A former Montebello police officer has pleaded guilty to bribery after admitting he accepted at least $14,000 from a gang member.
Rudolph Petersen, 34, was on the Montebello force when he agreed to escort a U-Haul truck containing illegal marijuana to protect it from law enforcement.
In return, he received $10,000 in a paper bag.
According to a plea agreement, Petersen also used a law enforcement database to search for information on “snitches,” collecting a payment for each search from the gang member.
Petersen pleaded guilty to the bribery charge in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Under the plea agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed to ask for less than the 10-year maximum prison sentence.
Petersen, who left the Police Department in August 2020, was apprehended as part of a wide probe by Homeland Security Investigations.
In mid-2018, with less than two years on the force, Petersen had dinner with the gang member, according to the plea agreement.
The gang member, who was identified in court documents as “Co-Schemer 2,” told federal investigators he put Petersen “on his payroll,” beginning with $500 sent through an intermediary to “juice” him up.
During a second meeting in December 2018, Petersen agreed to the $10,000 bribe to escort the drug transport vehicle.
“Defendant would act as a decoy if law enforcement attempted to intervene or stop the vehicle,” the plea agreement said.
Carrying a gun and wearing a security guard outfit that closely resembled an official police uniform, Petersen drove to the gang member’s home in Rowland Heights in March 2019.
In a vehicle that resembled an unmarked police car, Petersen escorted a white U-Haul truck containing illegally grown marijuana from Fontana back to the vicinity of the gang member’s home, according to the plea agreement.
When Petersen arrived at the destination, the gang member gave him the paper bag filled with cash.
In the plea agreement, Petersen admitted to escorting at least one other drug shipment for the gang member.
After the second drug run, the gang member told Petersen that a cocaine shipment had been intercepted, possibly because a “snitch” had tipped off law enforcement, according to a filing by Asst. U.S. Atty. Ian V. Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section, who prosecuted the case.
In May 2019, Petersen searched the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications system, which gives the user access to FBI databases, for information about the person the gang member believed was the snitch.
He also searched for other suspected snitches, netting $500 to $1,000 each time.
In September 2020, he accepted $1,000 to find out whether tracking devices on gang members’ cars were part of a law enforcement investigation.
Petersen is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11 by U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr.