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Ringleader testifies in trial of ex-officers

The pair are accused of taking part in a series of home robberies.

January 10, 2008|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

It was a newfound faith in God and a need to confess that drove former Los Angeles Police Officer Ruben Palomares to testify Wednesday against two former officers accused of helping him commit a series of home-invasion robberies, he said.

But attorneys for the two defendants disagreed, saying Palomares was only angling to shave time off two potential life sentences and to avoid a possible murder charge.

Palomares has a history of deception, said attorney David R. Reed, who repeatedly called Palomares a liar during his cross-examination.

Palomares testified in the federal trial of fired LAPD Officer William Ferguson and his brother, suspended Long Beach Officer Joseph Ferguson.

The admitted ringleader of a gang of robbers who stole about $1 million in drugs and cash in about 40 separate home robberies over two years, Palomares was arrested in 2001 for trying to buy 10 kilos of cocaine from undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents in San Diego.

Prosecutors say William Ferguson, Palomares and other uniformed officers entered homes to steal drugs, pretending to conduct drug raids as cover.

Joseph Ferguson is accused of driving the pair to the Los Angeles Police Department Academy to steal police cars to be used as props and then acting as surveillance as the homes were being robbed. He is also accused of setting up a former accomplice to be arrested by making a fake 911 call.

The brothers are fighting their charges. Palomares and 14 others have pleaded guilty. Palomares, who awaits sentencing in prison, testified in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

On Wednesday, Reed tried to make Palomares admit that he is only cooperating in hopes of dodging a probable charge in the Huntington Park stabbing death of Erick Mendoza, 23, in 2000. The case has stalled until the federal robbery case concludes.

Palomares said he wants mercy, but was motivated to testify in order to tell "the truth of what I did and what we all did."

But he did admit to years of lying during his LAPD and criminal career, even after his arrest.

"I was an evil, greedy person who was out to get money but who didn't know when to stop," he said, glancing at the jury.

While in a San Diego jail, he handed notes to fellow prisoner Gabriel Loiza instructing him to fabricate stories to give to investigators, Palomares testified.

"If you were going to say you didn't know, let me know, so I can say that too," he wrote in one.

After Reed read the letter out loud, Palomares confirmed he had written it but said he was now telling the truth.

Testimony is scheduled to continue today.

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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