KING CITY, Calif. —
King City’s police chief, former police chief and three other police officers are among those arrested after prosecutors filed bribery and embezzlement charges against them on Tuesday, the city’s mayor said.
Mayor Robert Cullen confirmed that Acting Chief Bruce Miller, retired Chief Nick Baldiviez, Sgt. Bobby Carrillo and Officers Mario Mottu Sr. and Jesus Andrade were arrested on bribery and embezzlement charges.
Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo plans to hold a news conference on the details of the charges at 2 p.m. Tuesday at his office in Salinas.
Cullen said he just learned that the district attorney’s office had filed the charges against the King City police officers.
“This was a D.A.-led investigation and D.A.-led arrests,” Cullen said. “You can imagine. We are just scrambling for information ourselves.”
The city has a population of only 12,000 and 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,” he said.
A six-month investigation by the Monterey County District Attorney’s office into accusations posted on the Internet against high-ranking King City police officials led to the arrest of six of them Tuesday morning, some on bribery and embezzlement charges, others on firearms and threats charges.
Former police Chief Nick Baldiviez, current acting Chief Bruce Miller, Sgts. Bobby Carrillo and Mark Baker, and Officers Mario Mottu Sr. and Jaime Andrade were taken into custody between 6 and 7 a.m., said Terry Spitz, chief assistant district attorney for Monterey County. Together, they represent nearly half the Police Department, Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller said.
Of those arrested, four were involved in a scheme in King City to impound vehicles belonging to disadvantaged and Hispanic families, Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said at a 2 p.m. news conference. After 30 days, those cars were turned over to King City police officers when the owners were unable to pay the impound fees, Flippo said.
Also implicated in the scandal was Brian Albert Miller, owner of Miller’s Towing and brother to acting Chief Bruce Miller, Flippo said. He has been charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing an executive officer.
Carrillo was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, accepting a bribe and bribing an executive officer, Flippo said. The investigation turned up evidence that 87 percent of all Carrillo’s vehicle impounds were completed by Miller’s Towing, Flippo said.
“There are approximately four other towing companies that service King City and ostensibly, the impounds were to be divided up relatively equally,” he said. “We found Sgt. Carrillo, on his impounds alone, 87 percent of the impounds and the tows all went to Miller’s Towing.”
For every 10 to 15 vehicles Carrillo impounded he would receive a free vehicle, Flippo said. Ultimately, Carrillo received five vehicles —one of which he gave to Bruce Miller, then a police captain, Flippo said.
Bruce Miller, who accepted the vehicle, has been charged with accepting a bribe, Flippo said. Also implicated are Baldiviez and Mottu. In 2011, prosecutors believe Baldiviez gave Mottu a free 2001 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car belonging to either King City or the King City Police Explorers.
Both have been charged with embezzlement by a public officer. Baldiviez remains on the city’s payroll in spite of his September retirement, Flippo said.
“It’s also alleged that Officer Mottu Sr. knew that Chief Baldiviez did not have the authority to give him a free police car,” Flippo said.
He couldn’t put a value to the vehicles handed out in the scheme.
“I’m not sure we know all the cars that were taken,” the district attorney said.
‘Lack of trust and faith’
In an unrelated matter, Andrade has been charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm at his stepson’s residence, Flippo said. Baker was charged with criminal threats against a King City citizen.
Although the arrests followed an investigation into online complaints about the King City police, none of Tuesday’s arrests are related to accusations posted on the Internet that King City police officers skimmed money off the top of recovered bank robbery funds, Flippo said. He wouldn’t specify whether any of the officers arrested today were implicated in that separate accusation.
“As we began to talk to individuals over the years, we were beginning to hear this constant theme that had been there for years prior, and that was a lack of trust and faith in the King City Police Department,” Flippo said.
Particularly disturbing were allegations by disadvantaged citizens that King City police officers were seizing their property, Flippo said.
“These people said, ‘They are taking our property, they’re taking our cars, they’re taking our money and we can do nothing about that,’” he said. “After hearing all of that for quite awhile I decided to meet with the prior sheriff [Mike Kanalakis] years ago, [and] Sheriff [Scott] Miller and discuss what do we do.”
For six months, DA’s investigators delved into the blog world, investigating three years’ worth of rumors and complaints related to the King City Police Department, Flippo said. Tuesday morning, DA’s investigators, Monterey County sheriff’s deputies, Salinas police officers and FBI agents swept through King City with the six arrest warrants.
Criminal cases under scrutiny
Bruce Miller and Mottu were arrested at the Police Department, said DA’s Investigator Ryan McGuirk. With the exception of Baker, who turned himself in to the Sheriff’s Office, the remaining suspects were all arrested at their homes, he said.
All were given a phone call minutes ahead of the arrests, which took place just before 6 a.m., McGuirk said. Each was briefly booked into the Monterey County Jail before posting bail, said Assistant DA Berkley Brannon. Bail amounts ranged from $60,000 (Carrillo) down to $10,000 (Baldiviez).
By 2 p.m. only Brian Miller hadn’t posted bail, McGuirk said.
King City criminal cases in which any one of the six was the arresting officer will quickly fall under scrutiny, Flippo said. Chief Assistant DA Terry Spitz said so far three cases that couldn’t proceed without the arresting officer’s testimony have been dismissed. Other cases may also be dismissed.
Investigating other law enforcement officials isn’t an easy task, Flippo said.
“This is not a pleasant time for any of us in law enforcement; it’s certainly not a pleasant time for us in the District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “Anytime you end up investigating and charging those who are sworn to enforce the law, uphold the law and treat everyone fairly, and you have violations of those duties and that oath, that is difficult for us.”
He added, “The citizens of King City deserve better than what they have been receiving.”
Sheriff’s Office to help out
Overall, the six arrests represent nearly half of the King City police force and almost all of the agency’s upper management, said Sheriff Scott Miller. His office is extending a hand in the interim as King City officials figure out how to continue policing the 13,000-population town.
Contingency plans have been in place for months, Miller said. Long-term, however, policing King City will come down to the City Council, he said.
“We have no plans to just go into the city and take over services, but our offer to the city is we’re available from this point on to provide whatever level of law enforcement services the city requires,” he said.
The King City Police Department has come under fire in recent years. In 2010, Baldiviez was placed on administrative leave after officers claimed he arrived intoxicated at crime scenes. The next year, Baldiviez came under scrutiny for allegedly placing overweight officers on a weight-loss program, claiming they were unfit to work.
Baldiviez officially retired in September after a four-month vacation. Bruce Miller has filled the chief’s position on an interim basis since May 2013.
At the time, Bruce Miller said he would be interested in applying for the chief’s position when it became officially available.
Baldiviez is also listed as one of several defendants in a November lawsuit claiming the King City Police Department brutalized a Hispanic family, based upon their ethnicity, in an April 2012 raid.
Bruce and Brian Miller and Carrillo are scheduled for arraignment Monday, prosecutor Steve Somers said. Baker, Mottu and Baldiviez are scheduled for arraignment March 6, he said. There was no indication when Baker would be arraigned.
Anyone with any information about potential criminal activities concerning the King City Police Department is asked to call District Attorney Investigator Roy Diaz at 831-784-5648.