Saturday, May 15, 2021

Santa Ana police officer pleads guilty to accepting $128,000 in bribes


A Santa Ana police officer admitted Wednesday, Feb. 24, to accepting $128,000 in bribes in exchange for keeping law enforcement away from an illegal business.

Steven Lopez, 28, of Chino pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge as part of a plea deal in which he acknowledged using his law enforcement status to both accept and solicit money from an unnamed business operator.

According to his plea deal, Lopez, from August 2019 to November 2020, accepted the bribes from an “illegal enterprise” by promising to protect the business from being searched or shut down.

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In one instance, Lopez met the unnamed businessman in order to accept a bribe payment on the top floor of a parking structure directly across the street from the Santa Ana Police Department’s headquarters, according to court papers. Another time, he admitted, he picked up a bribe payment at a Santa Ana street corner in his uniform while on duty in a marked police vehicle.

Lopez, who has been a police officer since 2016, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal case and his peace officer powers were suspended, according to the Santa Ana Police Department.

Lopez’s attorney, Brian Gurwitz, has said his client decided to plead guilty as a “first step in making amends for the harm he knows he caused to law enforcement.” The defense attorney attributed Lopez’s conduct on “serious personal issues that he is addressing.”

Gurwitz has said that while Lopez accepted the money, he took “no action to interfere with the enforcement actions” of the Santa Ana Police Department. The defense attorney has also said that no other department employee knew of Lopez’s wrongdoing.

Lopez faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on May 3.

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