Imperial Valley Press, ivpressonline.com
BYLINE: SILVIO J. PANTA Staff Writer
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Two former Westmorland Police Department officers who were arrested in relation to the theft of firefighting equipment and weapons received jail terms Friday.
Juan Jesus Chavez, 26, and Alfredo Tovar, 29, each received the term of two years in state prison that Imperial County Superior Court Judge Raymundo Cota suspended under the terms of an indicated sentence that instead placed both defendants on three years’ probation.
Chavez, a former full-time police officer who worked for the WPD for 18 months before his resignation in February, also received a year in county jail with credit for 78 days served.
Tovar, who worked as a WPD reserve officer, got a jail term of 180 days with credit for one day served. Chavez received the larger sentence because he was suspected of having a larger role in the thefts, prosecutor Jeffrey Brooker said.
Chavez resigned from the WPD three days after his arrest in February. It’s suspected the property was taken during a six-month period last year.
The judge opted to sentence the defendants based on the aggravated nature of the offenses, Brooker said.
Neither defendant had any criminal record but “on the other hand” had abused their positions of trust, Brooker said.
Chavez pleaded guilty to three separate charges of grand theft and Tovar pleaded guilty to one felony charge of burglary. Both defendants entered their pleas Sept. 16, which was the day Chavez surrendered himself to authorities.
Tovar chose to wait until sentencing Friday before turning himself in, Brooker said.
Other equipment taken was a protective police vest, Taser cartridges and weapons that included a .22 caliber rifle and a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol, according to a probation report.
The report also detailed the theft of a cell phone from a citizen Chavez had arrested and fireworks taken from an evidence locker.
Most of the property was recovered but some of it, like the breathing apparatus firefighters use, had been sold on eBay, Brooker said.
The Westmorland Fire Department took a loss of about $28,000 as the four pieces of breathing equipment were valued at $7,000 each, Brooker said.
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at
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