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A former Santa Clara police officer was sentenced in federal court in San Jose today to three years in prison for giving confidential law enforcement information to a Hells Angels motorcycle club member to whom he owed money. Clay Rojas, 37, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh. Rojas was convicted by a jury in Koh’s court in July of 12 charges related to providing computerized crime and motor vehicle information to William Bettencourt, 39, a member of the Santa Cruz Hells Angels chapter, between June and September 2010.
The convictions included conspiracy to deprive Santa Clara taxpayers of honest services, five counts of honest services fraud and six counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer for financial gain. The information included material from the state Department of Motor Vehicles and state and national crime databases, according to a federal grand jury indictment. Rojas, a five-year veteran of the Santa Clara Police Department, was arrested in October 2010 on suspicion of giving Bettencourt the information.
Rojas borrowed money from Bettencourt to help finance a private business he had established to sell police-related equipment, according to a sentencing brief filed by defense attorney Thomas Ferrito. In testimony at his trial, Rojas admitted providing Bettencourt computerized information in 2010 and said he owed Bettencourt about $1,400 in a no-interest loan at the time. But he testified, “I did it just as a favor to a friend,” and contended he did not intend to receive financial gain.
Prosecutors, however, in a sentencing brief cited statements made by Rojas to a police officer after his arrest, in which he said he had borrowed a total of $5,000 and provided the information in exchange for loan extensions and avoidance of paying interest. Before joining the Santa Clara Police Department, Rojas was a police officer in Salinas and San Jose and served two tours of combat duty as a Marine in Iraq.
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