Law enforcement officials accused of extorting money and weeds from drivers

When the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety (RPDPS) assembled a ban team to tackle crimes on the 101 Highway in Northern California in 2014, they had no plans to monitor any of them themselves.

Complaints filed against officials in Northern California

However, on March 12, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California filed criminal charges against two former officers accused of running over motorists and then extorting drugs and cash from citizens. The complaint alleges that during the RPDPS’s operations from 2015 to 2017 and even after the team was disbanded, there was blackmail over legalizing recreational marijuana.

Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker, named in Friday’s complaint, both maintain their innocence but have resigned their positions in law enforcement. Tatum resigned in 2018. However, Huffaker did not step down until a court settlement was reached in which the city disbursed $ 75,000 as he refused to accept the resignation.

“The city of Rohnert Park does not tolerate any corrupt and unethical practices in the ranks of its employees, in particular its sworn peace officials and the officials involved in today’s indictments who are no longer employed by the city,” said a statement by the city on Friday.

According to the US attorney’s complaint, the two police officers would run over vehicles and threaten people with arrest if they did not hand over their marijuana. Prosecutors allege that Tatum confiscated $ 3,700 in cash and large amounts of pot.

In December 2017, despite legalizing recreational marijuana use, the two officers continued to target people along 101 Highway and mistakenly identified themselves as agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Officers avoided detection while extorting large sums of money from drivers

Although drug custody was abundant, there were no reports of seizures, no drugs accepted as evidence, and no orders to destroy the marijuana. Investigations revealed audio and video footage of interaction and seizure on the officer’s body cameras.

During the second incident, a total of 23 pounds of marijuana and 4 boxes of hashish were confiscated with Tatum and an unnamed officer, all of which were a scheduled shipment to an operational marijuana dispensary. In February, media outlets began talking about highway robbery, possibly by police officers.

When Tatum got wind that the FBI was investigating these stops from December 2017, he prepared a press release claiming the RPDPS was responsible for the stop in question and then went so far as to prepare a police report to further his criminal activity to hide.

Investigators reveal that Tatum extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets in 2016. By making cash deposits in increments of less than $ 10,000 and distributing them to his wife and wife’s personal accounts, he managed to avoid banking regulations that would put his income information first. During that time, Tatum used cash to purchase a $ 46,000 fishing boat. The complaint lists the sum of the deposits along with the boat purchase for a total of USD 443,059. None of these assets were listed on his 2016 tax return.

Both men were charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of authority. In addition, Tatum was accused of falsifying records in a federal investigation and tax evasion. The possible consequences are heavy fines and up to 20 years in prison.

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