California Cops Arrested In Auto-Theft Scheme That Targeted Poor Hispanics and Immigrants

King City, Calif. is grappling with a profound violation of trust, after four police officers were arrested in a scheme in which cars belonging to poor Hispanics were impounded, towed, and later sold when the owners couldn’t pay the fees. 

According to The Huffington Post, Sgt. Bobby Javier Carillo, 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. Brian Albert Miller, the operator of the towing company and brother of the acting chief, was also arrested.

Two other officers were arrested on unrelated charges, making it a total of six police officers taken off duty. They account for more than one third of the 17-member force in the small farming town of about 13,000 people.

Early Tuesday morning, teams from the  Monterey County sheriff’s office, the FBI, the Salinas Police Department, and the district attorney’s bureau of investigation arrested the officers after a six-month-long investigation. It began as a response to complaints by residents of corruption and criminal acts within the departments.

The probe revealed that more than 200 vehicles had been impounded and that 87 percent had been taken in by the same towing company. In some cases, police officers kept the cars for their own use. 

KSBW-TV reported that all seven men who were arrested were bailed out within hours. The officers, except Mottu, have been placed on paid administrative leave.

King City residents Hector and Laura Vasquez spoke to the TV station in Spanish about the incident. “They’re supposed to be keeping us safe,” Laura Vasquez said. “But they’re the one who are breaking the law.”

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Cristina Arreola, Associate Editor

Cristina Mari Arreola is the Associate Editor. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to New York City. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or frantically reading a novel from her (extremely lengthy) reading list. See what she's reading now on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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