Six Antioch, California police officers, namely Morteza Amiri, Calvin Prieto, Andrea Rodriguez, Eric Rombough, Devon Wenger, and Ben Padilla, have been hit with felony charges following a year-long FBI probe into corruption, misconduct, and misdeeds. The investigation, which uncovered allegations ranging from major civil rights violations to accepting bribes, resulted in the officers being placed on paid leave. During this period, they collectively received $1.79 million in pay and benefits from January 2022 until their charges were filed last month.
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe has called for the officers to reimburse the city for the money they earned while under investigation, stating that the funds were not rightfully earned and should be returned to the taxpayers.
In addition to the six charged officers, eight other current and former Antioch and Pittsburg officers were also implicated in the investigation. Three of the officers voluntarily left their positions earlier, while the remaining five were placed on unpaid leave by the city, which is now seeking to terminate their employment.
The city of Pittsburg, on the other hand, confronted its allegedly corrupt officers with evidence of wrongdoing, leading to their resignations last year. The two Pittsburg officers charged had already left the department prior to the investigation.
The indicted officers still employed by the Antioch Police Department have received letters of intent to terminate, giving them the opportunity to request a Skelly hearing to refute the charges. It is unclear whether all officers have been fired, but those facing criminal charges have been terminated.
The investigation into the officers’ alleged racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages, involving almost half of the department, remains ongoing. The city has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to officers currently on leave during this internal investigation.
The circumstances of Officer Ben Padilla’s current employment status could not be confirmed. Attorneys for Officer Rombough, Officer Amiri, and the city’s police union did not respond to requests for comment.
Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker, who has been sued by Officers Prieto and Rodriguez for publicly criticizing them on social media, stated that five letters of intent to terminate were sent to Antioch police officers on leave. Prieto, Rodriguez, and Padilla are accused of accepting meals and tequila as bribes to dismiss traffic tickets.
Acting City Manager Kwame Reed declined to comment, stating that the process is ongoing. The city has not disclosed when each officer was placed on leave, but sources indicate that some officers, including Amiri and Rombough, were put on paid leave in early 2022 after search warrants were executed at their homes and the Antioch Police Department.
The Antioch Police Department previously claimed that officers on leave, including Amiri and Rombough, were unable to testify in a murder case due to being on “industrial injury leave.” However, a judge ruled that their testimony was unnecessary. Private investigator Sean Patrick Farley witnessed Rombough engaging in activities inconsistent with being on leave, such as picking up his child from school, while Amiri was observed hiding inside his home during a pool party.
The investigation and subsequent charges against the officers have brought significant scrutiny to the Antioch Police Department, raising concerns about corruption and misconduct within the agency.