NEWARK, N.J. – A City of Paterson police officer today admitted conspiring with other officers to violate individuals’ civil rights and to personally accepting a firearm in exchange for reducing the charges on an arrestee, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Police Officer Jonathan Bustios, 28, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to violate individuals’ civil rights and one count of extortion under color of official right.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Bustios and Eudy Ramos were police officers with the Paterson Police Department. From at least 2016 to April 2018, Bustios, Ramos and others participated in a conspiracy in which they targeted and stopped certain individuals who were driving motor vehicles that they believed carried sums of money. Bustios, Ramos and others stopped the vehicles, searched the vehicles, driver, and passengers, and seized cash from the driver and passengers of the vehicles, without legal basis. They then split the cash among themselves and submitted false reports to the Paterson Police Department omitting the illegal vehicle stops and their thefts or lying about them.

In one incident, on Feb. 20, 2018, while on duty and in uniform, Bustios pulled over and stopped behind a BMW, while Ramos stopped in front of the BMW. Bustios and Ramos exited their police cars and searched the front and back of the BMW and the trunk, and Bustios and Ramos detained and searched the two occupants of the BMW. They put each of the occupants into the backseat of Ramos’s police car. Bustios then stole a bag containing approximately $1,800 from the car and left the scene, and Ramos released the two detained occupants of the BMW. Ramos drove to meet Bustios, who passed a portion of the recovered cash to Ramos through the window of Bustios’ police car. Bustios and Ramos did not report to the Paterson Police Department the fact that they had stopped and searched the BMW, detained and searched its occupants, and taken cash, all without any warrants or legal justification.

Bustios also pleaded guilty to extortion under color of official right, arising out of an incident on March 14, 2018. Bustios arrested and detained an individual and placed the individual in the backseat of his police car. Bustios told the individual that he would not charge him with resisting arrest and would allow him to keep the cash that the he had on him, in exchange for which the individual would find Bustios a firearm. Bustios said, “I ain’t gonna charge you with resisting, and I’m letting you keep your money, bro.” Bustios then told the individual, “If you don’t wanna make the deal, you don’t have to make the deal.” The individual ultimately agreed to the deal and directed Bustios to the location of a firearm. Bustios recovered the firearm and kept it without turning it in to the Paterson Police Department. As promised, he did not charge the individual with resisting arrest. Bustios also submitted an arrest report in which he failed to mention any details about having a recovered a firearm.

The conspiracy to violate civil rights count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The extortion under color of official right count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for both charges is $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9, 2019.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale and Police Chief Troy Oswald, and the Paterson Police Department Office of Internal Affairs, for their assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.