A former Fresno police detective on Monday pleaded guilty to a federal charge of taking a $20,000 bribe from a suspected drug dealer.
Derik Carson Kumagai, 41, faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced May 4 by U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii.
Kumagai and co-defendant Saykham Somphoune of Clovis — who also pleaded guilty Monday — admitted they solicited and accepted a $20,000 cash bribe from a suspected drug dealer with a promise that in exchange they could close a federal investigation involving the dealer.
“This guy has, from the very beginning, been honest with me,” Marshall Hodgkins, Kumagai’s attorney, said of his client in an interview. “Frankly, he didn’t waste any time (in pleading guilty). He did wrong and he’s going to end up having to pay for his sins, and then he’ll get on with his life.”
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Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, who had expressed deep disappointment at the time of Kumagai’s arrest, welcomed the guilty plea.
“I am glad to see Derik take full responsibility for his criminal actions by pleading guilty and not pursuing a trial,” he said. “Derik also took responsibility by resigning from the department shortly after his arrest. I will be praying for his wife and children as they have suffered greatly through this process.”
Court documents say in April 2012, federal law enforcement officials began investigating a group of Fresno-area individuals suspected of growing marijuana and exporting it to other parts of the state and the nation. Somphoune and the suspected drug dealer were among those being investigated.
In October and November of 2013, Kumagai and Somphoune met with the drug dealer and told him he was part of a federal investigation. The two told the dealer they could close the investigation if he paid a bribe.
On Nov. 6, 2013, Kumagai — who had joined the Fresno Police Department in mid-2000 and at the time was assigned to the vice intelligence unit — accepted the bribe, court documents say.
Kumagai, who initially sought a $40,000 bribe, also told the dealer he could arrange for him to be signed up as a confidential informant. That later happened, though it was done by Fresno police detectives other than Kumagai.
The investigation into Kumagai and Somphoune was a joint effort by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
Both Kumagai and Somphoune initially faced a four-count indictment that included not only the conspiracy to commit bribery charge that both pleaded guilty to Monday, but also conspiracy to commit extortion, bribery and attempted extortion. As part of a plea agreement federal prosecutors reached with both Kumagai and Somphoune, the other three charges will be dropped at sentencing, Hodgkins said.
Kumagai has been free during the legal proceedings. Somphoune, 41, has been in the Fresno County Jail since his arrest.