King City is located in Monterey County California. Monterey is 61 miles west of the small city. On Tuesday, six King City police officers, including the former and acting chiefs of police, were arrested on felony charges, conspiracy, embezzlement and bribery.
The scheme, which involved impounding the cars of mostly unlicensed drivers, then selling them when the cars’ owners were unable to pay towing and storage fees.
Prosecutor Steve Somers, who is handling the case, said he considered charging the officers with hate crime because they targeted disadvantaged Latino residents. He concluded their actions targeted the victims because they were vulnerable, not out of racial animus.
District Attorney Dean Flippo said the investigation of the car scheme dated back six months, but his office’s focus on allegations of wrongdoing in the department dated back four years, when the community started voicing its lack of trust in the department.
After a six-month investigation by the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s deputies, Salinas police and FBI agents fanned out in five teams to make simultaneous arrests.
Ana Vargas, co-chairwoman of the South County Outreach Efforts and a King City resident, said community members have complained for months in front of the City Council about Miller’s Towing and the outrageous rules they had to follow to recover their cars. She said Miller’s required owners of impounded cars to keep them there for 30 days, with charges accruing. By the time drivers could pick up their cars, they owed $2,000 to $3,000. The cars were not even worth that much,” Vargas said. Unable to pay, drivers would just abandon their autos.
Many residents attending the Mayors press conference, expressed shock at the allegations, others outrage. Barbara Martinez, 35, who has lived in the city for 10 years, complained that the city officials did not have an interpreter present to help explain criminal allegations that involved Spanish-speaking residents. “I’ve always felt the Hispanic community didn’t have a voice,” she said. Hispanics make up nearly 38% of the city’s population.
Those arrested were: Sgt. Bobby Javier Carillo, of Soledad, who impounded hundreds of cars, allegedly earning a free car for every 10 to 15 he towed. He is charged with conspiracy, accepting a bribe and bribing an executive officer. Acting Chief Bruce Miller, who allegedly received one of the cars from Carillo, knowing its source, is charged with accepting a bribe. Brian Miller, the chief’s brother and owner of Miller’s Towing, charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing an executive officer. · Former chief Dominic “Nick” Baldiviez, of Bradley, who is charged with giving a city-owned car to officer Mario Alonso Mottu Sr. Both are charged with embezzlement by a public official.
Flippo said two other officers were charged with felonies discovered during the ongoing investigation that were unrelated to the bribery and embezzlement case. Officer Jaime Andrade, of Soledad was charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm. Officer Mark Allen Baker, of Paso Robles, was charged with threatening violence on a local resident.
Each was booked into Monterey County Jail, where they posted bail ranging from $10,000 to $60,000. Sheriff Scott Miller said the officers were processed at the jail but never housed with the general population.
The officers are on paid administrative leave.
They will be arraigned Monday and March 6 in Monterey County Superior Court. Each of the felony public corruption charges carries a maximum four-year prison sentence.