• Wed. May 12th, 2021

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Man with alleged ‘Boogaloo’ ties charged with threatening health official

A California man who authorities said has ties to the extremist anti-government Boogaloo movement has been charged in connection with two dozen harassing or threatening letters sent to Santa Clara County’s top public health official, according to a police report and court records.

Alan Joseph Viarengo, 55, of Gilroy, has not yet entered a plea but is facing two felony charges including stalking and threatening a public official in connection with 24 letters that were sent to Dr. Sara Cody between April 9 and July 29, according to court documents.

Authorities allege Viarengo engaged in a sustained effort to intimidate Cody with letters containing misogynistic language, threats, pornography and anti-government views. In June, a letter addressed to Cody showed up with a picture of an igloo in the place of a return address and the phrase “Let’s Boogie” written above.

“I’m glad you are getting threats,” the anonymous person wrote in the letter, according to the police report. “I posted your residence everywhere I could; I hope someone follows through.”

Attorney Cody Salfen who is representing Viarengo said his client is a respected community member and ” a law-abiding citizen” who “respects the rule of law and the Constitution.”

“At this time we have allegations,” Salfen said in a statement. “Allegations are not facts. Very few facts, if any, have been provided by the District Attorney’s Office about the law enforcement activities in this case.”

Viarengo appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Monday. He’d posted bail Friday but was remanded back into the custody by the judge Monday

Federal prosecutors have described the “Boogaloo” movement as a “term used by extremists to signify a coming civil war and/or collapse of society.”

The movement, which says it wants a second civil war organized around the word “boogaloo,” includes groups on mainstream internet platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit, as well as fringe websites including 4chan, according to a report released this summer by the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent nonprofit organization of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports on misinformation and hate speech across social media.

The letter to the California health official with Boogaloo iconography was sent among a flurry of recent high-profile incidents that authorities have tied to reputed members of the group, including a terrorist plot in Nevada, efforts to foment violence at George Floyd protests in South Carolina and an alleged plot to kidnap the children of San Francisco Bay Area elected officials.

In the Nevada case, federal prosecutors charged three alleged “Boogaloo” members with multiple state and federal violations of conspiracy to cause destruction during protests in Las Vegas, as well as possession of Molotov cocktails.

The men allegedly discussed plans to “firebomb” a power substation to distract law enforcement so they could carry out a plan to incite a riot and are accused of taking Molotov cocktails to a Black Lives Matter protest, prosecutors said.

The men have pleaded not guilty.

June 16, 202001:18

Separately, Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, has been charged with killing Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and critically injuring another deputy June 6. The alleged ‘Boogaloo’ extremist is also accused of throwing pipe bombs at police. Authorities allege Carrillo scrawled phrases tied to the online far-right extremist movement in his own blood on a car shortly before he was detained.

Within days, federal prosecutors also charged Carrillo and a second person in connection to the death of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, and with critically wounding another guard in a drive-by attack May 29 at a federal building in Oakland. Both were members of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service.

Authorities said Carrillo and a second man traveled to Oakland with the intent to kill police and thought the large demonstrations spurred by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis — which they were not a part of — would help them get away with it.

Carrillo has pleaded not guilty.

According to an officer safety bulletin sent to surrounding law enforcement agencies by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office in June, Viarengo had a history of sending harassing letters to law enforcement agencies, and Santa Clara detectives inquired about the bulletin. Authorities in Santa Cruz informed them the sheriff’s office and widow of Gutzwiller were receiving mocking letters from people apparently associated with the Boogaloo movement.

One of those letters described a specific Las Vegas detective as a “piece of sh–,” according to the police report. The detective had arrested Viarengo in the early 1990s after he was accused of sending police threatening letters while he was attending a motorcycle rally in Nevada, according to the police report.

Viarengo was convicted but had his conviction overturned years later because the criminalist who reviewed the evidence in his case was later accused of unethical practices.

On July 29, according to the police report, detectives watched Viarengo drive to a mailbox and drop a letter inside. It was addressed to Dr. Sara Cody and mocked her for her handling of the pandemic, according to the police report. Viarengo was arrested almost a month later, on August 27, according to booking records.

When Viarenga was arrested at his family’s home last week, detectives found more than 100 firearms, including potential assault rifles, explosives, thousands of rounds of ammunition, tools for manufacturing ammunition, and confederate flags, according to the court records.