KING CITY, Monterey County (CBS SF) — Six King City police officers and a civilian were arrested Tuesday after an investigation into the distribution of hundreds of impounded cars and other criminal acts within the Police Department, a prosecutor said.
Two officers, Acting Police Chief Bruce Miller and Sgt. Bobby Javier Carrillo, allegedly took part in a scheme to sell cars owned by unlicensed Mexican nationals and towed to a King City impound yard, Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said.
Acting Chief Miller, Carrillo and Brian Albert Miller, owner of the tow yard Miller’s Towing and the brother of Chief Miller, were arrested and booked on bribery charges, Flippo said.
Separately, retired police Chief Nick Baldiviez and police Officer Mario Alonso Mottu Sr. were charged with embezzlement by a public officer after Baldiviez signed over the title of a city-owned car to Mottu, Flippo said.
Two additional police officers were charged with other crimes, including Officer Jaime Andrade for possessing an assault rifle and illegally storing firearms, and Officer Mark Allan Baker for making criminal threats, Flippo said.
Acting Chief Miller and Mottu were arrested Tuesday morning at King City police headquarters, Flippo said.
Flippo, at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Salinas, announced that the charges followed a six-month investigation of complaints about corruption and additional criminal acts in the King City Police Department.
The investigation focused on actions at Miller’s Towing by Carrillo and Brian Miller, who would “prey on the low income group of Hispanics who were unable to pay the towing fees, and the police would get the cars,” Flippo said.
Miller’s Towing had been one of four towing firms in the King City area that were to receive cars impounded by police, but Carrillo made sure that 87 percent of more than 200 cars he ordered towed made it to Miller’s, Flippo said.
For every 10 to 15 towed vehicles that Carrillo would steer to Miller’s Towing, owner Brian Miller would give Carrillo a free car, “some that he (Carrillo) would pass onto other officers,” Flippo said.
The free cars given to King City officers would be sold at a “pure profit” of thousands of dollars each, Flippo said. “Some kept them and drove them around, some kept them as gifts for relatives.”
Carrillo received at least five free vehicles from Miller’s Towing, which led to the district attorney charging Carrillo with conspiracy and accepting a bribe and Brian Miller with bribing an executive officer, Flippo said.
Brian Miller also sold impounded cars himself and gave Carrillo free cars so that the officer would look the other way, Flippo said.
The tow yard owner also gave at least one impounded car, a Nissan Sentra, to his brother, Acting Chief Miller, who then was charged with accepting a bribe, Flippo said.
After going over the records of hundreds of cars towed to Miller’s Towing, almost all of them involved car owners holding Mexican license identifications, Flippo said.
Without having California driver’s licenses to prove they owned the towed cars, “who are they going to turn to?” Flippo said.
The former chief Baldiviez had given the title of a “souped up” 2001 Ford Crown Victoria over to Mottu even though King City’s city manager had authorized Baldiviez to give the car to an Explorer Scouts organization for use in scout events, Flippo said.
Andrade illegally stored his personal firearms with his stepson and possessed an illegal assault rifle, while Baker made a criminal threat to cause great bodily harm to a King City resident, Flippo said.
The probe into King City police can be traced to an audit of the department, released in September 2010, meant to deal with a lack of trust by members of the public with city police, Flippo said.
“It’s been lingering for quite a while,” he said.
Most of those arrested Tuesday had been released from the Monterey County Jail by the afternoon, Flippo said.
Carrillo’s bail was $60,000, Acting Chief Miller’s $20,000, Baldiviez and Mottu were held on $10,000 each; Andrade’s bail was $30,000; Baker’s $15,000, and only Brian Miller had yet to be booked by late afternoon, Flippo said.
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