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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Cop from Disney Film Faces Bribery Charges

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) - A Bakersfield police detective portrayed in the Disney film "McFarland, USA" is charged with taking bribes from a drug dealer.

The 16-count indictment against Damacio Diaz, 43, was unsealed Thursday.

As a member of the Bakersfield Police Department's Narcotics Unit, Diaz also worked with DEA agents and was assigned to the Southern Tri-County Task Force of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a multi-agency drug task force investigating both state and federal narcotics crimes, according to the 23-page indictment.

Part of Diaz's duties included using criminal informants to buy drugs from suspected dealers, which enabled officers to seek search warrants. Diaz and other narcotics officers were to mark drugs obtained in a controlled purchase and store them in the BPD evidence room, the indictment states.

From April 2012 to February 2015, Diaz allegedly conspired with drug dealer Guillermo Magallanes to distribute methamphetamine in Kern county and other areas. The indictment says Diaz used his position as a narcotics detective to tip off Magallanes about law enforcement activities and protected him from drug busts and arrest.

Diaz and Magallanes used burner phones and met in obscure places, such as the "upper level of the Valley Mall parking garage," to hide their illegal activities, according to the indictment.

Diaz is charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams of a mixed narcotic containing methamphetamines and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and accepting at least $5,000 in cash bribes from Magallanes.

"Defendant Diaz abused his position of trust and authority as a BPD officer and as a HIDTA agent in that on more than one occasion he secured narcotics in the course of his duties as a police officer, but intentionally failed to submit the seized narcotics to the BPD evidence room for secure and lawful retention," the indictment states. "Instead, he retained possession of the seized narcotics for his own unlawful gain and purpose."

Prosecutors say that on at least one occasion, Diaz took some of the meth obtained by an informant, diluted it with Epsom salts so it would still weigh one ounce, and told the informant to sell the rest and split the proceeds with Diaz.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced at a Friday press conference that Diaz has been arrested.

"Obviously this is a difficult, disappointing day in the history of the Bakersfield Police Department," Greg Williamson, Bakersfield police chief, said during the press conference.

Among other things, Diaz is also charged with embezzling task force funds; revealing the names of informants to "a convicted felon," endangering their lives; telling Magallanes that he had been wiretapped and should "lay low;" and taking bribes "to tip-off and protect a known drug dealer's illegal narcotic distribution business from law enforcement authorities."

He was placed on administrative leave in February at the start of the joint investigation.

If convicted, Diaz faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count of bribery, 20 years to life for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, five years for disclosing wiretap information and three years for each count of filing a false tax return.

Two weeks before he was placed on leave, Diaz attended the world premier of Disney's "McFarland, USA" at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, where he posed for photos on the red carpet, the Bakersfield Californian reported.

The film chronicles how the dedication and hard work of the children of farm workers in an economically challenged town catapulted the McFarland boys' cross country team to national prominence under the direction of coach Jim White, portrayed by Kevin Costner. Diaz and his brothers were among the boys who won the first state title for the team, which went on to collect nine titles from 1987 to 2001.

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