California police officer arrested on federal corruption charges

RENO – A California police officer put on administrative leave more than a year ago has been arrested on federal corruption charges accusing him of tipping off narcotics traffickers to upcoming busts, tampering with witnesses and having sex with underage students at a Lake Tahoe high school.

FBI agents arrested John “Johnny” Poland on Tuesday at the police station in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on five charges stemming from an investigation that began in March 2010 after he was observed associating with suspects tied to a plot to kill a gang investigator on the police force.

The nearly three-year probe uncovered allegations of Poland’s misconduct dating to October 2003, when authorities allege he engaged in sexual activity with a 17-year-old female student at South Lake Tahoe High School where he was a school resource officer from 2003-06.

Since then, he engaged in a pattern of behavior using his position of power to groom underage girls for sex, leak confidential police information to gang members and intimidate potential witnesses, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Calif.

The charges include two counts for corruptly persuading a person to alter, destroy or conceal an object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding, and attempting to do so; and three counts for corruptly persuading another person with the intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding, and attempting to do so. Poland’s actions occurred both on and off duty, authorities allege.

The complaint portrays Poland as being in a love triangle with the girlfriend of a gang leader. Among other things, it said he encouraged the girlfriend to destroy evidence sought under a federal grand jury subpoena, FBI special agent Christopher Champion wrote in the complaint.

He is accused of making calls on his personal cellphone to methamphetamine dealers before execution of federal search warrants.

“In particular, there was one recorded call in which Poland is heard giving detailed notice (location information, target information, agency involvement and suspected violation information) of the pending execution of the warrants.”

The complaint said Poland was aware he was being investigated by the FBI. In one case, he “stated that the FBI was investigating him for being a ‘dirty cop’ ” and that the FBI thought he was “ratting, giving everyone the heads up about everything.”

“The FBI’s involved so I can’t (expletive) say anything. I don’t know what they might tap,” he told the girlfriend. “If there’s anything (expletive) bad on your phone, go ahead and delete it. They could very well take it.”

Poland was being held Thursday without bail in the Sacramento County Jail and it was not known whether he had obtained a lawyer, according to the jail’s website.

FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment on Thursday.

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