Two OPD officers charged with felonies in sex scandal
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office filed felony charges Monday against two Oakland police officers and a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy in connection with the expansive sexual exploitation scandal that has led to investigations in at least seven Bay Area law enforcement agencies.
Oakland police Officer Giovanni LoVerde, 33, and Contra Costa County sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez, 28, were each charged with felony oral copulation with a minor. Perez was also charged with two counts of engaging in lewd conduct in public.
Oakland police Officer Brian Bunton, 40, was charged with felony obstruction of justice and engaging in prostitution.
They all have court dates scheduled for later this month in Hayward and must attend their arraignment in person, according to district attorney’s spokeswoman Teresa Drenick. Bunton is scheduled for arraignment on Friday. LoVerde and Perez are each scheduled for arraignment on Sept. 30.
All the charges are in connection with interactions with a single teen victim of sex trafficking whose name has been redacted in the charging documents. The now 19-year-old woman has been connected to investigations of dozens of officers throughout the Bay Area.
The investigation started last September when Oakland police Officer Brendan O’Brien killed himself and left a suicide note implicating himself and other officers. The woman was interviewed by Oakland police investigators days later.
But the investigation languished. A federal judge overseeing long-overdue reforms to the Police Department as part of a 2003 settlement agreement criticized the pace of the investigation in March.
Details of the scandal began emerging in media reports in May, and only then did some police departments, such as in Richmond and Livermore, learn that they might have officers involved as well.
Twelve in Oakland have been disciplined and 11 were investigated in Richmond, though city officials there have not disclosed how many of them faced discipline.
Four Oakland officers were to be fired but police have not said whether they are the same four facing criminal charges.
Those charged Monday are facing the most serious of the allegations that have emerged so far.
Court documents allege that LoVerde, a father who joined the department in 2014, met her near Lake Merritt and had oral sex with her in an apartment doorway in July 2015, when she was 17. When interviewed by investigators, he denied that they ever met in person.
Perez, who resigned from the sheriff’s office in June as details of the scandal emerged, allegedly had sex with her 10 times at a dirt turnout near Fish Ranch Road in the Oakland hills, according to court documents.
The contact allegedly started around July 2015, when she was 17 years old. When interviewed by investigators, Perez admitted he had sex with her but said it was several days after her 18th birthday in August 2015.
Phone and social media records contradicted Lopez’s account, police said.
Bunton is accused of having sex with the woman after she turned 18 but is charged with engaging in prostitution for allegedly exchanging information about undercover police activities for sex.
According to court documents, he informed the woman via text message of an undercover Oakland police operation targeting prostitution on March 5. Two days later, he sent her text messages asking if she “made all her money” and then told her she “needed a better manager.”
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said earlier this month that she would charge a total of seven officers with crimes. The three officers charged today bring the number of officers charged in the case to five, after two others were charged last week.
Both Livermore police Officer Dan Black, 49, and retired Oakland police Sgt. Leroy Johnson, 50, were charged with misdemeanors on Friday.
Johnson is charged with failing to report suspected child abuse because the woman told him she had sexual contact with officers while underage.
Black is charged with two counts of engaging in prostitution, two counts of performing lewd acts in public, and one count of giving alcohol to a person under 21 for having sex with the woman in his RV in Berkeley in April.
“Just to be clear, I’m not paying you, but I will buy you dinner,” he told her, according to court documents.
Black, a father of a teen girl, resigned from his position with Livermore police the week before he was charged. According to city documents, the city had already decided to terminate him and he agreed to resign effective on Sept. 16, the day criminal charges were filed against him.
If he had not resigned, a hearing on his termination would have been held that day. According to the agreement reached for his resignation, Black is still eligible for retiree health benefits from the city.
Still to be charged are former Oakland police Officer Terryl Smith, who resigned in May and is expected to face four counts of conducting a search of official criminal justice data without an authorized purpose as well as Oakland police Officer Warit Uttapa, expected to face one count of the same.
Oakland police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson refused to provide the current status of officers Bunton, Uttapa and LoVerde, and whether they remain Police Department employees, citing state laws against disclosing personnel information about police officers.