FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno Police Department's second in command has been arrested in a federal drug conspiracy investigation. Deputy Chief Keith Foster, 51, is accused of distributing and possessing drugs.
Deputy Chief Keith Foster is accused of distributing and possessing oxycodone, marijuana, and heroin. He was arrested on Thursday after a year long investigation by the FBI and ATF.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer met with his staff to address any questions they have after the announcement -- and also to reassure them that no one, including officers, is above the law.
Deputy Chief Foster is one of three deputy chiefs in the department. Chief Jerry Dyer says Foster's job is to oversee patrol -- and each of the four policing districts in the city. Foster became a deputy chief eight years ago.
At the news conference Thursday afternoon, Chief Dyer said he was just made aware of this case -- after Foster was arrested on Thursday. Federal investigators are not revealing details of the investigation, other than to say they have surveillance, which includes Deputy Chief Foster. Investigators were authorized to use wire taps on telephones.
"This is a very sad day for the Fresno Police Department, the citizens of Fresno, and the law enforcement profession," said Dyer.
When Chief Dyer was asked what a stunning arrest like this means for the citizens of Fresno, his officers and the criminals they fight against each day -- he replied, "The message I want to send to everyone, when we place this badge on our chest, it's a badge of honor. There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with it. It is important that we do everything we can to maintain and enhance the trust our citizens have in us."
The chief says he hopes his officers can still hold their heads up high. He stressed that Deputy Chief Foster and the others arrested are innocent until proven guilty.
Three other suspects were arrested on Thursday afternoon. Federal authorities say 41-year-old Rafael Guzman worked with Foster to distribute heroin. Foster's relative, 48-year-old Randy Flowers is accused of conspiring to distribute oxycodone. And 35-year-old Jennifer Donebedian was arrested for conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
The other two suspects, 44-year-old Denny Foster and 37-year-old Sarah Ybarra, were arrested Thursday night for conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
A total of 10 search warrants were conducted by the FBI and ATF.
Deputy Chief Foster and the others will be in federal court Friday afternoon to determine if they will get bail.
Chief Dyer says Foster is on paid leave right now. He has been stripped of his peace officer powers and has turned in his department issued gun.
The criminal complaint reveals much of what the FBI and ATF did over the last year as they investigated Foster and a conspiracy to sell the different drugs.
The bulk of the investigation started in November of last year when federal investigators started wiretapping Foster and two relatives believed to be involved in the drug trafficking operation. In December, investigators say the wire caught Foster telling Randy Flowers he had "100 of those things," which they understood to mean oxycodone pills. Agents later confirmed Foster picked up 100 pills at a local Rite-Aid just before, and then drove to Flowers' home and stayed there for two minutes. They believe Foster did the same thing a month later.
Also in December, Foster asked a relative if he could "get some units for his boy" and then they talked money. Investigators believe this was a transaction involving marijuana.
And later that month, investigators say they intercepted a call between Foster and a known drug dealer, Rafael Guzman. They spoke in code, but after Foster said "What's the ticket?" Guzman asked "How good of clothes they want." Investigators say they continued to talk about China white, which is code for black tar heroin.
The complaint also outlines drug activity between some of the other players in the alleged conspiracy. And all of this is after federal investigators got the wiretap, which was already four months into their investigation.
Fresno Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster arrest and the impact on the community
Keith Foster and his family are well known in Fresno. His family has a long tradition in Southwest Fresno.
The Southwest Fresno Police Substation is named after Keith Foster's father. During his decades with the police department, Foster climbed the ranks all the way to the second in command.
Keith Foster has always been behind Police Chief Jerry Dyer at press conferences. And when Dyer is away, Foster, and two other deputy chiefs, rotated as the top in command.
For the past several years, foster has led the patrol division, before that investigations. The foster family has had many successes and Keith's soaring law enforcement career was one of the highlights. Whenever his family endured tough times, his boss and friend was always right beside him, even when Keith's nephew was shot by an officer in 2002.
"I am personal friends of the Foster family. Keith Foster is one of my best friends. And so it's difficult for me, it's extremely difficult for the family," said Jerry Dyer, Fresno Police Chief.
The Foster family has also made some headlines for the wrong reasons. In 2012, Foster's brother Patrick, a correctional officer, was arrested after officers said he was a getaway driver in a burglary at the Clovis Kohl's.
When Eric Foster was killed in 2002 during an officer involved shooting, Action News interviewed Randy Flowers. Flowers is also named in the FBI drug case along with Keith. "He was just an outgoing person. He had his things. But he wasn't a bad person," said Flowers.
For now the police chief described his shock late Thursday by saying he is at a loss for words. Dyer has been in the process of planning to redeploy his top brass -- for now, one fewer.