2 Chicago officers charged with stealing drugs, cash

CHICAGO — Two Chicago police officers have been charged with lying to judges to obtain search warrants and then stealing cash and drugs from the properties they searched, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

According to a federal indictment, Xavier Elizondo and David Salgado have been charged with federal counts of embezzlement and conspiracy to commit theft. Salgado is also charged with making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors contend that the 45-year-old Elizondo and the 37-year-old Salgado were working as gang officers when between at least June 2017 and January of this year they took part in a scheme in which they stole property — once taking $4,200 from a rental vehicle they searched — and falsified police reports to cover their tracks. Elizondo, a sergeant, and Salgado, an officer, allegedly worked with two people who, posing as confidential informants, provided false information to convince state court judges to sign their search warrants. They then stole items such as drugs, cartons of cigarettes and cash from properties they searched before giving a portion of the stolen property to the people posing as informants.

In at least one incident, they took one of those people to court, where the person could provide false information directly to the judge weighing whether or not to sign off on the search warrant.

The indictments came as a blow to the police department that has been trying to regain public trust since the release in late 2015 of a videotape showing a white police officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald. There have been other allegations of police brutality, corruption and convictions thrown out because suspects said police framed them.

On Thursday, appearing at the police academy, Superintendent Eddie Johnson lamented the latest troubling news.

Calling the charges an "insult" to the entire department, Johnson said if the two are convicted, "Not only will they have lost the honor and respect of this profession, they will be criminals who have abused the public's trust and violated the oath they took when they first received their stars."

A message was left with the department asking Elizondo and Salgado to comment. Police spokesman Frank Giancamilli said the officers were stripped of their police powers and assigned to administrative duty when the department was notified of the investigation, and after the indictment they were suspended without pay.

If convicted, the Elizondo and Salgado face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for the embezzlement charge and five years for the conspiracy charge. Making a false statement to the FBI carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.