Santa Ana Cops Charged With Stealing Cookies, Vandalism at Pot Shop

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A highly anticipated investigation of Santa Ana police officers who were suspected of stealing and eating marijuana edibles during a raid of a pot dispensary last spring found that — while they did steal protein bars and cookies — the food items were not laced with marijuana, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Officers Brandon Matthew Sontag, 31, Nicole Lynn Quijas, 37, and Jorge Arroyo, 32, were each charged with misdemeanor count of petty theft, the release states. Sontag was also charged with one misdemeanor count of vandalism under $400. Arroyo and Quijas face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while Sontag faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

A video of the Santa Ana police raid on Sky High Holistic last May, first published by Voice of OC, showed officers joking around, throwing darts and munching on food items. The attorney for the dispensary, Matthew Pappas, claimed that the officers were eating marijuana-laced edibles and criticized them for destroying the shop’s surveillance equipment.

The video showed officers dismounting the equipment. They were apparently unaware that other cameras were still rolling.

At the time, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas told Voice of OC that he had “concerns” about the behavior in the video and said he would launch an internal investigation of the incident.

According to the DA’s news release, the officers had disabled a 16-camera system but didn’t realize that a hidden four-camera system was still recording their activity. It said Sontag is accused of damaging “five of the previously disabled surveillance cameras by banging and smashing the camera lenses into the corner of a display case and cash register, and banging the cameras into the corner of a shelf and safe.” The cameras are valued at between $80 and $100 each.

As for the alleged theft of edibles, the news release claims that the officers stole Detour Simple protein bars and Mrs. Thinster cookies. They shared the snacks with other officers and also left the scene with “extra cookies.”

The news release states the DA’s office “conducted a thorough investigation” by interviewing multiple witnesses and reviewing over 16 hours of surveillance footage.

While the release claims there was “no evidence” that officers consumed marijuana edibles from the dispensary, it’s also silent on whether officers were drug tested.

Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said the department would soon be releasing a statement. When asked whether the officers were drug tested, Bertagna’s initial response was he was unlikely to get into those details because it was a personnel matter and he was barred by law from disclosing anything.

“We’re not going to break the law to discuss personnel matters,” Bertagna said.

Bertagna also said the officers were on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of an administrative appeal within the police department and separate from the criminal case.

“We take the conduct of our officers seriously and trust the integrity of the ongoing criminal and administrative appeal processes,” Bertagna said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Ryan Darling

    “while they did steal protein bars and cookies — the food items were not laced with marijuana, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.” This is an outright LIE! This was a deal that was made behind closed doors. I’m sure a simple inventory checklist will prove otherwise… Hope these snakes choke on the next “cookie” they eat.

  • kburgoyne

    Methinks somebody should start asking Girl Scouts if they’d been accosted by these officers. Maybe they started out as low-level Girl Scout cookie addicts, escalating to sealing Girl Scout cookies, and things just started spiraling out of control from there. 🙂

  • Paul Lucas

    POBOR Strikes again. Are these officers still going to be officers after a conviction?

  • RyanCantor

    “While the release claims there was ‘no evidence’ that officers consumed marijuana edibles from the dispensary, it’s also silent on whether officers were drug tested.”

    In other news, Captain Obvious discovered one cannot see without opening one’s eyes first.

    • David Zenger

      Yeah, if you eat the evidence you get to say “what evidence?

  • LFOldTimer

    The Register indicated the charged cops are on paid leave. And this raid happened last spring – about a year ago? The judicial process will likely take another year with one continuance after another. Must be sweet, eh? Get charged with theft as a cop and get a couple years paid vacation. Think you’d get the same deal as a bank or big box store employee? If you had an employee and he was charged with stealing from customers during the course of his official duties would you give him full paid leave pending the outcome of his case? Well, would you?

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    Such a disappointing thing to see and hear on video.
    It really was.

  • LFOldTimer

    The brass had to charge them with something, otherwise they’d know it wouldn’t sit well with the public. But no doubt the cops will keep their jobs. There was no mention of termination in the article. Cops stealing anything during the course of their official duties should mean automatic termination. Particulary narcotic cops who conduct search warrants on places where large amounts of dope and drug money are found. Theft is theft. Any cop willing to cross that line IMO simply can’t be trusted in a job like that. A cop holds a position of public trust. These cops can’t be trusted. If they can’t be trusted they shouldn’t hold a position of public trust. Yes, it’s that simple. I’ve known employees in the private sector who were not public trust employees and fired for taking company notebooks and pens without authorization. So here we apparently have more double standards. The ones who are sworn to enforce the laws can break the laws and apparently keep their jobs unless there’s more information that’s being withheld from us. Adam. I assume you asked the basic question that a first year journalism student would ask “Will the officers remain employed at SAPD or lose their jobs?”. What was the answer?

  • Paul Lucas

    Your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen.

  • David Zenger

    Isn’t destruction of property a crime? Vandalism?

    Good thing we have POBR on the job. Wouldn’t want the public to get to the bottom of anything, would we?

    • RyanCantor

      This isn’t a personnel matter. It’s a criminal matter.

      No one asked if the officers involved correctly filled out the correct reports in a timely fashion.

      We asked if the officers broke the law.

      Doing the right thing doesn’t have to be hard. Come on Corporal. You took an oath.

      • David Zenger

        POBR creates a special shield that makes it as difficult as possible to know what cops are up to. In the end we must rely upon the probity and diligence of (cough) the department’s internal review, if any; and/or (cough, cough) the District Attorney.

        Our beloved Constitution prohibits the creation of a class of nobility in the US. POBR seems to contradict that clause.