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Yuba City police officer, relative indicted on bribery, cocaine charges

Officer Harminder Phagura
Officer Harminder Phagura Photo courtesy Yuba City Police Department

The other shoe dropped Thursday for Yuba City Police Officer Harminder Singh Phagura and Gursharan Phagura, a drug sale suspect.

The Yuba City Police Department was rocked April 15 when Harminder Phagura was arrested for allegedly teaming with Gursharan Phagura and an unnamed individual in drug trafficking.

On Thursday, the Phaguras were indicted by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on charges of bribery and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

The cryptic four-count indictment says that, between March 1, 2014, and April 14 they accepted $6,000 from an individual referred to in the indictment as “Person A,” in exchange for official acts by Harminder Phagura.

It says Phagura used his authority as an officer to gather sensitive law enforcement information, which Gursharan Phagura passed on to the unnamed individual, who was posing as a cocaine trafficker. That individual is identified as “a person working with Homeland Security Investigations.”

In exchange for money, Harminder Phagura had agreed with Gursharan Phagura to provide the information, the indictment claims.

On July 29, it claims, the Phaguras met in a Yuba City police vehicle and monitored police radio scanner traffic, then communicated with “Person A” as to whether federal agents were in the area conducting a narcotics investigation. They repeated these actions Feb. 18 and March 1, according to the indictment.

Each collected $3,000 from the undercover person, it says.

The Phaguras, who are friends and Yuba City residents, are related, but authorities are unsure exactly how. They are expected to appear Friday for arraignment before a federal magistrate judge.

Harminder Phagura, 35, is free on a $100,000 unsecured bond. He remains on paid administrative leave from the Yuba City Police Department. In contrast, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman on Wednesday ordered Gursharan Phagura, 39, held without bail as a danger and a flight risk.

In an unusual step, the government has managed to keep parts of the complaint that supported the arrests under seal by court order.

The issue of bail for Gursharan Phagura dragged on in hearings over parts of four days. Defense attorney Thomas Johnson made a valiant effort to free his client, but to no avail. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hemesath argued vigorously to keep him locked up.

Newman expressed serious concern about evidence that Gursharan Phagura maintains close relationships with members of the police force in Yuba City.

Gursharan Phagura “has admitted being involved in significant amounts of drugs; he has admitted he has access to persons who deal in large quantities of drugs,” Newman said.

Johnson said Phagura is an electrical engineer who worked for 10 years at Intel, a Santa Clara-based communications company that develops and markets semiconductor products, and that he now works for Idaho-based Micron, also a semiconductor company.

The attorney said his client is able to work primarily out of his home.

“He’s a computer nerd who dabbled (in drugs), and he dabbled too much,” Johnson said.

“Sounds like we’ve moved beyond dabbling,” Newman said.

Meanwhile, another Yuba City police officer, Vishwas Sharma, was identified in court as a good friend of Gursharan Phagura. Because of that connection, the 31-year-old Sharma is on paid administrative leave.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

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