Fresno Narcotics Detectives Charged with Felony Auto Theft

February 3, 2009 12:21:36 AM PST
The felony complaint filed by the Fresno County District Attorney's Office says that on or about January 29th of last year Fresno Police Detectives Hector Becerra and Paul Cervantes, along with another man, Jose Jesus Mendoza Valles stole a vehicle a from Humberto Ortega.Becerra and Cervantes were arrested by the California Highway Patrol last week, and bailed out of jail within hours. But now that charges have been filed, Ortega's attorney Dan Martin is pleased. "This proves there's actual criminal conduct on behalf of officers in that department. I feel vindicated. I feel my client is vindicated" Martin said.

Martin claims his client brought a Ford Explorer from his home in the Bay Area, to a restaurant parking lot in South Fresno to sell to Valles for five thousand dollars. Instead, he says Ortega was arrested on drug charges and the detectives simply gave the vehicle and pink slip to Valles. Ortega says he never got the money. Now he's facing the possibility of 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to sell methamphetamine.

Martin says Ortega was not in possession of any drugs. But there was two pounds of methamphetamine in another vehicle that accompanied Ortega to Fresno. Two men in that vehicle were arrested. Martin is hoping the U.S. Attorney now drops the charges against his client. "I would like to see the charges dismissed because I cannot see how justice will be served when you have corruption among the arresting agencies." Martin said.

Becerra and Cervantes are part of the Fresno Police Departments Major Narcotics Unit. They are on paid administrative leave while their case is being investigated. Two other members of the unit are also under investigation. One, identified as Ubaldo Garza owns a business in South Fresno which the California Highway Patrol has identified as a possible "chop shop," a place where stolen vehicles could be disassembled and sold for parts. Garza has not been charged with any crime. Attorney Martin says Garza was among the Fresno Police Department members present when his client was arrested and had his car stolen.

"It would seem difficult to me when you have five officers on the scene and only one them would be stealing a car, or two of them." Martin said. In an interview last week Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said an internal investigation is underway and urged the public not to "rush to judgment."

Detectives Becerra and Cervantes are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in court on February 17th.

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