Federal prosecutor: Chicago officers ‘betrayed their badges’

CHICAGO — Two Chicago police officers lied to judges to obtain search warrants and then stole cash and drugs from the properties they searched, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday during opening statements of the officers’ corruption trial.

Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges alleging they paid informants to lie to judges for search warrants. Elizondo is also accused of attempting to destroy evidence, while Salgado also faces lying to the FBI allegations.

Both men have been on paid desk duty since January 2018.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Franzblau called them “corrupt police officers who betrayed their badges” and tried to hide their crimes when the FBI caught up to them.

Franzblau contended that after becoming suspicious they were being watched, Elizondo was heard on a wiretapped telephone call telling Salgado to get rid of stolen drug money the FBI had planted.

“Just make sure whatever you have in your house isn’t there no more, you know what I mean?” Elizondo was purported to have said in a January 2018 call, according to Franzblau. An FBI raid on Salgado’s home the next day determined both Elizondo and Salgado erased call records from their phones.

Elizondo’s attorney, Michael Clancy, said there is no evidence his client stole anything through searches conducted by his team. Clancy asserted Elizondo is an effective crime fighter who gamed informants as good police officers do.

“Law enforcement is allowed to play these games to fight crime,” Clancy said. “They’re policing out there. This isn’t some money grab.”

Salgado’s attorney, Michael Petro, questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses, noting informants have admitted to lying under oath and were either paid for co-operating with federal prosecutors or given immunity.

“Money and freedom provide people with a motive to lie,” Petro said. “They slant their testimony.”

The investigation into Elizondo, 47, and Salgado, 39, began in November 2017 after a source for the FBI told agents about an informant for Elizondo’s team told him about receiving money and drugs from the officers in exchange for information. The informant allegedly began working for Elizondo’s team after he was targeted in a raid that did not result in criminal charges.

If convicted, 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.

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