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South Lake Tahoe Police officer accused of witness tampering arrested

12:16 AM, Jan 24, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Police officer accused of witness tampering arrested

  • Johnny Poland (Photo Courtesy of LakeTahoeNews.net)
  • Johnny Poland (Photo Courtesy of LakeTahoeNews.net)
    

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA - A South Lake Tahoe police officer was arrested Wednesday morning for allegedly influencing witness testimonies and asking witnesses to tamper with evidence.

Court documents reveal Johnny Poland, 44, was caught up in a love triangle with a gang member's girlfriend. Documents show that he actively tried to help drug traffickers evade police and throw investigators off their path.

READ MORE: Court documents outline accusations

The woman at the center of it all, described only as C1, told investigators Poland coached her on how to cover up their affair even after a grand jury began investigating back in 2011. According to documents, Poland started his affair with the woman in 2007.

In anticipation of federal agents interviewing the woman, documents show Poland instructed her, "If there's anything f***ing bad on your phone, go ahead and delete it. They could very well take it."

In recorded conversations before the woman's grand jury testimony, Poland is heard advising the woman to conceal or destroy evidence compelled by the grand jury subpoena saying, "You can't take what you don't have" and "don't be f***ing giving them my badge and my dog tags." He is also heard saying to the woman, "better give that s**t to me before you go giving those to them."

The complaint also alleges Poland said, "I gotta worry about my life in your hands. A lot hinges on what you say" and "I'm not sure I'll beat this one." He also coached her to tell the grand jury that he advised her to, "just be honest and tell the truth."

Poland's alleged misconduct occurred over a period of several years including his time as a school resource officer at South Tahoe High School from 2003 to 2006. During that time, investigators said he had sexual relations with two underage female students. According to the complaint, he signed one of the girl's yearbooks with a hand written entry reading, "I love you... P.S. I don't think you suck in bed."

The complaint also accuses Poland of attempting to influence one of the girl's before her grand jury testimony.

FBI agents arrested Poland at the South Lake Tahoe Police Department when he showed up to deliver some paperwork; officers said he did not resist arrest. Poland was arrested on five counts of witness tampering.

"Clearly, the department's been affected by this particular officer with a history that dates back several years," Police Chief Brian Uhler said.

FBI spokesperson Gina Swankie said he is accused of two counts for asking a person to change or destroy evidence and three counts for asking another person change their testimony. Poland's alleged actions took place both on and off duty, Swankie said.

Uhler knows accusations of a corrupt cop working in his department will make many worry about other officers, but Uhler said Poland's arrest came as a result of the work of South Tahoe police coordinating with federal agents.

Poland's arrest came after a 3-year joint investigation with the FBI, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement SLEDNET Task Force.

"For the department it is a relief to get through this stage," Uhler said.

Poland's neighbors said they aren't terribly surprised by his arrest; they said Poland lived a double life.

The El Dorado County District Attorney is also reviewing the case for possible additional state charges.

News10/KXTV

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