Fresno police detective accused of accepting $20,000 bribe

A Fresno Police detective is in jail, waiting to see a judge to face four federal charges of taking a $20,000 bribe.
March 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Fresno Police detective is in jail, waiting to see a judge to face four federal charges of taking a $20,000 bribe.

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Court documents, obtained by Action News, show 40-year-old Detective Derik Kumagai accepted that bribe last November in exchange for making an unidentified drug trafficking suspect a confidential informant.

The criminal complaint says Detective Kumagai and another man, identified as Saykham Somphoune, initially tried to take $60,000. Federal prosecutors are still building their case against Kumagai and say this all stems from a two year drug trafficking investigation.

Kumagai is a 14-year veteran of the Fresno Police Department facing serious charges. According to the complaint, Kumagai worked with Somphoune, a drug trafficker. The two tried to convince a federal suspect, only identified as 'Person Y' that the investigation against him 'could be dropped in return for a bribe payment.'

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Cullers says Kumagai also promised to make 'Person Y' a confidential informant.

"On November 6, 2013 this individual paid Detective Kumagai approximately $20,000 in cash," Cullers said. "A few hours after the cash payment this individual was, indeed, signed up as a confidential informant."

At a news conference Tuesday federal prosecutors and Police Chief Jerry Dyer declined to say how the case came to light. But, Dyer says these accusations could hurt Kumagai's previous police work. "The district attorney has been notified of this arrest," Chief Dyer said. "Obviously, we will go back with them and look at each and every case to see if, in fact, they would be compromised."

Federal authorities say the investigation into Kumagai and Somphoune involved the FBI, the DEA, the IRS, ICE and Homeland Security.

Fresno police are also conducting an internal administrative investigation. "If these allegations are determined to be true then we will take appropriate action against the employee, up to termination," Dyer said.

Investigators say these types of bribery cases involving police officers are extremely rare. Kumagai is on paid administrative leave right now. He's also still in custody.

His first court appearance will be Wednesday afternoon, where a judge will decide if he can bail out of jail.

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READ THE PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT DETECTIVE AND FRESNO MARIJUANA TRAFFICKER CHARGED IN BRIBERY SCHEME

FRESNO, Calif. -- A complaint has been filed in the Fresno branch of the United States District Court against Derik Carson Kumagai, 40, a Fresno Police Department detective assigned to the Vice Unit and Saykham Somphoune, 40, of Clovis, charging them with conspiracy, bribery, and extortion, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

"Prosecuting those who misuse their badge for personal gain is an important mission for the U.S. Department of Justice," said US Attorney Wagner. "I am grateful for the assistance of Chief Dyer and the leadership of his Department in this investigation."

According to court documents, detective Kumagai accepted a $20,000 bribe from an individual who was under investigation for marijuana trafficking (identified as Person Y). In return for the bribe payment, Kumagai and co-conspirator Somphoune promised Person Y that he would be signed up as a confidential informant for the Fresno PD. Somphoune is not a law enforcement officer.

In October and November 2013, Kumagai and Somphoune met with Person Y on several occasions and discussed the proposed bribe payment. On November 6, 2013, Person Y paid Kumagai approximately $20,000 cash. A few hours later, Person Y completed documents regarding work as a confidential informant for the Fresno Police Department.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service ? Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Kevin P. Rooney are prosecuting the case.

If convicted of conspiracy, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of bribery, they face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


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