While acquiring fake vaccine passports has captured the nation’s attention, a tribal police chief was busy recruiting dozens of Los Angeles’ wealthy and selling them fake police badges so they could acquire concealed weapons permits.
Manzanita Tribal Police Department’s former police chief Anthony Reyes Vazquez, 49, pleaded guilty to selling over $300,000 worth of badges to unqualified individuals during his time with the force. He and his fellow officers recruited dozens of affluent Angelenos to join a “VIP Group.” They issued badges that gave the affluent certain law enforcement privileges without performing any police work.
In an official statement, Suzanne Turner, FBI Special Agent in Charge, explained:
“Anthony Vazquez, a convicted felon, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in ‘donations’ from dozens of people – to line his own pockets – in exchange for giving them police credentials. This brazen scheme not only deprived the Manzanita Band of funding, but also caused numerous untrained ‘officers’ to believe they were authorized to carry concealed weapons on and off the reservation and enforce laws with little to no training.”
Former Tribal Police Chief Admits to Stealing More Than $300,000 from Local Tribe by Selling Fake Badges: Anthony Reyes Vazquez, a former Tribal police chief, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $300,000 from the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. https://t.co/eN3nEnzu73
— FBI San Diego (@FBISanDiego) October 26, 2021
The police department served the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, whose reservation is about 70 miles east of San Diego, near the U.S. border with Mexico. Vazquez served as chief from 2012-2018.
Most of the badges were issued to people who had little to no background in law enforcement and had never set foot on the reservation they “swore” to protect. But the badges didn’t carry any more legal weight than the shiny gold sticker “badges” that officers often give to children.
In fact, Vazquez’s police department isn’t even recognized as a legit legal authority by either California or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
And the kicker?
Vazquez doesn’t even belong to the tribe in the first place, but it didn’t stop him from collecting “fees” ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 for the imaginary badges. He reimbursed himself $2,000 per month to cover his regular 200-mile trek back and forth from his home in Camarillo to the reservation. Cash kickbacks and commissions were paid to recruiters.
The unassuming then used the badges to obtain a concealed weapons permit that would otherwise be unobtainable.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the southern district of California Randy Grossman said:
“This defendant sold law enforcement badges and jeopardized public safety. His manipulative and self-serving ploy also significantly undermined state laws governing the issuance of credentials to carry concealed weapons.”
Vazquez admitted that the $300,000 he kept in addition to his monthly $2,000 stipend should have gone to the tribe rather than his pockets.
As part of his plea, Vazquez also admitted that a felony drug conviction in 1992 barred him from possessing firearms. This means that while he served as the tribe’s police chief, he illegally possessed at least 24 guns.
Facing up to 10 years in prison, Vazquez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 24.
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