I-TEAM investigates allegations of SFPD kickbacks

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Thursday, March 12, 2015
I-Team investigates allegations of SFPD kickbacks
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The I-Team has learned that a veteran San Francisco police officer is facing a criminal investigation for allegedly accepting kickbacks.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A veteran San Francisco police officer is now under investigation for allegedly taking kickbacks and other crimes. The officer resigned last month when his supervisors first confronted him.

Sources close to the investigation tell the I-Team that photos from Google Maps are playing an important role.

Ricci Rodriguez is a 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department. Most recently, he was on the captain's staff at Bayview Station. The criminal investigation against Rodriguez covers two issues -- first, there are accusations that he took kickbacks for steering business to a towing company.

After calling several times and getting no response, the I-Team's Dan Noyes caught up to Rodriguez at his home on the peninsula.

Noyes: "I need to talk to you."

Rodriguez: "I can't."

Noyes: "No?"

Rodriguez: "I can't."

Noyes: "You got an attorney I can talk to?"

Rodriguez: "Yeah, you can talk to anybody at the POA, but I can't talk to you, really I can't talk."

Noyes: "Yeah? OK."

The president of the POA -- the Police Officers Association -- also declined to be interviewed because it's "an active, open investigation".

At last night's Police Commission meeting, Chief Greg Suhr confirmed Rodriguez retired last month after the accusation of kickbacks first surfaced.

When Suhr was asked how seriously he takes these issues, he replied, "Well, I mean, obviously anything that affects character, you know. I don't think anybody has missed my comments that there's no place in the San Francisco Police Department, and shouldn't be in any department, for a dishonest cop."

Former federal prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer spoke to Noyes on Thursday from New York and said that Rodriguez could face serious prison time, if he is charged and found guilty. Soffer explained, "The bribery statute that could potentially apply here imposes as many as four years in jail, in state prison."

The second part of the case involves those Google cars that take pictures for online maps. They caught an SFPD undercover car at Rodriguez' home, where it shouldn't have been. Sources familiar with the case tell Noyes Rodriguez kept the car for his personal use since it was assigned to Bayview in October 2011, and that he parked it at the grocery store next to the station so his fellow officers would not find out.

Noyes: "What we're hearing is that he hid from others that he had that vehicle. What sort of a crime is that? Exactly what is that?"

Soffer: "It's a form of embezzlement. It's using property that is owned by his employer for personal purposes."

The car even shows up at Rodriguez' house on a Google satellite image.

The white, undercover SFPD car shows up at Rodriguez' house on a Google satellite image. (March 12, 2015/ABC7 News)

Noyes: "How does a guy use an undercover car for four years without anybody knowing about it?"

Suhr: "That's a good question that superiors are going to have to answer, as well."

Suhr tells the I-Team he is launching an audit to make sure all department vehicles are being used properly.

The I-Team has asked the city for tow records that may shed more light on this case. We'll tell you if they show anything interesting, when they come in.

This story began with a tip from inside the SFPD. If you have a tip you can email the I-Team or you can reach Dan Noyes by calling: 1-888-40-I-Team