Four California police officers were arrested for taking part in a scheme to impound and sell or give away cars belonging to poor immigrants.
“The police are taking our property. They are taking our cars. They take our money. And we can do nothing about that,” said Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo of what King City residents had told him.
The King City officers, including the recently retired police chief and the acting chief, were arrested along with two other officers on unrelated charges—a third of the city’s police force.
The small agricultural town in Central California is home to many Hispanic immigrants. The police force plotted to impound and tow the cars of poor residents, then sell them or give them for free to other officers when the owners couldn’t pay to get them back.
After months of probing, the investigation revealed that the officers had used the same towing company in most cases to target poor Hispanic residents with few English skills. The officers collected more than 200 vehicles, according to a combined investigation by the Monterey County sheriff’s office, the FBI, the Salinas Police Department and the district attorney’s bureau of investigation.
City residents have been reporting police corruption for almost four years.
Sgt. Bobby Javier Carrillo, Acting Chief Bruce Edward Miller, former Chief Dominic David Baldiviez and Mario Alonso Mottu Sr. have been charged with bribery, accepting a bribe, or embezzlement. Carrillo was indicated as the ringleader, keeping one in every 10 to 15 cars that he impounded.
"There has been a significant breakdown in the internal leadership of the King City Police Department," said Flippo. "It also appears to me that some officers have dishonored their badge."
Miller told KSBW as he left the prison after posting bail that the arrest had taken him completely by surprise.
"My reputation is soiled," he said. "There's no coming back from this, even if I'm found innocent. People are always going to look poorly upon me.”