Former Tribal Police Chief Admits to Stealing More than $300,000 from Local Tribe by Selling Fake Badges
Assistant U. S. Attorney Andrew J. Galvin (619) 546-9721
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 25, 2021
SAN DIEGO – Anthony Reyes Vazquez pleaded guilty in federal court today, admitting that he stole more than $300,000 from the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation while serving as chief of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, Vazquez admitted that he 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.
From 2012 to 2018, Vazquez served as the Chief of Police for the Manzanita Tribal Police Department. The Manzanita Tribal Police Department, however, 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.
In his plea agreement, 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 – known as the “VIP Group” – 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 Manzanita Band reservation.
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 twenty-four firearms while serving as Chief of Police of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department.
"This defendant sold law enforcement badges and jeopardized public safety,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “His manipulative and self-serving ploy also significantly undermined state laws governing the issuance of credentials to carry concealed weapons.” Grossman thanked prosecutors Andrew Galvin and Frances Lewis, as well as FBI agents, for their excellent work on this case.
“Anthony Vazquez, a convicted felon, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in ‘donations’ from dozens of people - to line his own pockets - in exchange for giving them police credentials,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “This brazen scheme not only deprived the Manzanita Band of funding, but also caused numerous untrained ‘officers’ to believe they were authorized to carry concealed weapons on and off the reservation and enforce laws with little to no training.”
Vazquez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 24, 2022 at 8:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Galvin of the Southern District of California and Frances Lewis of the Central District of California.
DEFENDANT Case Number 21-CR-3020-GPC
Anthony Reyes Vazquez Age: 49 Camarillo, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 666(a)(1)
Maximum penalty: Ten years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation