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September 28, 2020

Gilroy man accused of ‘Boogaloo’ affiliation

Viarengo, an employee of Nordic Naturals, arrested on suspicion of threatening county health officer

By Michael Moore, of the Morgan Hill Times

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SANTA CLARA COUNTY—Gilroy resident Alan Viarengo, who taught math at Gavilan College for nearly 20 years, was arrested last week on suspicion of stalking and threatening Santa Clara County’s public health officer, and police say he has ties to the anti-government domestic terrorist group known as “Boogaloo.”

When sheriff’s deputies served a warrant at Viarengo’s northwest Gilroy home on Aug. 27, following a lengthy investigation, they found 138 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosive materials, according to the sheriff’s office.

Viarengo, 55, was charged last week in superior court with two felony counts related to numerous threatening, harassing and offensive letters he sent to Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody since the county’s Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March. Specifically, the district attorney’s office charged Viarengo with stalking by repeated following or malicious harassing, and threatening a public employee.

The charges are related to what the sheriff’s office incident report described as Viarengo’s “relentless and repeated” letters to Cody expressing his displeasure with Cody’s pandemic strategy and what he saw as government overreach. Starting in early April, Viarengo sent a total of 24 anonymous, hand-written letters to Cody at the county’s public health office in San Jose. The letters became “increasingly aggressive, offensive and threatening,” reads the sheriff’s incident report. They also became increasingly specific about Cody’s personal information—including her home address—and were laced with profanity.

The first letter, received at Cody’s office on April 9, included a sketch of a hand with the middle finger extended. The letter included degrading names directed toward Cody, expressed anti-China sentiments, mocked law enforcement and vowed to not abide the health order, reads the sheriff’s report.

“We are stronger than you pigs in every way,” said Viarengo’s first letter to Cody, according to the sheriff’s report.

Cody began receiving threats and harassing communications from numerous parties shortly after she enacted the shelter-in-place order March 16. The threats became so frequent that the county assigned a 24-hour personal security detail to Cody.

Investigators began to notice that some of the threatening letters fit an ongoing pattern and seemed to be sent by a single person, later determined to be Viarengo.

“There is a major difference in expressing disagreement with a public official’s decisions and making criminal threats,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement Sept. 1. “We will prosecute anyone who crosses that line and tries to terrorize people who are simply doing their jobs.”

Viarengo is in custody at the county jail awaiting court proceedings. He is scheduled for a Sept. 1 plea hearing at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

Viarengo was arrested Aug. 27 at his home on the 8400 block of Hanna Street in Gilroy. He worked as a part-time math instructor at Gavilan College since 2001. He was also working at Nordic Naturals in Watsonville at the time of his arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.

He has also been a prolific writer of letters to the editor of the Gilroy Dispatch and Morgan Hill Times newspapers. His latest letter was published July 31 in the Dispatch, in which he criticized Santa Clara County’s handling of the pandemic and the prolonged closure of indoor business and public gatherings.

In the early stages of the sheriff’s investigation into the letters targeted at Cody, fingerprints and DNA samples pulled from some of the correspondence did not match anyone in the criminal database. Cody told investigators that with each letter, she did not feel an immediate threat. However, she became increasingly concerned with the amount of detail about her personal information contained in the more recent letters.

“I’m glad that you are getting threats,” says a June 22 letter from Viarengo to Cody, according to the sheriff’s incident report. “I posted your residence address everywhere I could; I hope someone follows through!”

The June 22 letter and subsequent letters from Viarengo also displayed an image of an igloo and the phrase, “Let’s Boogie”—both tell-tale signs of adherence to the “Boogaloo” or “Boogaloo Boys” movement, the sheriff’s incident report says.

The incident report describes the Boogaloo movement as a “loosely organized American far-right anti-government, anti-police, pro-gun extremist movement (whose members) often identify as libertarian. Participants say they are preparing for…American Civil War, which they call Boogaloo. The term Boogaloo can also refer to violent uprisings against the federal government or left-wing political opponents, often anticipated to follow government confiscation of firearms.”

The FBI has classified Boogaloo as a domestic terrorist organization. 

Viarengo, investigators learned, owned 11 registered shotguns and one handgun. His wife owns one registered handgun, the sheriff’s report says.

Recent high-profile incidents of alleged Boogaloo activity include the May 29 murder of federal security officer David Underwood in Oakland and the June 6 murder of Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in Ben Lomond. Active Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo is the suspect in custody for both murders, and investigators have found evidence that Carrillo is tied to the Boogaloo movement.

Detectives caught a potential ID on Cody’s alleged serial harasser on June 23, when the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office sent out an “officer safety bulletin” warning law enforcement officers about Gilroy resident Alan Viarengo.

Investigators confirmed Viarengo sent a “disturbing” letter to Gutzwiller’s widow. The letter contained language mocking Gutzwiller’s death and wished a similar fate upon more law enforcement officers, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. Detectives located Viarengo’s fingerprint on the letter to Gutzwiller’s widow.

The sheriff’s incident report adds that Viarengo’s history of harassing public officials dates back to the early 1990s, when he was convicted of sending threatening letters to police in Nevada. His conviction was later reversed.

Based on the Santa Cruz law enforcement bulletin, Santa Clara County investigators began surveillance on Viarengo. On July 29, investigators followed Viarengo as he traveled from his Gilroy home to his workplace in Watsonville in his black Tesla. During the lunch hour, Viarengo drove from his work to the Watsonville post office, where a detective watched him drop off a letter. Investigators immediately recovered the letter, which contained numerous similarities to previous letters sent to Cody. Similarities include the use of the Boogaloo imagery and phrases, handwriting style, incorrect use of ellipses and frequent “profane and misogynistic” language.

Gavilan College Superintendent Kathleen Rose said in a letter to faculty and students that a new instructor has been assigned to Viarengo’s class. She declined to share more about his employment status, citing employee confidentiality.

Rose wrote that the “serious” charges are being addressed by the justice system.

“The charges are not related to this individual’s work at Gavilan College, and the alleged actions leading to the charges are not alleged to have occurred at the college,” she wrote. “As members of the college community, however, we are shocked and saddened by what took place, and will cooperate with law enforcement fully if it is required.”

Rose requested that Gavilan’s faculty and students “withhold judgment while the legal system does its work.”

Erik Chalhoub contributed to this report.

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