LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — An aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris was among three people arrested for operating a fictitious police department, officials said Wednesday.
KNX 1070's Margaret Carrero reports Brandon Kiel worked as deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice before being taken into custody.
Kiel, along with Santa Clarita residents David Henry and Tonette Hayes, were taken into custody last week on suspicion of impersonating police officers through their roles in the Masonic Fraternal Police Department (MFPD), according to the Associated Press.
Los Angeles resident Kiel, who authorities say identified himself as "Chief Deputy Director Brandon Kiel", was arrested on suspicion of misusing his government ID, Sheriff's Capt. Roosevelt Johnson said.
Hired in July 2013 in a civil service job, Kiel "worked with members of the public basically on issues and questions regarding the work of the department," California Department of Justice spokesman David Beltran said.
Kiel's name is mentioned under the "Special Thanks" section of a 2014 report on truancy from Attorney General Kamala Harris' office.
The Justice Department said Kiel has been placed on administrative leave, but declined to provide further comment.
A Google+ account apparently linked to Henry features several images, including one photo that shows Henry, Hayes and at least one other unidentified "officer" with the following description: "#CHIEF-HENRY IS THE FIRST #AFRICAN-AMERICAN #MASONIC POLICE CHIEF SINCE 1100 B.C. THE M:.F:.P:.D:. IS THE FIRST #POLICE-DEPARTMENT IN THE WORLD CREATED BY THE POOR KNIGHTS OF CHRIST OR BETTER KNOWN TO THE WORLD AS THE #KNIGHTS-TEMPLARS."
Suspicions about the MFPD were aroused when various police chiefs in California received a letter announcing new leadership for the group.
The Jan. 20 letter obtained by The Associated Press was sent to police chiefs in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as copied to state Attorney General Kamala Harris. It was written by Kiel, identified as its chief board of director, and Hayes, the grand chief director, and includes a badge emblem with Henry's name below.
In the letter, the group claimed to be descendants of the "Knights Templar" and that their police agency had been in existence for 3,000 years, with sovereign jurisdiction in 33 U.S. states and across the border in Mexico.
The letter claimed the MFPD is registered with the state and is informing the chief it will be working with "Grandmasters, as well as fraternities and sororities throughout Sovereign Jurisdictions around the country."
The letter claims there are 5,686 lodges and that the department "will be able to acquire intel that is not accessible to non-fraternal entities." It said one aim of the department was to restore public trust.
"MFPD is described best by J. Edgar Hoover's quote, `We are a fact-gathering organization only we don't clear anybody and we don't condemn anybody," the letter said.
Capt. Johnson of the Sheriff's Santa Clarita Valley station said he met with members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department on Feb. 4.
Henry and Hayes showed up in black jumpsuits with Masonic Fraternal Police patches and stars on their collars. Hayes had a handgun on her utility belt, Johnson said.
Kiel was there too, wearing a dark navy business suit. They told Johnson they were opening a new Canyon Country police station.
Johnson said he grew wary when they couldn't answer questions about where they derived their authority, or jurisdictional issues.
"Brandon Kiel gave me a business card from the Department of Justice, showing he worked out of Kamala Harris' office," Johnson said. "That really raised red flags for me."
A search of two homes in the 28000 block of Linda Vista Street and the 17000 Block of Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita turned up badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police type vehicles and other law enforcement equipment, Sheriff's detectives said.
"If the public saw them and wanted assistance, thinking they were an actual law enforcement officer, that would pose a danger to someone because they don't have the training," said Sheriff's spokesperson Nicole Nishida.
Detectives believe the suspects were "attempting to deceive individuals in the community as to their status as law enforcement officials for a purpose yet to be determined," according to Sheriff's officials.
CBS2's Jennifer Kastner found pictures believed to be of suspects Henry and Kiel rubbing elbows with Congresswoman Maxine Waters in 2012. The following year, they are shown with LAPD officials asking for calm following the George Zimmerman verdict.
Kastner spoke to Kiel's Encino neighbors who said he was "a nice guy and quiet." They also said they've never seen him wearing any law enforcement uniforms.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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