Three arrested for operating false police department*
By The Associated Press
| May 07, 2015 |
LOS ANGELES — Three people, including an aide to the California attorney general, were arrested on suspicion of operating a fictitious police department that claimed jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico and says it has existed for 3,000 years, authorities said.
Brandon Kiel, David Henry and Tonette Hayes were taken into custody last week on suspicion of impersonating officers as members of the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Kiel, 31, has worked as deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice. He is on administrative leave, and the department can’t comment on an ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation, agency spokesman David Beltran said.
Kiel, Henry, 46, and Hayes, 58, were arrested April 30 and released later that day, according to jail records. Telephone calls and text messages were not immediately returned.
In addition to the accusation of impersonating an officer, investigators allege Henry committed perjury under oath. Kiel also is accused of misusing his government identification.
Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the department, said detectives believe other people may be involved in the operation and deputies found ID cards, uniforms, and vehicles that appeared to look like law enforcement vehicles along with other official police equipment during their search of a home and office linked to the group.
The investigation into the Masonic Fraternal Police Department was launched after various police chiefs in Southern California received a letter in late January that announced new leadership for the group, sheriff’s officials said.
The Jan. 20 letter obtained by The Associated Press was sent to police chiefs in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as copied to state Attorney General Kamala Harris. It was written by Kiel, identified as its chief board of director, and Hayes, the grand chief director, and includes a badge emblem with Henry’s name below.
In the letter, the group claims it is registered with the state and is informing the chief it will be working with “Grandmasters, as well as fraternities and sororities throughout Sovereign Jurisdictions around the country.”
The letter claims there are 5,686 lodges and that the department “will be able to acquire intel that is not accessible to non-fraternal entities.” It said one aim of the department was to restore public trust.
“MFPD is described best by J. Edgar Hoover’s quote, ‘We are a fact-gathering organization only we don’t clear anybody and we don’t condemn anybody,” the letter said.
A man claiming to be Kiel and describing himself as chief deputy director of the police force later followed up with various law enforcement agencies to schedule sit-down meetings, officials said.
Capt. Roosevelt Johnson of the sheriff’s department’s Santa Clarita Valley station said he met with members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department on Feb. 4.
Henry and Hayes showed up in black jumpsuits with Masonic Fraternal Police patches and stars on their collars. Hayes had a handgun on her utility belt, Johnson said.
Kiel was there too, wearing a dark navy business suit. They told Johnson they were opening a new Canyon Country police station.
Johnson said he grew wary when they couldn’t answer questions about where they derived their authority, or jurisdictional issues.
“Brandon Kiel gave me a business card from the Department of Justice, showing he worked out of Kamala Harris’ office,” Johnson said. “That really raised red flags for me.”
Kiel, who was hired in July 2013 in a civil service job, “worked with members of the public basically on issues and questions regarding the work of the department,” Beltran said.
A website for the police force says the group was created by the Knights Templar in 1100 B.C.
An internal law enforcement bulletin obtained by the AP said “the letters, the mention of sovereignty, and the station visit have caused concern among law enforcement agencies as to the legitimacy of this policing organization.”
The letter issued Feb. 10 by the sheriff’s intelligence unit said the unit was verifying its status and claims of sovereignty but said no crime was established.