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In California Town, Police Towing Scheme Targeted Latinos

<p>Police in California town towed and many times resold cars belonging to low-income Hispanics.</p>
Dean Flippo
Monterey County District attorney Dean Flippo and Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller answer questions during a news conference on Tuesday in Salinas, Calif. Flippo said the six officers, including the recently retired police chief and the acting chief, have been arrested, in connection to a scheme to steal more than 200 cars from Hispanic residents.Vern Fisher / The Monterey County Herald via AP

Monterey County prosecutors charged six officers in King City, California of impounding the cars of low-income Latinos and then selling the vehicles for profit or keeping them when the owners could not pay the fees.

"The victims were economically disadvantaged persons of Hispanic descent who were targeted by having their vehicles impounded, towed and stored by Miller's Tow," said Monterey County District Attorney Dean D. Flippo, announcing the charges after a six-month probe.

The accused men, all taken into custody Tuesday, include former chief Dominic David Baldiviez, acting chief Bruce Edward Miller, Sgt. Bobby Carrillo and Mario Alonso Mottu, Sr.

Brian Albert Miller, of Miller’s Towing, was accused of conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing a police officer. He is the brother of the acting chief, Bruce Miller.

Prosecutors say evidence revealed that Carrillo impounded more than 200 vehicles and 87 percent of those were towed and held by Miller’s Towing. Miller, the prosecutor alleged, also gave numerous vehicles to Carrillo for free.

Two other officers, Jaimie Andrade and Mark Allen Baker were charged with other crimes. Andrade was charged with possession of an assault weapon and Baker was charged with making criminal threats.

King City is a town of about 13,000 people in the northern California's Salinas Valley. According to the latest Census figures, 87 percent of King City's population is Latino.

"There has been a significant breakdown in the internal leadership of the King City Police Department," said the prosecutor, adding that the officers had "dishonored their badge."
King City resident Hector Vazquez told the Associated Press there is frequent talk of corruption in the Mexican police, so the incident in his town is a "little awkward."
--NBC News' Jeff Black contributed to this report.