By Lisa Pickoff-White, The Associated Press and Bay City News
Monterey County sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday morning arrested the King City police chief, four other officers and the former police chief on corruption charges, including embezzlement and bribery.
Authorities say police officers in the Salinas Valley town took part in a scheme to steal more than 200 cars from poor Latinos. Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said in a statement Tuesday that the vehicles were impounded and towed, but when the owners were unable to pay the fees their cars were sold or given for free to some officers. The FBI aided in the arrests, which resulted from a six-month investigation.
The six current and former King City police officers who were arrested include acting Police Chief Bruce Miller and former chief Nick Baldiviez. District Attorney Dean Flippo told KSBW the officers are facing corruption charges, including bribery and embezzlement.
Officer Mario Mottu Sr., Officer Jaime Andrade, Sgt. Bobby Carrillo and Sgt. Mark Baker were also arrested. King City, a town of more than 13,000 residents, has 17 sworn police officers.
Brian Albert Miller, who owns a towing company and is the brother of the current police chief, was also arrested.
King City Mayor Robert Cullen confirmed the charges. Cullen personally knows the people who were arrested, he said.
“It is a shock,” the mayor said. “It’s tough. We’re a small town. It’s tough to hear.”
Cullen said he has made sure that King City’s Police Department will be staffed with the help of Monterey County sheriff’s deputies.
“We are fully staffed and working on a plan based on our own staffing and information we receive from the sheriff’s office,” Cullen said. “I’m going to work hard to restore our Police Department to where it needs to be.”
Baldiviez went missing for several months last year, and city officials would not disclose where he was, KSBW reports. He re-emerged in September to retire. He has continued to receive paychecks from King City for overtime and accrued vacation pay.
The Monterey Herald reports that Baldiviez was booked on embezzlement charges, and his bail was set at $10,000.
Acting Chief Miller was booked on suspicion of bribery. His bail was set at $20,000.
Carrillo was in custody and suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime and bribery by a public officer, with bail set at $60,000. Mottu was arrested on a warrant alleging embezzlement by a public official. His bail was $10,000.
A jail official said his records did not show Andrade was in custody, though Chief Assistant District Attorney Terry Spitz confirmed that he was arrested and said more arrests may follow. The four officers in custody were expected to post bail today.
Below is a video from Baldiviez’s retirement announcement.