Two former Rohnert Park police officers are facing federal corruption charges of conspiracy, extortion, falsification of records and tax evasion, all tied to an alleged years-long scheme to pull over and rob people of cash and marijuana.
Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker were assigned to Rohnert Park’s drug interdiction team at various times between 2015 and 2017, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Friday. The program was aimed at seizing illegal drugs and cash proceeds trafficked along the Highway 101 corridor. Over about four years, Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety officers seized $3.6 million and 2½ tons of marijuana, according to an analysis of records from the program.
Cities and police departments can legally take people’s money and seize property if it’s tied to illegal activity through a process called civil asset forfeiture. The department gets to keep a cut of whatever they take, providing a monetary incentive to confiscate cash and make narcotics busts. Former Sgt. Jacy Tatum was in charge of the drug interdiction team and supervised asset forfeiture, according to the complaint.
But not everything that Tatum and Huffaker seized was legal, the complaint alleges. A number of motorists had paperwork to prove they were transporting legal cannabis for testing or to medical marijuana dispensaries. But the officers took their cannabis product or cash anyway, and in some cases failed to properly document those seizures.
The federal criminal complaint alleges that Tatum extorted at least $3,700 in cash and “significant amounts of marijuana,” and was aided by Huffaker in at least one of the illegal stops.
“Tatum and other officers made no reports of the seizure, did not submit the marijuana or assets into evidence, and sought no destruction orders for the marijuana,” a press release from the Northern California U.S. Attorney’s Office says.