One corrupt police officer in California who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes spun a web of lies and deception worthy of a Breaking Bad episode.
On September 7, Rudolph Petersen, 34, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge for accepting at least $14,000 in cash from a drug trafficker in exchange for escorting massive shipments of pot and other drugs, and searching a police database to supply the trafficker information on suspected snitches, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Petersen, who served as a Montebello Police Department for about four years, solicited and received several large-sum cash bribes from an alleged gang member and drug trafficker, according to his plea agreement. Prosecutors say Petersen admitted to taking a total of $14,000 in cash bribes since 2018—mostly for transporting a U-Haul filled with weed and sniffing out people suspected of cooperating with other police.
Peterson was the guy on the inside, who had access to sensitive information about plea deals and the individuals involved.
Federal prosecutors say a drug trafficker, identified only as “co-schemer 2,” told Petersen he’d be placed “on his payroll” during a dinner in 2018, and gave him $500 through a middle man.
“Three months later, Petersen—who was armed and wearing a security guard uniform that resembled an official police uniform—successfully escorted a white U-Haul truck containing what Petersen believed was illegally grown marijuana from Fontana to a location off California State Route 60 near Rowland Heights,” the report reads. “Petersen returned to the residence of Co-Schemer 2, who gave him a paper bag filled with $10,000 in cash. Petersen admitted to escorting at least one additional drug shipment for Co-Schemer 2.”
Petersen also admitted to escorting at least one other drug shipment, prosecutors said.
Additionally, Petersen fessed up to using a law enforcement database to collect information on an individual whom Co-Schemer 2 called a “snitch” who had allegedly helped law enforcement intercept a cocaine shipment.
For a bribery charge of $500-1,000 per database search, Petersen delivered information about the “snitch” individual to Co-Schemer 2, plus information on others suspected of snitching as well.
Police say that in September 2020, Co-Schemer 2 paid Petersen $1,000 to determine if tracking devices found on vehicles that he and another co-schemer used were planted by a state or federal law enforcement investigation. Petersen admitted to accepting at least $14,000 in bribes.
United States District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 11, 2022, when Petersen will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Ian V. Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.
More Alleged Bribes in Central California’s Cannabis Industry
Unfortunately, Petersen’s case isn’t alone in the central California area when it comes to corruption from law enforcement and other people in power, such as public officials.
In February 2019, The FBI investigated whether public officials in Sacramento, California accepted bribes in return for favorable treatment for applicants for licenses to operate cannabis businesses in the city.
Sacramento officials investigated how cannabis business owner Garib Karapetyan and his associates have been able to amass eight licenses to operate dispensaries in the city—one-third of the number of retailers.
One of Karapetyan’s partners, Ukrainian businessmen Andrey Kukushkin, was one of four men indicted by federal prosecutors for involvement in a scheme.
Even former President Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was implicated at some point in the case. Two other men indicted in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are also associates of Rudy Giuliani.