A former detective with the San Luis Obispo Police Department has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for extorting sources he cultivated while working on a narcotics task force, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California announced.
Cory Pierce, 40, of Arroyo Grande, was sentenced Monday afternoon by U.S. District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow. In addition to the prison term, Morrow sentenced Pierce to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $5,500 in restitution. He was ordered to begin serving his sentence by Jan. 27.
Pierce, who served with the San Luis Obispo Police Department since September 2006, was arrested by FBI agents in February and indicted in March by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on one count of bribery and one count of extortion.
He pleaded not guilty to bribery but pleaded guilty to extortion as part of a plea bargain.
Pierce admitted that while assigned to the SLO County Sheriff’s Office narcotics task force, he cultivated as sources a man who had been arrested for heroin possession, as well as the man’s girlfriend. Pierce obtained painkillers from the pair in exchange for providing them with placebo oxycodone pills that they could sell.
The sources cooperated with the FBI’s investigation by recording conversations with Pierce that led to his arrest.
As part of the plea agreement, Pierce also admitted to using his position as a police officer to obtain $11,000 from someone who he thought was a drug dealer, in exchange for placebo pills.
Pierce's illegal activities were ongoing for as long as two years, and an investigation by the FBI yielded no information that other officers were involved in the scheme.
Pierce was on paid administrative leave from his arrest in February 2013 until the date of his plea agreement in mid-July, as required by state due-process laws.
During that time, he was paid $3,867 biweekly — for a total of approximately $44,000 — which he gets to keep.
“In this case, his paid leave was terminated at the earliest opportunity ensuring compliance with state law, particularly considering this case involved both a criminal (FBI) and administrative (SLOPD) investigation,” San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell said.