Two former Richmond police officers were indicted Thursday on charges that they intimidated two young men from the department’s scout program after illegally arming them and sending them to work for a private security outfit in crime-plagued neighborhoods.
When the scouts turned on the officers, federal prosecutors said, the officers hired a private investigator to conduct an elaborate sting on the young men – with beautiful women seeking to use sexual gambits to get them arrested and jailed.
Danny Harris, 31, of Pinole and Ray Thomas, 34, of Fairfield were each indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland on two charges of conspiracy for allegedly trying to prevent the volunteer Explorer Scouts from telling law enforcement that Harris had illegally bought them guns.
Harris, the onetime leader of the scout program, was also charged with making false statements while buying three Glock semiautomatic pistols from a San Jose police supply store.
Harris and Thomas resigned from the Richmond police force in April, soon after The Chronicle reported that they were under investigation by the FBI. The men and their attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said, “This is an important step in closing the chapter on this saga. We are very disappointed with the former officers’ alleged conduct, but we appreciate the work of the FBI and the grand jury.”
Sergio Rios and Orlando Torres, former members of the Boy Scout-affiliated Explorer program, told The Chronicle they each gave Harris $500 in 2009 after he offered to buy them guns from LC Action Police Supply in San Jose. The said the pistols came with high-capacity magazines that civilians cannot legally carry.
Rios and Torres were 19 and 20, respectively, at the time. They said they had carried the guns as guards for the officers’ private security firm, which patrolled dangerous housing complexes. Under federal law, people under 21 cannot buy handguns, and buying a gun for another person of any age is an illegal straw purchase.
The former Explorers said that after they complained to police internal affairs about Harris and Thomas in 2010, the officers sought vengeance. In September, Thomas tried to retrieve Torres’ gun by suing him in small claims court, records show.
In November, prosecutors said, Thomas paid a private investigator, Christopher Butler, more than $1,800 to conduct a sting operation in hopes of getting both Explorers “arrested for drunk driving and illegal possession of the Glock semiautomatic pistols.”
Harris and Thomas signed off on a plan to send an attractive woman to meet Rios “and make overtures for future social engagements, including engagements in which she would encourage (Rios) to bring his gun,” according to the indictment, which does not identify Butler, Rios or Torres by name.
However, Rios said an anonymous tipster contacted him and told him the woman was a decoy hired at the behest of Harris and Thomas.
The investigation is the latest to involve Butler, who prosecutors say worked with other law enforcement contacts to set up people for arrest. Butler was arrested Feb. 16 along with a state narcotics officer and has pleaded not guilty to charges of selling drugs from evidence lockers.
Harris and Thomas filed a lawsuit last year accusing the department of discriminating against them because they are African American. Both are due in a federal courtroom in Oakland on Aug. 9.