Three people, including an aide to the California attorney general, have been arrested over an elaborate ruse involving a fake police force claiming ties to the "Knights of Templar," officials in California said late Tuesday.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said law-enforcement agencies across southern California started receiving letters in January from the "Masonic Fraternal Police Department" requesting meetings with local police chiefs. Calls to set up meetings with the group soon followed.
The sheriff's department said suspicions were aroused when — at one such a meeting — the "MFPD" members could not answer basic questions about their jurisdiction or mission. The members claimed to be descendants of the 3,000-year-old "Knights of Templar" and exercise widespread jurisdiction, it added.
"Detectives conducted a thorough investigation in collaboration with several law enforcement agencies and determined MFPD was not a legitimate police agency," the sheriff's department added, saying that raids on two addresses recovered weapons, badges, uniforms, and police-type vehicles.
It said David Henry, 46, Tonette Hayes, 56, and Brandon Kiel, 36, were arrested on suspicion of impersonating peace officers. Henry was also arrested on suspicion of perjury under oath, and Kiel of misuse of government identification. Kiel is an aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Detectives believe the trio were "attempting to deceive individuals in the community…for a purpose yet to be determined," the department added.
— Alexander Smith
Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.