A former San Bernardino vice cop was convicted Wednesday of forcing prostitutes to have sex with him while he was in uniform, federal prosecutors announced.
Jose Jesus Perez of Menifee was convicted of two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law and a civil rights offense connected to sex with several prostitutes in 2011. He could be sentenced to life in prison when he returns to court Aug. 18, authorities said.
Prosecutors say Perez, 46, knew the prostitutes who worked in San Bernardino area and gave tips to fellow officers on how to conduct vice investigations.
But prosecutors said Perez's interest in the subject was more than professional.
"The charges in this case describe disgraceful abuses of police authority that simply cannot be tolerated in our society," U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said in a statement after Perez was charged.
Two prostitutes, whose identities were not released, told investigators that they "engaged in the sex acts demanded by Perez only because they feared for their well-being because he was a police officer," according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office last year.
Perez, who was once a Los Angeles police officer, was fired from San Bernardino Police Department in December 2012 after an internal investigation into the allegations.
In an affidavit filed in court, FBI Agent Heng K. Liv alleged Perez encountered one prostitute while on patrol and asked whether she had any outstanding warrants and "other biographical information," including her phone number. Over the next several days, he sent a series of sexually explicit text messages to her, Liv wrote.
Liv alleged that on April 25, 2011, shortly after 1 a.m, Perez, while in uniform and in his patrol car, pulled up alongside the woman as she walked down the street near a convenience store. He told her to go behind the store, where he allegedly touched her breasts while searching the woman's shirt, "in a way that caused [her] to believe that he was looking for a recording device," according to Liv's affidavit.
Perez then demanded that the woman perform oral sex on him, prosecutors allege. When she told him, "maybe next time," he grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her toward him, according to the agent's affidavit.
"No. We are going to do it now," Perez allegedly said.
Police Department GPS records showed that Perez's patrol car was in the location where and when the woman alleged the attack occurred, according to court documents.
Perez assaulted the second woman in 2011 on three occasions in August and September, prosecutors allege. The woman told investigators that she "feared that if she refused Perez's sexual advances he could and would make her life difficult," according to Liv's affidavit. The agent added that the woman told detectives that "prostitutes have a common understanding that they cannot tell a police officer 'no' if he requests sex."
The woman, who worked as a prostitute in San Bernardino "for many years," told investigators that Perez lured her to a vacant field, where he sexually assaulted her, Liv alleged. GPS data, again, confirmed that Perez's patrol car was in area where the woman alleged that assault occurred, the agent wrote.
Days later, Perez had intercourse with her at two motels, Liv wrote in the affidavit. During the second alleged encounter, Perez showed up to the room wearing street clothes but also possessing his gun, the agent stated.
In an interview with San Bernardino police detectives, Perez admitted to having sex with the second woman but maintained that the sex was consensual, according to Liv's affidavit. He denied having sexual contact with any other prostitutes.
Both Perez and the two alleged victims told investigators he had never paid for the sex acts, nor had he offered to pay for them.