Crusader Staff Report
A federal jury on Tuesday, October 22, found two Chicago police officers guilty of stealing drugs and cash they found during raids.
After two weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated for five hours before it convicted Sargent Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado of conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. Elizondo was also convicted on one count of attempting to destroy evidence. Salgado was also found guilty of one count of lying to the FBI.
Prosecutors in closing arguments said the two disgraced their badges and trampled on the civil rights of citizens in a city that is already weary of police abuses.
“They were fighting crime, but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to commit crimes while doing it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau told the jury.
Prosecutors said the officers had informants lie before Cook County judges in order to obtain search warrants before using them to carry out what appeared to be legitimate raids on property of suspected drug dealers.
According to court documents, instead of properly inventorying what they seized, the two officers stole the seized drugs and cash, then gave a share of the proceeds to the informants for their assistance in the scheme.
Elizondo, 47, and Salgado, 39, have been on paid desk duty since January after they were caught in several elaborate FBI sting operations.
Prosecutors also accused Elizondo of repeatedly perjuring himself when he testified last week in his own defense.
Prosecutors said Elizondo strung along informants, but in the end would give a small amount of cash from his own pocket or a pack of cigarettes.
Informants said the officers paid them cash at late-night meetings in grocery store parking lots, in dark alleys and other locations around the city.
During the trial, text messages presented as evidence showed Elizondo told one of his longtime informants, Latonia Gipson, that she had to “see the man” — meaning to appear before a judge as a John Doe and lie — before she could get paid.
Gipson testified that after she provided a tip on a drug house in 2017, Salgado met her in a Jewel parking lot. She said he gave her a bottle of liquor and marijuana for her birthday.
Earlier that day, fellow officers said they saw Salgado remove marijuana from an evidence bag that was being inventoried at a police station.
“That is just one stunning moment in a trial that was full of them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ankur Srivastava said Monday in his closing remarks.
Jurors heard rare testimony from Maurico Araujo, a sitting Cook County judge who in 2017, signed a search warrant outside the Smith & Wollensky restaurant based on information provided by an informant who was secretly cooperating with the FBI.
As part of the sting operation, FBI officials instructed the informant to not appear before a judge to swear out the complaint.
Instead, Elizondo and Salgado used one of their longtime informants, Antwan Davis, to stand in as the John Doe and falsely swear under oath that he had seen drugs being sold out of the house.
In a second sting in January 2018, FBI officers hid $18,200 in purported drug money in a rental car parked near Midway Airport. Prosecutors said during a search of the vehicle, Elizondo and Salgado stole $4,200 of the cash. They hid it from other team members.
On January 29, the FBI’s cover was blown when they and a member of the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs went to Homan Square to tow the Hyundai. There they encountered Salgado in the parking lot, according to trial testimony. Minutes later, Salgado called Elizondo, who allegedly told him to get rid of any of the stolen cash, according to a wiretapped phone call that was played in court.
“Just make sure whatever you have in your house isn’t there no more, you know what I mean?” Elizondo said.
The next day, FBI agents executed the search warrant on Salgado’s residence on West 18th Place but did not find the cash. The call records on the officers’ phones were “wiped” out to cover up the crimes, prosecutors said.
During his testimony, Elizondo said he deleted his call data because he was “embarrassed” and didn’t want Internal Affairs to see which members of the department he contacted after learning he was being investigated.