Apple exec indicted in gun permit bribery scandal
Thomas Moyer, Apple's chief security officer, allegedly arranged to send 200 iPads to the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office in exchange for concealed-gun permits
By Robert Salonga
The Cupertino Courier, Calif.
SAN JOSE — The top security chief for Apple headlines a batch of new criminal indictments for allegedly brokering bribes with Santa Clara County sheriff's office commanders including the newly indicted undersheriff in exchange for coveted concealed-gun permits, in a striking offshoot of an ongoing corruption probe ensnaring the agency.
Thomas Moyer, 50, Apple's chief security officer, was indicted last week by a criminal grand jury on allegations that he, Undersheriff Rick Sung and Capt. James Jensen arranged for 200 iPads to be donated to the sheriff's office to loosen up the release of concealed-carry weapons permits for Apple security officers. The sheriff's office is the police force for Cupertino, where Apple's global headquarters are located.
The iPad donation was shelved once a separate DA investigation into pay-to-play suspicions involving the concealed-gun permits — in which Jensen was one of four people indicted earlier this year — got underway in August 2019, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said at a Monday news conference.
Rosen added that Sung is the county's highest-ranking law-enforcement officer ever prosecuted by his office.
"Call this quid pro quo, call it pay to play, call it give to get," Rosen said. "It is illegal, and deeply erodes public confidence in the criminal-justice system. When high-ranking members of a law-enforcement agency are at the heart of a bribery scheme, it tarnishes the badge, the honor, and the reputations, and tragically the effectiveness of all law-enforcement agencies."
Jensen was indicted a second time, in connection with the Moyer case, and insurance broker Harpreet Chadha was separately indicted with Sung on allegations that Sung convinced Chadha to make a gift of $6,000 worth of luxury-box seats for the Feb. 14, 2019, San Jose Sharks game. The luxury box was used for a celebration of Sheriff Laurie Smith's 2018 re-election, which secured her a sixth term in office.
Chadha counts himself as a member of the Sheriff's Advisory Board, a nonprofit supporting the sheriff's office with equipment and other donations that came up in the previous corruption investigation.
In a statement, Moyer attorney Ed Swanson said his client was "collateral damage" in a running rivalry between Rosen and Smith's offices.
" Tom Moyer is innocent of the charges filed against him. He did nothing wrong and has acted with the highest integrity throughout his career," the statement reads. "We look forward to making Tom's innocence clear in court and bringing an end to this wrong-headed prosecution."
The indictments were issued by a grand jury Thursday, after first convening in early November. Sheriff Smith, who has the sole statutory authority in her office to issue the concealed-carry weapons permits, has not been charged, and along with Sung invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination to an earlier criminal grand jury in August.
Sung, Smith, Moyer, Jensen and Chadha were not called to testify to the latest jury. Chadha was mentioned during the July and August grand-jury proceedings.
Sung, widely known as a fierce Smith supporter who saw a meteoric rise to become the sheriff's office second-in-command, is the fifth person and second commander in the agency to be indicted in what has become the biggest political scandal in recent Santa Clara County history.
The notion that Sung would be prosecuted was bolstered by grand-jury testimony in August by a DA investigator who said indicted defendent and Jensen, described as a linchpin in the alleged conspiracy, told him Sung helped direct political contributions to an independent expenditure committee supporting Smith.
In November 2019, after the DA investigation had become public, Sung and his office at sheriff's headquarters was targeted by a search warrant.
According to the new criminal complaint, former longtime South Bay Rep. Mike Honda was among those called to testify before the grand jury. The DA's office declined to comment on that, deferring to grand-jury transcripts that won't be publicly available for several weeks. But previous testimony showed VIP-type permit recipients were shown to have gotten fast tracked and preferential application treatment, like the case of county Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who according to investigators was illegally exempted from proficiency exams requiring them to prove they could safely operate their handguns.
The original August conspiracy and bribery indictment alleges that Jensen, attorney and political fundraiser Christopher Schumb, attorney Harpaul Nahal and local gun-maker Michael Nichols arranged to get up to a dozen concealed-carry weapons permits to agents with the executive security firm AS Solution, in exchange for $90,000 in donations to groups that supported Smith in a contentious 2018 re-election campaign against a former undersheriff, John Hirokawa.
Jensen, Schumb, Nahal and Nichols pleaded not guilty and invoked their speedy trial rights. But the case was halted while the Sixth District Court of Appeal considers a defense petition seeking to oust DA Jeff Rosen and his office from the case because of his past friendship with and fundraising support from Schumb.
Co-conspirators and AS Solution managers Martin Nielsen, Jack Stromgren, and former CEO Christian West have all pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy charges, agreeing to testify for the prosecution for reduced misdemeanor charges and sentences. Nielsen admitted to working with West to donate $45,000 to an independent expenditure committee co-managed by Schumb, and another $45,000 was earmarked for the Sheriff's Advisory Board — of which Chadha was a member — before Nielsen was intercepted by DA investigators in the summer of 2019.
Sung and Jensen's loyalty to Smith was well known and often public, as they operated as de facto campaign staff when she was up for re-election. They both rapidly climbed to the upper ranks of the sheriff's office, with Sung being named undersheriff — typically a post given to commanders in retirement range — after 16 years. Jensen rose from sergeant to lieutenant to captain in just over two years. Besides the sway of being in Smith's inner circle, those promotions entail millions of dollars in potential pension benefits.
Assistant Sheriff Ken Binder has been promoted to acting undersheriff while Sung is off the job, according to an agency-wide memo sent by Smith on Friday and obtained by this news organization.
(c)2020 The Cupertino Courier (San Jose, Calif.)