New Times, newtimesslo.com
BYLINE: MATT FOUNTAIN
San Luis Obispo, CA
A San Luis Obispo police department detective caught pilfering the station's evidence locker, not reporting confidential informants, and who inspired a District Attorney review of past cases has pleaded guilty to extortion.
Cory Pierce, 39, of Arroyo Grande, pleaded guilty to one of two counts of extortion in federal court in Los Angeles on July 7.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and must repay the F.B.I. $5,500 he took for operations but misused, according to Brandon Fox, the U.S. Attorney for the Central Region of California.
Pierce was initially scheduled to begin trial earlier this month, but the proceedings were continued to August. Today's plea keeps the evidence in the case from becoming part of the public record.
Federal agents arrested Pierce following an internal investigation by the SLOPD and the SLO County Sheriff's Department, for which Pierce worked as a member of the narcotics task force, into the officer's dealings with confidential informants.
According to an affidavit attached to his federal indictment, Pierce was accused of keeping two informants off the books and out of trouble with probation officials as part of a scheme to sell fake drugs for real narcotics, including pain pills and heroin.
The alleged crimes came to light after the informants came forward, according to the affidavit.
On one occasion, the informants told investigators, Pierce took drugs from a dealer he set up at gunpoint and never reported the seizure.
In November 2012, the informants told police, he began shooting heroin.
Pierce was involved in a number of high profile marijuana busts in recent years, including acting undercover as a medical marijuana patient as part of the controversial "Operation Green Sweep" in 2010.
Following his arrest, the Sheriff's Department voluntarily requested its narcotics officers be drug tested. According to Sheriff's Department Spokesman Tony Cipolla, each officer passed.
The department has also announced that since Pierce's arrest, the station evidence locker has been equipped with a surveillance camera.
Pierce's federal public defender, Meha Mehta, declined comment Monday, telling New Times that she could not comment until the case had made it through the court.
The SLO Human Resources Department could not immediately be reached for comment whether Pierce remained on paid administrative leave.
Pierce is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 9 in Los Angeles District Court. For more information, see www.newtimesslo.com/news/9067/gone-rogue.
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