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 chief public health officer. Police say he also has ties to the anti-government domestic terrorist group known as “Boogaloo.”
When Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies culminated a lengthy investigation on Aug. 27 by serving a warrant at Viarengo’s Gilroy home, they found 138 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosives, authorities announced today in a press release.
Viarengo, 55, faces two felony counts related to numerous threatening, harassing and offensive letters he sent to county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody since she first instituted shelter-in-place orders this past spring in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the Santa Clara County 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 her pandemic strategy and what he saw as government overreach.
Starting in early April, authorities say Viarengo sent a total of 24 anonymous, hand-written letters to Cody at her county office in San Jose.
The profanity-laced letters became “increasingly aggressive, offensive and threatening,” according to the sheriff’s incident report. They also became increasingly specific about Cody’s personal information—including her home address.
Police say the first missive, received at Cody’s office on April 9, featured a sketch of a hand with the middle finger extended. The letter reportedly included degrading names directed toward Cody, expressed anti-China sentiments, mocked law enforcement and vowed to disobey the health order, per the sheriff’s report.
“We are stronger than you pigs in every way,” Viarengo allegedly wrote in his first letter to Dr. Cody this past spring.
Authorities say Cody began receiving threats and harassing communications from numerous people after enacting the shelter-in-place order on March 16. The threats became so frequent that the county assigned a 24-hour security detail to guard 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 today in an emailed statement to this news organization. “We will prosecute anyone who crosses that line and tries to terrorize people who are simply doing their jobs.”
Viarengo remains in custody at the San Jose Main Jail and, according to the court calendar, was scheduled today for an arraignment.
Little is known about Viarengo except that he taught math part-time since 2001 at Gavilan College and worked at Nordic Naturals in Watsonville at the time of his arrest.
It appears that he would often write letters-to-the-editor that were published in the Gilroy Dispatch and Morgan Hill Times (San Jose Inside’s sister publications).
In his most recent letter, which was published in the July 31 issue of the Dispatch, Viarengo criticized Santa Clara County’s handling of the pandemic and the prolonged closure of indoor businesses and public gatherings.
In the early stages of the sheriff’s investigation into the letters targeting Cody, officials say 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 as the letter-writer began to mention more details about her personal life.
“I’m glad that you are getting threats,” Viarengo allegedly wrote Cody in a June 22 letter. “I posted your residence address everywhere I could; I hope someone follows through!”
The June 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, sheriff’s officials say.
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 group.
In a July 7 letter to Dr. Cody, Viarengo allegedly spelled out his agenda as follows:
1) Enable the violent to carry out their missions by revealing the home addresses of public officials and their families. (Yours was put on every social media site possible).
2) Plant the seeds of social unrest into the minds of the violent. When the protests against (the) George Floyd murder began, my words alone caused at least five officials to be attacked.
3) 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; and
4) 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.
Viarengo owned 11 registered shotguns and one handgun, according to investigators. 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 County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in Ben Lomond.
Active Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo is the suspect in custody for both of those murders, and investigators have found evidence that Carrillo is tied to the Boogaloo movement.
Detectives caught a potential ID on Cody’s alleged harasser on June 23, when the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office sent out an “officer safety bulletin” warning law enforcement officers about a Gilroy resident named Alan Viarengo.
Investigators say they confirmed that Viarengo sent a “disturbing” letter to Gutzwiller’s widow. The letter mocked 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 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 in that case was later reversed.
Based on the Santa Cruz County 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 correspondence, which they say contained numerous similarities to previous letters sent to Cody. Similarities that allegedly included 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 assured 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 ended her letter by asking Gavilan’s faculty and students “withhold judgment while the legal system does its work.”
Erik Chalhoub contributed to this report.