Fake Degree Scheme Led To CA Cops Getting Investigated For Every Crime On Earth

Fake Degree Scheme Led To CA Cops Getting Investigated For Every Crime On Earth

For the last year, the FBI and the state of California have been investigating over a dozen officers in Contra Costa County for a stunning variety of what they are calling "crimes of moral turpitude" So far, these include selling steroids, selling assault weapons, falsifying reports, doing coke, taking bribes and committing multiple premeditated civil rights violations.

And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for some meddling kids and their dog they hadn't tried to scam the state out of money by paying an apparently brilliant woman to take online courses for them so that they could get the pay bumps awarded to officers with higher learning degrees.

Officers who obtain an associate's degree get a 2.5 percent raise, five percent for a bachelor's and 10 percent for a master's, plus reimbursement for tuition. The average Contra Costa police officer makes $131,000 a year, so we're not talking pennies here. They were scamming the taxpayers and the department out of tens of thousands of dollars.

It was this scam, The Mercury News reports, that led investigators to confiscate the phones of several officers in Antioch and Pittsburg, leading them to discover a font of other crimes the officers had discussed amongst one another through text messaging. Perhaps if they had actually earned any of the degrees they were getting paid for, it would have occurred to at least one of them them that discussing crimes over text messaging is a bad idea if one is trying not to get caught.

A federal grand jury is currently weighing criminal charges against the officers and indictments are expected by the end of the year.

As a result of the investigation, the Contra Costa County DA dropped 40 cases that were linked to these officers earlier this year. One would also hope — given that the list of alleged crimes includes "falsifying police reports" — that anyone sent to prison on evidence or testimony provided by these cops will also be able to appeal their sentences.

Shockingly, two of the officers implicated also have a history of apparent police brutality, having killed a man they tried to pull over for a minor traffic violation. In 2017, Ernesto Mejia and Patrick Berhan chased 32-year-old Humberto Martinez into his house after he tried to run away. Berhan used a stun gun on Martinez and Mejia put him in a carotid hold while another officer sat on him, and he ultimately died from the bloodstream to his brain being cut off. A coroner's report also found that he had 16 broken ribs.

Although Martinez's death resulted in a federal lawsuit and a $7.3 million settlement, none of the officers involved were held accountable. It's hard not to wonder if getting away with choking someone to death over a "minor traffic violation" might embolden some cops to believe they can get away with anything.

That such a large group of cops across two different departments were allegedly able to pull off so many very blatant "crimes of moral turpitude" and were only caught because someone dropped a dime on them for piling up fake degrees should probably concern us all.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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