Jury finds two Chicago cops guilty in corruption case

Prosecutors said officers David Salgado and Xavier Elizondo “are corrupt Chicago police officers who betrayed their badges and used their police powers to lie, cheat and steal.”

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A federal jury found Chicago police officer Xavier Elizondo, right, and his partner, David Salgado, left, guilty in a corruption case.

A federal jury found Chicago police officer Xavier Elizondo, right, and his partner, David Salgado, left, guilty in a corruption case.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Officer David Salgado looked shocked when he learned, in a chance encounter at the Homan Square police station in January 2018, that he was under investigation.

He had just happened to cross paths with an internal affairs officer working with the FBI. The night before, Salgado had seized a car with Sgt. Xavier Elizondo. The FBI had hidden $18,200 inside, and $4,200 had gone missing. Internal affairs towed the car.

“Well, you know what to do, right?” Elizondo said when Salgado told him the news by phone. “Just relocate everything, alright?” He later added: “Just make sure whatever you have in your house isn’t there no more, you know what I mean?”

That call became a crucial piece of evidence in a trial that ended Tuesday with the conviction of the two Chicago police officers, who were accused of using bogus information to secure search warrants used to then steal cash and drugs.

Both officers faced five counts each — including conspiracy, theft and obstruction of justice charges — and jurors found them guilty across the board after a trial that lasted roughly two weeks. Salgado was also convicted of lying to the FBI.

The jury deliberated for roughly five hours Tuesday. Each officer potentially faces several years in prison, and sentencing has been set for Jan. 23.

Neither Elizondo nor Salgado showed any visible reaction when the verdict was read. Elizondo and his lawyer, Michael Clancy, left the Dirksen Federal Courthouse without commenting. Michael Petro, Salgado’s attorney, told reporters the men should have gone to trial separately.

“If [Salgado] would have been tried by himself, he would have definitely been found not guilty,” Petro said.

Prosecutors used several covert audio and video recordings to make their case against the officers.

After the verdict was read, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled the two could no longer carry guns or have firearm owner identification cards. Attorneys for the officers said their FOID cards had already expired.

After the verdict, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued a statement praising “the delivery of justice and accountability in this case” and promising to take the steps necessary to officially fire the two officers.

“Both Elizondo and Salgado were relieved of police powers when charges were filed, and we will now begin the process of filing termination charges” against the two “before the Police Board,” Johnson said.

Clancy and Petro described their clients to the jury as crime fighters wrongly accused of a criminal conspiracy. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau called them “corrupt Chicago police officers who betrayed their badges and used their police powers to lie, cheat and steal.”

Elizondo and Salgado were first charged in May 2018 and accused of abusing a system that let cops use anonymous “John Doe” informants. The officers had informants lie to Cook County judges to get warrants that let them search properties where they stole money, drugs and cartons of cigarettes, according to an indictment that also accused them of sharing illegal proceeds with informants.

Embattled Cook County Circuit Judge Mauricio Araujo found himself drawn into the case because he signed a warrant for Salgado outside Smith & Wollensky in River North in December 2017. Elizondo and Salgado used that warrant to search what they believed to be a drug stash house on the West Side.

Araujo faces unrelated claims he made improper advances toward a female police officer and a female court reporter and demeaned a female prosecutor.

The FBI had hidden $15,000 inside the house searched by the officers using the Araujo warrant. It also planted surveillance cameras there. The officers found both and decided to inventory the money properly, according to federal prosecutors.

Still, Elizondo was caught on tape telling an informant working for the feds “it would have been a good Christmas” if the cameras hadn’t been there.

Then, in January 2018, that same informant told Elizondo about cash and drugs inside a rental car parked at the Carlton Inn near Midway Airport. The tipster told Elizondo a key had been tucked inside the rear bumper of the car.

The FBI had hidden $18,200 in two Burger King bags in the car, according to court records.

After searching the car with other officers, they eventually took the car to the Homan Square police station, where Salgado reported $14,000 was found inside, records show.

Salgado wound up crossing paths the next day with Lt. Timothy Moore, the internal affairs officer. The seized car was already on a flatbed tow truck, Moore testified. Salgado complained that it was part of an investigation.

Moore told Salgado he was from internal affairs — and he needed the car for his own investigation.

“[Salgado] took a step back,” Moore testified. “He seemed shocked.”

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