A Gilroy man who police say is tied to the far-right, anti-government Boogaloo Movement was arrested last week in connection to 24 threatening letters, some containing telltale Boogaloo slogans and imagery, sent to Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody over the past five months, according to court and police records reviewed by NBC Bay Area.
Officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office arrested Alan Viarengo, 55, last week, seizing a large cache of firearms and explosives from his family’s home, according to a bail motion filed by Santa Clara County prosecutors. 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.
He was charged with felony counts of stalking and harassing a public official and has not yet entered a plea.
Alleged Boogaloo members were charged earlier this year in the murder of Federal Security Officer Dave Underwood at Oakland’s Federal Building and the ambush-style killing of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in Ben Lomand.
Viarengo also sent harassing letters to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and Gutzwiller’s widow replete with Boogaloo slogans and imagery, according to the police report.
According to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office incident report, Viarengo’s ideology, which appears to advocate for violent uprisings against the government and encourage others to use recent George Floyd protests as a tool to incite violence, is partially fleshed out in his letters to Dr. Cody.
In one of the final letters Viarengo is accused of writing before his arrest, he appears to claim some level of responsibility for recent acts of violence against public officials and lays out his ideology in four parts:
- “Enable the violent to carry out their missions by revealing the home addresses of public officials and their families.”
- “Plant the seeds of social unrest into the minds of the violent. When the protests against George Floyd [sic] murder began, my words alone caused at least five officials to be attacked.”
- “Regularly remind everyone that (1) the Constitution is not suspended during times of crisis and (2) your silly little ‘orders’ are not enforceable by law.”
- “Subversively spread defiance to authority, particularly contempt for courts and law enforcement, to make their jobs more difficult. In turn, they react in a more fascist way, which creates a snowball effect. Look no further than the George Floyd riots, for which I take credit without ever casting a stone.”
The letter ends with Viarengo writing, “F**k all authority. Enjoy the Boogaloo!” according to the police report.
Viarengo teaches statistics at Gilroy’s Gavilan College, according to the school’s website.
The Santa Clara County Health Department declined to comment on the case when contacted Monday afternoon by NBC Bay Area.
Viarengo appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court Monday afternoon. He’d posted bail Friday but was remanded back into the custody by the judge Monday and was led away in handcuffs by deputies following the hearing.
Deputy District Attorney Alexander Adams said the decision to remand Viarengo was based on several factors.
“That was based on both the nature of his letters he sent to the victim, as well as the in excess of 100 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosives that were found in his house,” Alexander said.
When asked about Viarengo’s alleged ties to the Boogaloo movement, Alexander said, “That connection was made based on the investigation linking both the language and symbols used in the multiple letters that he sent.”
San Jose attorney Cody Salfen represented Viarengo in court Friday. Salfen said he’s not Viarengo’s attorney but was representing him as Viarengo seeks counsel.
In a lengthy statement, which can be read in its entirety here, Salfen blasted the District Attorney’s Office and said his client is a respected community member.
“[Alan] is a dedicated father, husband, community activist, respected professor, and volunteer,” Salfen said. “Each year, he devotes over 400 hours of his time, guiding and teaching youth and other members of the Bay Area communities he serves. He works two jobs to support his family…Alan is a law abiding citizen. He respects the rule of law and the Constitution.”
Salfen said Viarengo and his family were shocked and traumatized by the “sneak attack” launched against them by law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office.
“At this time we have allegations,” Salfen said. “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. But, with the little information that has been provided, at present, the only apparent attacks that have occurred are against Alan and his family.”
In the months following her March COVID-19 “Shelter in Place” order, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody was targeted with letters riddled with threats and vile language, according to the police report. Her home address was blasted across the internet and protestors began demonstrating in front of her residence. Concerned for her safety, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office assigned Dr. Cody a personal protection detail.
Cody and her security detail found the letters concerning, according to the police report, but they were not overly-worried about her safety, at least initially. Pandemic-related death threats against public health officials have been widely reported across the country for months.
But the level of concern for Cody’s safety soared in late June, according to the police report, when a letter addressed to Cody showed up at the county health department with a picture of an igloo where the return address would normally be 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.”
The igloo and phrase “Let’s Boogie” were obvious symbols of the Boogaloo movement, whose members have recently been tied to a terrorist plot in Nevada, efforts to foment violence at George Floyd protests in South Carolina, an alleged plot to kidnap the children of East Bay elected officials, and very real violence carried out against law enforcement officers, including the murders of Underwood and Sgt. Gutzwiller.
“The boogaloo term is used by extremists to reference a violent uprising or an impending civil war in the United States,” Northern California U.S. Attorney David Anderson said in a press conference when Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo was indicted for the murder of Underwood and Gutzwiller.
The group is believed to have first formed in online chat forums on sites like 4chan.
Detectives, according to the police report, believed the same man was responsible for what would ultimately become a series of 24 threatening letters sent to Cody between April 8 and July 29, which grew increasingly offensive and threatening as time went on.
The first letter called Cody degrading names, railed against law enforcement and China, and included a sketch of a hand extending a middle finger, according to the police report.
“We are stronger than you pigs in every way,” the letter said. “We are out to defeat you.”
Before the June Boogaloo letter arrived, Cody had already received a steady stream of letters containing misogynistic language, threats, pornography, and anti-government views, according to the police report.
“Maybe this is the spark we need for a bloody revolution!” the sender wrote in one letter, according to the police report.
Another said, “You’re done…it’s over…say goodbye,” according to the report.
On June 23, an officer safety bulletin sent to surrounding law enforcement agencies by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office shifted detectives’ attention to one man: Alan Viarengo of Gilroy.
According to the Santa Cruz bulletin, Viarengo had a history of sending harassing letters to law enforcement agencies, and Santa Clara detectives inquired about the bulletin, according to the report. Authorities in Santa Cruz informed them the Sheriff’s Office and the widow of Sgt. 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*t,” according to the police report. The same detective had arrested Viarengo in the early 1990’s for sending police threatening letters while he was attending an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang 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 surveilling Viarengo watched him as he drove his black Tesla Model 3 up to a mailbox and dropped a letter inside. It was addressed to Dr. Sara Cody and mocked her for her handling of the pandemic, according to the police report. He was arrested almost a month later, on August 27, according to Santa Clara County Jail booking records.
On the same day a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Captain was arraigned on bribery charges, Salfen questioned the credibility of the department.
“I can say that there are one or more law enforcement officers directly involved who have serious credibility issues,” Salfen said. “The investigation in this case was apparently spearheaded by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office – the law enforcement agency headed by the county’s top law enforcement officer, Sheriff Laurie Smith. This is the same Sheriff Laurie Smith who just recently refused to testify in a grand jury indictment into allegation of public corruption…”
NBC Bay Area found a trove of public letters sent by Viarengo over the years, mostly letters to the editor at the Gilroy Dispatch. His letters, which sometimes received backlash from readers, advocated strongly for the first and second amendments and railed against taxes and government intervention in people’s lives.
In a 2019 letter sent to Gilroy Life, Viarengo calls Julian Assange a hero, called the San Francisco Police Department’s raid of journalist Bryan Carmody an “atrocity,” and says most major news outlets are “political.”
“They pick and choose the stories that fit their agenda,” Viarengo wrote. “They drone out [sic] about ‘diversity,’ but have never had one local right-wing writer.”
He ended the letter with, “Make America Great Again (and Keep America Great in 2020)!”