A Stanislaus County sheriff's captain, a former sheriff's deputy who worked as a court bailiff and a former state corrections officer were accused Tuesday of helping the targets of a federal racketeering case.
A federal indictment alleges that sheriff's Capt. Raul DeLeon lied to members of the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force when questioned about his involvement with Robert Holloway, who was being investigated as the leader of a "racketeering enterprise" operating out of his Road Dog Cycle shop in Denair since 1997.
A second indictment alleges that retired bailiff Dave Swanson provided an associate of Holloway with confidential intelligence gathered by the task force.
Steve Johnson, the retired corrections officer from Linden, lied to a federal grand jury and the task force about providing sensitive law enforcement information to Holloway and an associate about the ongoing investigation of Road Dog Cycle, according to a third indictment.
"It is a sad day when a member or former member of the law enforcement community stands accused of wrongdoing," said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Drew Parenti. "But we must remember, nobody is above the law."
If he is convicted on all counts, DeLeon faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. Swanson faces a maximum of 15 years and a $750,000 fine, and Johnson faces a maximum of 35 years and a $2.5 million fine.
DeLeon, 51, became the commander of the sheriff's Operations Division in the summer of 2006, overseeing the Special Weapons and Tactics team, along with the patrol and investigations units. He is one of three captains beneath the undersheriff, who reports to Sheriff Adam Christianson.
DeLeon has received numerous awards and special assignments to the SWAT team, the Underwater Recovery Team, the Hostage Negotiation Team and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, which he headed. He also served as the commander of detention facilities, overseeing the men's jail, the honor farm and the public safety center.
For several years beginning in 2000, DeLeon was the Modesto area commander of a drug task force that was part of the nine-county Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
Lying to federal investigators and to a grand jury are serious charges that are tough to fight in the federal court system, said Modesto defense attorney Ramon Magaña.
"Any federal indictment is serious," said Magaña, who does not represent any of the accused. "We're not talking about littering in Yosemite."
According to the indictments, wiretaps placed on various telephones associated with Holloway and Road Dog Cycle identified several people, including the law enforcement officials, as aiding Holloway in carrying out criminal activities.
Magaña said electronic recordings are not sure proof of guilt, especially recordings gathered with digital devices. He said computer software easily can be used to rearrange the meaning of a recorded conversation.
Investigation made difficult
Federal prosecutors are expected to argue in court that DeLeon, Swanson and Johnson impeded the investigation by altering the task force's investigative methods and reducing its ability to use normal avenues of communication with other law enforcement officials.
DeLeon is accused of concealing contacts he had with Holloway during the execution of a state search warrant at the home of one of Holloway's employees. The indictment further alleges that DeLeon lied to investigators when asked whether Holloway told DeLeon the employee needed time to hide evidence of the employee's Hells Angels affiliation from investigators.
Swanson is accused of lying to investigators about leaking the law enforcement information to a Holloway associate, who in turn informed Holloway of possible search warrants that were to be executed at Road Dog Cycle.
Johnson is accused of committing perjury before the grand jury concerning the nature and purpose of phone calls to Holloway and a Holloway associate. The indictment alleges that Johnson, in the phone calls, provided information about possible surveillance activity at Road Dog Cycle and intelligence regarding a theft at Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop.
Johnson trained narcotics and bomb detection dogs for law enforcement and the military, and thus had access to sensitive law enforcement information, according to the indictment.
Once the task force members were alerted of the intelligence leaks, possibly by law enforcement officials, Parenti said, they encountered many hurdles in carrying out the investigation.
"This case underscores our collective commitment to disabling and disrupting organized criminal enterprises, and to protecting the integrity of law enforcement investigations and the grand jury process," U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.