Four people, including top brass in the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, have been indicted in bribery schemes for donations to Sheriff Laurie Smith's reelection campaign in exchange for highly coveted gun permits.
A grand jury issued two indictments on Thursday, Nov. 19, against Undersheriff Rick Sung, 48, and Capt. James Jensen, 43, who are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms licenses, also known as CCW licenses. Insurance broker Harpreet Chadha, 49, and Apple's Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer, 50, are accused of offering bribes to receive the permits, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a press conference on Monday morning.
The two-year investigation by the district attorney's office found that Sung, who was allegedly aided by Jensen in one instance, held up the distribution of CCW licenses and refused to release them until the applicants gave something of value. Investigators determined some of the money was sent to Sheriff Smith's reelection campaign, Rosen said.
Sung has been indicted on three counts of asking or receiving a bribe by an executive officer, a felony, for incidents dating between Oct. 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018, for allegedly asking for a bribe from Chadha and for asking for a bribe from Moyer between Dec. 7, 2018 and Feb. 14, 2019, according to the redacted indictments. Jensen, who was previously indicted, is also now charged with asking for or receiving a bribe by an executive officer for the scheme involving Moyer.
Moyer and Chadha each face a single count of bribing an executive officer. So far, 13 people have been indicted in the bribery schemes. Three people pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 and Oct. 19, Rosen said. Thirty-two witnesses testified before the grand jury, including former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, according to the indictment witness list.
Sung and Jensen allegedly held up four gun licenses from Apple employees and extracted from Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the sheriff's office. A donation of 200 iPads worth nearly $70,000 was ended at the last minute after Aug. 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned that the district attorney's office had issued a search warrant seizing all of the sheriff's office's CCW license records.
Sung allegedly received a promise from Chadha of $6,000 worth of luxury box seat tickets to a San Jose Sharks hockey game at the SAP Center on Valentine's Day 2019. Sheriff Smith’s family members and some of her biggest political supporters held a small celebration of her reelection as sheriff in the suite, according to a statement from the district attorney's office.
Sung is the highest ranking law enforcement officer ever indicted in the county, Rosen said.
Capt. James Jensen, a past spokesperson in the sheriff's office, was previously indicted in the concealed carry weapon (CCW) license bribery case. Gun permits, known as CCW permits, are not easily obtained. The manager of an executive protection company, AS Solution Inc., allegedly received the gun permits for his executive protection agents in exchange for a $90,000 bribe to Smith's reelection campaign between April 2018 and August 2019. Multiple people, including a local gun parts manufacturer and an attorney, were also indicted.
"Undersheriff Sung and Capt. Jensen treated CCW licenses as commodities and found willing buyers. Bribe seekers should be reported to the District Attorney's Office, not rewarded with compliance," Rosen said.
"Call this quid pro quo. Call it pay-to-play. Call it give to get. It is illegal and deeply erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system.
"When high-ranking members of a law enforcement agency are at the heart of a bribery scheme, it tarnishes the badge, the honor, the reputations and — tragically — the effectiveness of all law enforcement agencies," Rosen said.
The defendants are expected to surrender shortly, he said. They will be arraigned on Jan. 11 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. If convicted, the defendants could receive prison time.
Sung has been placed on administrative leave and Jensen has been on administrative leave since August. The sheriff's office continues to cooperate with the District Attorney's Office, the agency said in a Nov. 20 statement.
On Monday, the sheriff's office issued another statement: "As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest moral and ethical standards. This is a difficult time for our organization, however our goal remains to provide the highest level of public safety to the residents of Santa Clara County. The hundreds of men and women who represent the Sheriff’s Office will continue to serve our community with compassion, honesty and integrity."
A CCW license generally costs between $200 and $400. Under state law, it is a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a CCW license. State law requires that an applicant show "good cause" for the license, in addition to completing a firearms course and having good moral character, but the sheriff has broad discretion in determining qualified applicants, the district attorney's office press release.
Rosen said that there could be additional indictments and charges. Asked whether Smith, who signs off on all gun permits, knew or should have known about the bribery schemes, Rosen said, "That's your question. There's nothing more I can say."
Smith and Sung could not directly be reached for comment. A sheriff's spokesperson referred only to the general statement from the agency after a request for comment from Smith.
Moyer's attorney, Ed Swanson of Swanson & McNamara, said in a statement that his client is innocent and that his reputation has been tarnished by "baseless charges."
"Ultimately, this case is about a long, bitter, and very public dispute between the Santa Clara County Sheriff and the District Attorney, and Tom is collateral damage to that dispute. We look forward to making Tom’s innocence clear in court and bringing an end to this wrong-headed prosecution," he said.
Apple, in a brief statement, echoed its support for Moyer on Monday.
"We expect all of our employees to conduct themselves with integrity. After learning of the allegations, we conducted a thorough internal investigation and found no wrongdoing," the Cupertino-based company said.
The grand jury indictment could be publicly released in the next two to three weeks if it is not sealed by the court, a move the district attorney's office does not oppose, Rosen said.