Former detective depicted in ‘McFarland, USA’ is sentenced to five years in prison

Bakersfield detective pleads guilty to bribery, drug possession
Damacio Diaz, whose story was told in a Disney movie about a high school cross-country team, admitted to accepting bribes and drug offenses, federal prosecutors said.
(Daniel Casarez / McClatchy News)

A former Bakersfield Police Department detective — and member of the famed McFarland High School cross-country team depicted in the Disney film “McFarland, USA” — was sentenced this week to five years in prison. 

Damacio Diaz, 44, was sentenced Monday for bribery, possession and attempted possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and making and subscribing a false income tax return, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. 

A U.S. district judge ordered Diaz to begin serving his sentence on Dec. 5. 

Earlier this year, Diaz — one of the three Diaz brothers depicted in the 2015 Disney film about the Central Valley team that won the state championship — admitted to lying on his tax returns and accepting bribes from a criminal informant in return for information about police during a three-year period starting in 2012, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. 


Additionally, Diaz admitted to stealing nine pounds of methamphetamine, which he and his former partner, Patrick Mara, then sold for personal gain, prosecutors said.

Mara pleaded guilty to related charges in June and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 17. 

While on duty on Sept. 20, 2012, Diaz stopped a vehicle operated by two people from Yakima, Wash., and used a police dog handler and police dog to search the car. 

The search uncovered an ice chest containing approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine. A week later, Diaz booked only one pound of methamphetamine from the car into evidence. 


When Diaz filed a joint income tax return that year, he omitted additional income of at least $97,900, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Diaz had a life that afforded him many opportunities, including the opportunity to serve and protect his community as an officer of the law,” said Phillip A. Talbert, the acting U.S. attorney for California’s eastern district. “Diaz turned his back on those opportunities and broke the trust his community placed in him, violating the very laws he was sworn to enforce.”

After sentencing, Diaz spoke with reporters outside the federal courthouse in Fresno. 

“This case is finally over, and we are extremely blessed and happy to announce that we are victorious,” Diaz said. “The judge sentenced me to a time period that we believe is fair.”

Diaz was arrested in November following a 17-year career with the Bakersfield Police Department. At the time of the crimes, he was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force and the Southern Tri-County Task Force of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report. 

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