(CN) — John Abel Baca, a 21-year veteran of the Inglewood Police Department, has been arrested on federal drug trafficking charges. If convicted, he could face anywhere between five and 60 years in prison.
Baca, 45, who serves as vice president of the Inglewood Police Association labor union, was arrested Oct. 21, two days after he was indicted by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges Baca with allegedly delivering cocaine to a witness cooperating with the FBI on April 29; then selling one kilogram of cocaine to the same witness on May 4 for $22,000 in cash.
During his arraignment last week, a judge found Baca to be a “a flight risk and a danger to the community,” according to a Department of Justice press release, and held the police officer in federal custody without bail.
The case was initially sealed. It was unveiled on Friday after Baca's name showed up in a criminal complaint filed against his alleged confederate, Gerardo Ekonomo, who was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin.
According to an FBI affidavit attached to Ekonomo’s criminal complaint, Baca had requested and obtained permission to register Ekonomo as a confidential source in 2016.
“However,” wrote FBI Special Agent Robert Logan in the affidavit, “based on the IPD informant status and activity log, Ekonomo conducted no documented operations after he was signed up as an informant.”
In the affidavit, Logan calls Baca and Ekonomo "co-conspirators."
In July, Ekonomo was arrested in Las Vegas after police found three kilograms of heroin in his car. After the arrest, according to the affidavit, Baca called Las Vegas police and tried to get the charges against Ekonomo dropped, saying that Ekonomo could “work off” the case by cooperating.
“This communication shows that BACA is willing to abuse his position as a law enforcement officer in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities and to assist and protect his co-conspirators,” wrote Logan.
After he was arrested, Baca spoked to Logan and other FBI agents.
“Baca proceeded to answer some questions that were posed to him, while exercising his right not to answer other questions,” Logan wrote in the affidavit. Baca denied ever selling any drugs. Ekonomo, too, has denied charges made against him.
Baca’s trial is currently set for Dec. 14. He was previously arrested and convicted for assault and battery in 1996, before he became a police officer, for which he was sentenced to one year of probation.
The Inglewood police did not respond to calls and emails for comment.
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