Indicted cop says he posed as corrupt officer, lied to informants
‘When you’re doing something legitimate, you tell people you’re doing something criminal?’ a prosecutor asked. ‘Absolutely,’ responded Sgt. Xavier Elizondo.
From a witness stand at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, indicted Chicago Police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo said Friday he was a liar who often portrayed himself as a corrupt police officer as a way to cultivate informants.
Those were just some of the tactics he’s employed over his 23-year career, much of it as a gang enforcement officer in some of the city’s most violent and drug-plagued neighborhoods.
“There’s some trickery involved in it,” Elizondo said. “It’s the nature of law enforcement working with informants. It’s the nature of the beast.”
Elizondo and his co-defendant, Officer David Salgado, were charged in May 2018 in a three-count federal indictment with conspiracy to commit theft and embezzlement. Earlier this year, a new indictment accused them of a civil rights conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Elizondo also was accused of trying to persuade Salgado to conceal evidence.
Elizondo and Salgado have been accused of abusing a system that lets cops use anonymous “John Doe” informants. An informant working for the officers gave false information to Cook County judges to get warrants that let the cops search properties where they stole money, drugs and cartons of cigarettes, according to the indictment. They also are accused of sharing the illegal proceeds with informants.
The sergeant — who, along with other members of his gang team were stripped of their police powers in January 2018 — testified for more than three hours Friday.
During cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau asked Elizondo, “When you’re doing something legitimate, you tell people you’re doing something criminal?”
“Absolutely,” Elizondo responded. “It’s been a long strategy that I’ve utilized in various fashions and forms for years.”
Franzblau tried to ask Elizondo several questions with “yes” or “no” answers, only to see the sergeant try to recite an anecdote that didn’t directly answer his question.
At one point, later in the afternoon, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly asked the jurors to leave the courtroom. Once they were gone, Kennelly told Elizondo to “get with the program” and be more direct in his answers or he’d risk being admonished in front of the jury.
Prosecutors say the FBI stashed $18,200 in a rental car parked at a hotel near Midway Airport and left a key in the rear bumper. Elizondo, Salgado and other officers found the vehicle and drove it first to a warehouse, then returned it to the hotel parking lot, then took it to a Mexican restaurant, where they ate dinner before driving it to Homan Square and making an inventory of just $14,000, authorities say.
The next day, a lieutenant from the CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs ran into Salgado at Homan Square. Soon after, Elizondo told Salgado to “just relocate everything” in his home.
A recording of that phone call between Elizondo and Salgado was played for jurors Friday.
Elizondo testified that, months earlier, he had seen a photo taken inside Salgado’s home that showed a woman standing near some marijuana. The “everything” he told Salgado to relocate was the marijuana, Elizondo said, adding that it was “common knowledge” that spouses of his team members smoked marijuana recreationally.
The trial is set to resume Monday morning.