Ventura County Man Who Headed Tribal Police Agency Pleads Guilty to Pocketing $300,000 Generated from Sale of Fake Badges | USAO-CDCA

          SAN DIEGO – A Camarillo man pleaded guilty this afternoon to a federal theft offense, admitting that he stole more than $300,000 while serving as the chief of a tribal police department in southeastern San Diego County.

          Anthony Reyes Vazquez, 49, who was head of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department from 2012 to 2018, pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

          The Manzanita Tribal Police Department was not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the State of California as a police department, and it did not have the authority to enforce federal or state laws, on or off the reservation.

          According to a plea agreement filed in United States District Court in San Diego, Vazquez sold fake badges to buyers who made substantial payments to become members of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department and have privileges available to law enforcement officers, such as carrying concealed weapons.

          Vazquez admitted that he and other tribal police officers recruited wealthy individuals in the Los Angeles area to become members of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department. These wealthy individuals often had little to no law enforcement experience before joining the police department. Vazquez and his recruiters asked these wealthy individuals to make large payments – ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 – in exchange for membership in the Manzanita Tribal Police Department, which included a badge purporting to allow the holder to carry a concealed weapon. Members of the “VIP Group” were not expected to perform any law enforcement services for the police department and many never visited the reservation which is home to the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

          As a result of this recruiting effort, dozens of individuals paid the recruiters and, in return, these individuals were made members of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department. Vazquez paid cash kickbacks or commissions to the recruiters and paid himself approximately $2,000 per month as purported reimbursement for travel expenses from his home to the reservation. In addition, Vazquez kept approximately $300,000 worth of donations from the VIP Group, which Vazquez admitted should have instead been given to the Manzanita Band. Vazquez did not disclose to the Manzanita Band that he was selling membership to the Manzanita Tribal Police Department to unqualified members in exchange for large sums of money or that he was paying himself out of money collected by recruiters.

          As part of his plea, Vazquez also admitted that he suffered a felony drug conviction in 1992 and illegally possessed approximately two dozen firearms while serving as Chief of Police of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department. 

          Vazquez is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel on January 24, 2022, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

          The FBI investigated this matter with substantial assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Frances S. Lewis of the General Crimes Section and Andrew Galvin of the Southern District of California are prosecuting this case.

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Author: Editor
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