A deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice was part of a group of suspected fake cops arrested late last month by the L.A. Sheriff's Department.
Los Angeles resident Brandon Kiel allegedly represented himself as “chief deputy director” of a law enforcement agency the group calls the Masonic Fraternal Police Department (MFPD), according to a sheriff's announcement today.
The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris, the top cop at the state DOJ, says that Kiel is a civil service employee, not an appointee, who was not interviewed by Harris for the gig. He came on the job in July, 2013, a DOJ spokeswoman said.
Kiel's office is in Los Angeles, she said. The Sacramento-based DOJ has regional offices in Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The DOJ representative said the suspect was put on leave Thursday, the day the sheriff's department says he was booked. His leave is part of an “ongoing personnel matter” alongside the criminal investigation, the spokeswoman said.
The story behind Kiel's arrest is quite bizarre, according to our reading of a sheriff's statement:
The group claimed that they were descendants of the “Knights Templar” and that their police agency had been in existence for 3000 years. Additionally, they claimed that MFPD had sovereign jurisdiction in 33 States and across the border in Mexico.
The MFPD's website says the Santa Clarita-based department has been around since 1100 B.C. and that it represents sovereign citizens:
When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then an application. This is more then a job it is an obligation.
Sheriff's deputies came across the group on or about Jan. 27 after it sent letters to “of select law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California” informing them that a man named David Henry had been elected chief of the MFPD, according to the sheriff's statement.
The notifications “immediately created suspicion and confusion within the law enforcement community,” deputies said.
After the letters were received, Kiel phoned the agencies asking to meet with their top dogs, sheriff's officials said. A meeting was arranged between MFPD reps and Capt. Roosevelt Johnson of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, deputies said. According to the sheriff's statement:
… Suspicions were aroused when they could not answer basic questions about MFPD’s jurisdiction and overall department mission.
Sheriff's detectives, with the help of other agencies, ultimately determined that “MFPD was not a legitimate police agency,” the statement reads.
On Thursday Kiel, 36, along with 46-year-old David Henry and 56-year-old Tonette Hayes, were booked on suspicion of impersonating peace officers, deputies said. Henry was also booked for suspicion of perjury under oath, they said.
Kiel is an L.A. resident and the other two are from Santa Clarita, officials said.
Kiel was released about four hours after he was booked, according to sheriff's inmate records. Initial bail was set at $17,500. No court date was listed.
As part of the investigation, search warrants were served April 29 at locations in the 28000 block of Linda Vista Street and the 17000 block of Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita.
Here's what sheriff's investigators say was found: ” … badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police type vehicles and other law enforcement equipment.”
Authorities said the motive for this alleged charade had yet to be determined. Detectives believe others might have been involved in the fake department.
Anyone with information on the case was asked to call Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Emergency Operations Bureau at 323-980-2211.