Monday, July 26, 2021

Former California cop to plead guilty to taking bribes to escort illegal drug shipments

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A former Montebello police officer has agreed to plead guilty to accepting at least $14,000 in bribes to escort illegal drug shipments and access federal databases, enabling a gang member to remain under the radar of law enforcement.

Documents filed last week in U.S. District Court indicate former Officer Rudolph Petersen, 34, received payments from the unidentified gang member from December 2018 to August 2020.

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Under an agreement with prosecutors, Petersen will plead guilty to one count of bribery. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a reduced prison sentence. The maximum sentence the court can impose is 10 years in prison and threeyears of supervised release.

Montebello Police Chief Brad Keller said Thursday in an email he was unaware that Petersen, who worked for the department from September 2016 to August 2020, is facing federal charges or has agreed to plead guilty. He declined to comment further.

Petersen could not be reached for comment.

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In mid-2018, the gang member had dinner with Petersen, whom he knew was a Montebello police officer and had access to federal law enforcement investigative records, the plea agreement says. The gang member allegedly told Petersen he could put him on his payroll and at the end of the meal, through an intermediary, provided the officer $500 to “juice” him up .

In December 2018, the gang member, identified in the agreement as “Co-Schemer 2,” allegedly offered Petersen $10,000 to protect and escort a truck containing a shipment of drugs to make sure the vehicle arrived at its intended destination.

“Defendant would act as a decoy if law enforcement attempted to intervene or stop the vehicle, or if someone attempted to rob the shipment,” the agreement states. “Co-Schemer 2 told defendant to wear his police uniform, bring a gun, and to use an unmarked police vehicle to escort the drug shipment. At the time, defendant knew the shipment would contain illegal drugs, which defendant believed would be illegally grown marijuana.”

In March 2019, Petersen, armed with a gun and wearing a security officer uniform that resembled an official police uniform, traveled to the gang member’s home near Rowland Heights in his personal vehicle, equipped with “takedown lights” to create the appearance of an unmarked police car.

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At the gang member’s direction, Petersen met a white U-Haul truck near Fontana, escorted the vehicle to a location off the 60 Freeway and was then given $10,000 in a paper bag, the plea agreement says. Petersen also allegedly escorted at least one additional drug shipment.

Shortly after the first drug escort, the gang member allegedly told Petersen that police recently intercepted a cocaine shipment, adding that a person involved in the drug transaction was suspected of being a snitch and providing information to law enforcement.

In exchange for cash, Petersen agreed to access sensitive law enforcement databases to determine if the gang member was being investigated, the plea agreement states.

On May 11, 2019, Petersen allegedly used the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which provides access to FBI databases, and searched for information related to the alleged snitch. The results were reported to the gang member, according to the plea agreement.

Petersen also ran the names of other suspected snitches through CLETS and was paid $500 to $1,000 each time he accessed the law enforcement database on behalf of the gang member, according to the plea agreement.

Additionally, the gang member allegedly paid Petersen $1,000 on Sept. 16, 2020, to investigate whether a tracking device found on his van belonged to a state or federal law enforcement agency.

Information was not immediately available regarding when Peterson will appear in court to enter his plea to the bribery charge.

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