The predawn arrests of current and former police officials Tuesday in the Salinas Valley town of King City accounted for nearly one-third of the small town's entire force.
The acting chief, a former chief and other police employees were arrested along with the owner of a towing company -- some on charges connected to an alleged scheme to steal impounded cars that often belonged to Latino immigrants.
In that scheme, a police sergeant was allowed to take one impounded vehicle for every 10 to 15 he steered to a towing company owned by the brother of the acting police chief, according to the criminal complaint.
The arrests took place Tuesday morning at 5:59 a.m. and included: Acting Police Chief Bruce Miller; his brother Brian Miller, owner of Miller Tow; police Sgt. Bobby Javier Carillo; former Chief Dominic "Nick" Baldiviez, who retired in September; and Officer Mario Alonso Mottu Sr.
According to the complaint, Carrillo sent 87% of 200 vehicles impounded from March 2010 to November 2013 to Miller Tow, even though the city had towing arrangements with four companies, and received cars in return. The complaint says Bruce Miller received a vehicle as a bribe from Carrillo in an influence-buying arrangement.
Baldiviez and Mottu were charged with embezzlement by a public officer for an incident in which Baldiviez transferred ownership of a marked patrol car — complete with Department of Motor Vehicles documents — to Mottu, said Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Terry Spitz.
The arrests account for nearly a third of the 17 sworn officers who were part of the force before Tuesday.
Mayor Robert Cullen said the Monterey County Sheriff's Department, which has a small office in King City, is going to help provide assistance and patrol officers.
King City is an agricultural town with a population of about 13,000.
Also arrested were Officer Jaime Andrade, charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm and Sgt. Mark Allen Baker, who allegedly made criminal threats.
Criminal complaints accuse Andrade of possessing a semiautomatic Colt AR-15 and storing it in a manner in which "a child was likely to gain access to it."