Saturday, July 25, 2009

Officer Benjamin Miles Cordova Accused of Misusing City Fuel Card

A police report says a North Las Vegas police officer accused of misusing a city fuel card had an expired driver's license and was using a pilfered license plate.

A police report says Benjamin Miles Cordova's 2005 Chevrolet pickup had a license plate that a woman said she turned over to a North Las Vegas police officer when she was stopped for driving with suspended plates.

Police say Cordova's truck hadn't been registered since 2005, and his license expired in 2007.

Cordova is 39 and a six-year veteran of the department. He's on paid administrative leave following his arrest Tuesday on six felony counts of credit card fraud.

He is accused of using the department credit card to refuel his pickup.

Update: Officer Gregory Zach Put on Administrative Leave

The city police officer accused of punching a woman last month applied to the Greenwich Police Department in 2005 but was disqualified over his background check, according to town records.

Gregory Zach, 26, who has been with the Stamford Police Department since 2005, was placed on administrative leave Thursday. Police Chief Brent Larrabee said it was not in the best interest of Zach or the public for the officer to continue to work extra-duty jobs.

Larrabee said Friday he had not reviewed Zach's file and did not know why he was not hired in Greenwich. He said candidates are asked during the application process whether they have applied for other departments and what the result was.

A disqualification from another department would have been investigated during Zach's background check and would not necessarily prevent him from serving in Stamford, because different communities have different standards, Larrabee said.

"It's difficult for me to comment on what another community did," he said. "I will say that we have taken candidates, even in my time here, who have been rejected, who did not pass another exam, who were not hired by another community, and they've turned out to be good employees."

It is also possible that Zach had not been rejected from Greenwich at the time his application was under review at Stamford, Larrabee said.

Zach was working an extra-duty job before the Alive@Five concert June 25 when he stopped Brenda Mazariegos, 40, a passenger in her friend Sandra Solis' car, when the two tried to park in a lot behind The Palms nightclub. Mazariegos is an owner of the club. The lot was restricted during the concert, and Zach would not let the car through.

According to police spokesman Lt. Sean Cooney, Mazariegos declined to provide her driver's license when asked and punched Zach when he tried to arrest her. Zach punched Mazariegos in response, Cooney has said.

Solis' husband, Nelson Solis, has said his wife left the car and that Zach later told Mazariegos to move it. When Mazariegos again tried to enter the lot, Zach demanded her license, Solis has said. When Solis and his wife tried to intervene, Zach pushed them both and punched Mazariegos, Solis has said. Solis and other witnesses who work for The Palms deny anyone punched Zach.

Mazariegos was charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license, second-degree breach of peace, interfering with an officer or resisting arrest, and assault on a public safety officer. She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment July 10 and is to appear in court Aug. 5.

The incident spawned an internal investigation into Zach's actions after the case received media attention and photographs of Mazariegos with a large bump on her forehead were published. Zach was transferred from patrol to a desk-duty job with the youth bureau.

Zach's administrative leave is not punitive, and the investigation into the Mazariegos incident is ongoing, Larrabee said. Zach had a right to continue to work extra-duty jobs as an active police officer under the union contract, and the department could not order him to stop, he said.

Sgt. Joseph Kennedy, the Stamford Police Association president, said the department had a right to place Zach on nondisciplinary administrative leave, but it would not yet have a reason to remove Zach from extra-duty jobs if he were still working.

"Everybody wants to jump on and discipline this kid, but the investigation's not even done," Kennedy said.

The records from Greenwich, police department civil service test results, show Zach applied two years in a row to be a police officer for the town in which he was raised. Zach served in Iraq in 2003 and received extra points for his veteran status.

Zach may have qualified to work in the department the first time he applied, in the 2003 to 2004 application year, said Mary Jo Iannuccilli, assistant director of human resources for Greenwich. That year, Zach had a 93.4 percent score on the series of tests. His score was the second highest in the application cycle.

Iannuccilli said it appeared the department did not move to hire Zach at that time. Iannuccilli said she did not know whether the department had yet conducted a background check.

In the following year, his score dropped to 87.567 percent, and he was disqualified because of his background check.

She said applicants for Greenwich at that time underwent a background check conducted by the independent company Countermeasures Investigations & Surveillance LLC, as well as a more thorough background check by the Greenwich Police internal affairs department.

Iannuccilli said she could not say anything specific about Zach's rejection.

Court records show Zach was arrested by Greenwich police April 1, 2000, and charged with possession of liquor by a minor. Zach was 18 at the time. He was found guilty the following month and assessed a $200 fine, though it is not clear whether the charge, a violation, had anything to do with his disqualification.

Attempts to reach Zach on Friday were not successful.

Larrabee said it was not unusual for applicants to apply for jobs in more than one department at the same time, or for applicants to be hired by some departments despite rejections from others.
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Deputy Marcus Smith Arrested for Assault

A San Joaquin County sheriff's deputy has been indicted on an assault charge.

The indictment accuses Deputy Marcus Smith of using his hands and feet to assault an unidentified person.

The indictment doesn't say if the incident took place while Smith was on duty, but eight other members of the sheriff's staff testified before the grand jury, according to court papers.

Smith has worked for the sheriff's department for about seven years and is assigned to the Lathrop Police Department. The sheriff's office provides the city of Lathrop with police services under a contract.