Feds want 10 years in prison for Chicago cops who used bogus warrants to steal cash, drugs

The feds want both men sentenced above the guidelines, arguing they do not “fully capture the seriousness and breadth of the defendants’ conduct.”

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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 file photos

Federal prosecutors want a judge to send two convicted Chicago police officers to prison for 10 years for cloaking robberies and burglaries with “the veneer of lawfulness” and wreaking “institutional havoc” on Cook County’s justice system.

A jury last fall convicted Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado on several corruption charges after prosecutors accused them of stealing cash and drugs after lying to secure search warrants.

Their sentencing is set for March 11. Though sentencing guidelines call for prison sentences in the range of five to seven years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau wrote in a memo filed late last week that the guideline “does not fully capture the seriousness and breadth of the defendants’ conduct.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has dismissed at least 37 criminal cases tainted by the officers’ involvement, “several of which involved potentially violent individuals,” Franzblau wrote. City Hall faces at least 10 pending federal civil rights lawsuits.

Prosecutors plan to call four witnesses during the sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly. One is a victim who spent four months in jail following a search of the victim’s home in October 2017 based on an allegedly bogus warrant. Salgado then allegedly drafted a false police report documenting a confession by the victim to possession of ecstasy and firearms. Elizondo allegedly approved the report.

Franzblau wrote that the confession never happened, and state court prosecutors later dropped the charges.

A federal agent is also expected to testify about a new informant who came forward during the trial of Elizondo and Salgado last fall. Franzblau wrote that the person gave the FBI “credible” information about lying to judges to help the officers secure search warrants.

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 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 the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse 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.

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.

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