody is above the law,” he stated.
In response to a question from a member of the media “will more indictments be coming down,” Ramsey said, “The investigation is still continuing,” Ramsey said.
Asked “can we expect any state charges?” he said. “We’re here to comment on our charges. The investigation on the federal side is continuing. We are now at the point where we have indictments returned and individuals in custody.”
Asked where the court cases will be held Ramsey said, “This case is venued in Oakland. There have been numerous hearings today. The schedule for additional appearances is being worked out.”
Asked about those arrested in Texas and Hawaii Ramsey said, “The arraignments for those will happen in the districts where they were arrested. They then have to…be brought to here, to address the charges on this case.”
“Civil rights violations under the color of law are a priority…of my office and the FBI’s,” he stated
Asked about the text messages he responded, “As laid out in the indictment there’s a series of text messages…in which officers are bragging about violating citizens’ civil rights and texting photos of citizens. We believe these are egregious and has led to these charges. This is a complicated investigation. These always are. We have four of the ASA’s who worked tirelessly on this case. They’re prepared to take steps necessary to prosecute.”
“Civil rights violations are a unique priority of ours. I don’t want you to think steroid distribution or wire fraud are not serious. They’re federal violations,” Ramsey added.
Press Release Offers Additional Details in Indictments
A press release labeled “Bad Apples Indictment” was issued later Thursday with additional details about the indictments:
At the press conference, U.S. Attorney Ramsey referred to the first indictment as the “college degree benefits fraud indictment.” According to the indictment, six defendants engaged in a conspiracy to defraud police departments out of taxpayer dollars, including the Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments, by claiming they had earned college credits toward degrees when, instead, they paid others to attend classes and take exams for them. Specifically, beginning in June of 2019, Officer Patrick James Berhan of the Pittsburg Police Department utilized a person identified as “Individual 1” to complete multiple college courses on his behalf. The courses were credited toward Berhan’s completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. Berhan allegedly received a degree and then applied for and received reimbursements and increases to his pay from Pittsburg Police Department. Further, the indictment alleges Berhan “promoted Individual 1’s services” and “benefited from payments received by Individual 1 in furtherance of the scheme.” The indictment describes how five other members of the police departments retained Individual 1 to complete similar coursework from the university. Each paid money to Individual 1, obtained a degree based on the fraudulent coursework, and applied for benefits including reimbursements and increases in pay from their law enforcement employer.
The second indictment charges two defendants with conspiring to distribute anabolic steroids. The indictment describes how Officers Daniel Harris and Devon Wenger, both of the Antioch Police Department, allegedly conspired illegally to distribute the drugs to an unnamed customer. The indictment also alleges that Harris possessed and attempted to possess the drugs, and that Wenger attempted to delete evidence of the scheme from his cellular phone prior to handing the phone over to law enforcement officers.
The third indictment charges a single defendant, Timothy Allen Manly Williams (Manly), also then with the Antioch Police Department, with three charges—two involving alleged interference with a wiretap investigation and the third involving the illegal seizure and destruction of a telephone. The indictment alleges that on March 23, 2021, Manly was assigned to a “wire room” where, pursuant to a court order, he was supposed to monitor communications between a target and others who contacted the target by telephone. While monitoring the target, Manly allegedly used his personal cellphone, dialed a special code to ensure his number would not appear to others, and called a target of the investigation. After dialing the number, Manly also designated his call to the target to be “non-pertinent” ensuring the 14-second conversation would not be recorded. Manly also allegedly made entries on the wire logs to suggest that the call he made resulted in no answer and no audio. The indictment further alleges that on May 6, 2021, Manly was on the scene when another officer deployed a police dog when arresting a person. Upon seeing a witness using a cellular telephone to record the aftermath of the incident, Manly allegedly seized the witness’s telephone and destroyed it.
The fourth indictment charges three Antioch police officers—Morteza Amiri, Eric Rombough, and Devon Wenger—with conspiracy against rights and deprivation of rights under color of law. The 29-page indictment describes how the defendants allegedly communicated with each other and others about using and intending to use excessive force against individuals in and around Antioch. The uses of excessive force included deployment of a K9, deployment of a 40mm “less lethal” launcher, and other unnecessary violence. Further, the indictment alleges that the defendants deployed uses of force as “punishment” to subjects “beyond any punishment appropriately imposed by the criminal justice system,” and allegedly made repeated reference to or suggestion of violating the civil rights of their victims. Examples in the indictment include the following:
- On July 24, 2019, Amiri allegedly pulled over a bicyclist, identified as A.A., for failing to have lights on after dark. The indictment alleges that “[i]n the course of apprehending A.A., Amiri punched him multiple times; K9 Purcy then bit A.A. in the arm, injuring him.” Amiri then shared pictures of the victim’s wounds with other Antioch police officers who exchanged text messages including: “Yeah buddy good boy pursy,” “F[expletive] that turd,” and Amiri later stated “Detectives already called PRCS and got him a 45 day violation and we are gonna leave it at that so i don’t have to go to court for the bite. easy.” In response to a question from another officer about what cut the dog’s face, Amiri responded, “that’s a piece of the suspect’s flesh lol.”
- On October 8, 2020, Amiri allegedly sent a text message identifying a transient living in Antioch identified as M.Z. stating “anyone that finds him gets code [a free meal or beverage]. This f[expletive] stole my mail and was trying to open accounts under my name.” Wenger responded “Lets beat his f[expletive] ass I’m down after work morty” According to the indictment, the recipients of Amiri’s message located M.Z. later that evening. Amiri then arrived on the scene, shoved M.Z. against a wall and threatened to kill him. The indictment also alleges that a few months later Amiri texted another group of officers in reference to M.Z., “few months ago, I tracked him down and dragged him to the back of a car to ‘discuss’ the matter,” and “putting a pistol in someone’s mouth and telling them to stop stealing isn’t illegal. . . it’s an act of public service to prevent further victims of crimes”
- On May 5, 2021, Rombough accompanied other Antioch police officers who responded to a report that transients were living inside a privately-owned unit. While responding, Rombough and another officer located a couple lying on a bed inside a room. Rombough deployed a 40mm less lethal launcher at one of the persons on the bed, hitting them in the chest and knocking them off the bed.
- On August 24, 2021, Rombough accompanied other Antioch police officers as they executed a search warrant at a residence in Antioch. Officers located a subject—identified as J.W.—inside a locked bedroom holding a video game controller while sitting on an air mattress, with a video game on a television screen. W. removed a pair of headphones and raised his hands as officers, including Rombough, entered the room. One officer took J.W.’s left arm to arrest him as four other officers surrounded J.W. As the other officer held J.W.’s left arm on the bed, Rombough deployed the 40mm less lethal launcher at J.W., injuring him.
The indictment describes several other incidents of excessive force as well as the collection and sharing of pictures to memorialize acts of violence and the collection by defendant Rombough of spent munitions to commemorate his deployment of the 40mm launcher.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The indictments charge the following defendants with crimes as follows:
In addition, as part of any sentence following conviction, the court may order defendants to serve an additional term of supervised release to begin after a prison term as well as additional fines, and restitution, if appropriate. Any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section and Oakland Branch of the United States Attorney’s Office. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Office of the District Attorney of Contra Costa County.
23 CR 264 JSW – 23-cr-00264 JSW 08162023 indictment
PATRICK JAMES BERHAN,
AMANDA CARMELLA THEODOSY,
a/k/a AMANDA CARMELLA NASH,
SAMANTHA GENOVEVA PETERSON,
ERNESTO JUAN MEJIA-OROZCO, and
BRAULI RODRIGUEZ JALAPA
18 U.S.C. § 1349 – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud (one count)
18 U.S.C. § 1343 – Wire Fraud (six counts)
18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(C) and 28 U.S.C. § 2461(c) – Forfeiture Allegation
23 CR 267 YGR – 23-cr-00267 YGR 08162023 indictment
TIMOTHY ALLEN MANLY WILLIAMS
18 U.S.C. § 1519 – Destruction, Alteration, and Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations;
18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) – Obstruction of Official Proceedings;
18 U.S.C. § 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
23 CR 268 HSG – 23-cr-00268 HSG 08162023 indictment
DANIEL JAMES HARRIS and
DEVON CHRISTOPHER WENGER
21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(E)(i) – Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Anabolic Steroids;
21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(E)(i) – Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Anabolic Steroids;
21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(E)(i) – Possession with Intent to Distribute Anabolic Steroids;
18 U.S.C. § 1519 – Destruction, Alteration, and Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations
21 U.S.C. § 853 – Forfeiture Allegation
23 CR 269 AMO – 23-cr-00269 AMO 08162023 indictment
ERIC ALLEN ROMBOUGH, and
DEVON CHRISTOPHER WENGER
18 U.S.C. § 241 – Conspiracy Against Rights (one count)
18 U.S.C. § 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law (seven counts)
18 U.S.C. § 1519 – Destruction, Alteration, and Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations (one count)
A copy of this press release will be placed on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.
“Police officers promise to enforce laws for the protection of the public and to protect the rights of the accused,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey. “That is the job. The indictments describe officers who are alleged to have violated this oath. When this happens, the damage done to the public trust cannot easily be calculated. This office will not rest until all persons who have engaged in this sort of behavior are apprehended and prosecuted.”
“This case is one of the highest priorities for the San Francisco Field Office,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Tripp. “Law enforcement officers bear a tremendous responsibility to police our communities lawfully in keeping with the constitution, and we must always be true to that guiding principle. I want to extend my sincere appreciation to the FBI agents, analysts, and law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly on this case and whose efforts culminated in the operations today.”