Top ranking King City, Calif., police officers arrested in connection to alleged car theft scheme
Residents of King City, Calif., are calling for the removal its City Manager, Michael Powers, in the wake of a scandal that put more than a third of the city’s police force behind bars.
After a six-month investigation lead by the Monterey County district attorney’s office, King City’s acting police chief, a former chief, officers and a towing company owner were arrested on multiple charges stemming from a scheme to allegedly steal impounded vehicles belonging to mostly impoverished Latino immigrants, The Los Angeles Times reports.
According to USA Today, the misconduct goes back as far as 2011. The arrested officials include:
- Former police chief Nick Baldiviez, charged with embezzlement by a public officer
- Current acting Chief Bruce Miller, charged with accepting a bribe
- Sgt. Bobby Carrillo, charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, accepting a bribe and bribing an executive officer
- Sgt. Mark Baker, charged with criminal threats against a resident
- Officer Mario Mottu, charged with embezzlement by a public officer
- Officer James Andrade, charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm at his stepson’s residence (unrelated to the car scheme)
Brian Albert Miller, owner of a towing company and brother of the acting police chief, was also arrested. He was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing an executive officer.
Sgt. Carrillo was accused of receiving a free vehicle for every 10 to 15 vehicles he impounded at Miller’s lot, according to The Los Angeles Times. USA Today reports Carrillo allegedly received five vehicles, which he kept or sold. He allegedly gave one vehicle to Miller, who was then a King City police captain, in an influence-buying arrangement.
Last week, King City Manager Michael Powers, who has authority over the police department, named Dennis Hegwood, the former Atascadero, Calif., police chief, as King City’s interim chief during the investigation. In an interview with American City & County, Powers says Hegwood comes highly recommended by the officers he commanded, and added Hegwood’s attention to detail and procedural acumen were among the reasons he was selected. “He runs a tight ship,” Powers says.
But some residents are not happy with the decision, and are calling for Power’s resignation. Luis Tostado, a lifelong King City resident and husband of City Councilwoman Belinda Hendrickson, told American City & County he has started a petition for Powers to step down. So far, the petition has 250 signatures, and Tostado says he hopes to have 1,000 by the city council meeting later this month.
“Since Michael Powers is the City Manager, and he has the oversight authority of the police, what was he doing all this time [residents] were complaining to him over the years that the police were crooked?” Tostado asks.
Powers told American City & County his office did receive complaints from citizens whose vehicles were impounded, but was never taken up on offers to help get the vehicles back. He says he was unaware of any criminal wrongdoing.
Powers says he does not intend to resign his position, but instead plans to work with investigators to ensure King City’s police force is once again trustworthy. “We are working to regain the citizen’s trust,” he says.
Councilwoman Hendrickson says she agrees that regaining the trust of the citizens is now the highest priority. While no definite plans to this end have yet been made, Hendrickson told American City & County she and other members of the council are formulating ideas. “We need to move forward as a group – we have to work to bring the trust back,” she says.