A former member of the Inglewood Police Department is expected to plead guilty to drug distribution charges for allegedly selling large amounts of cocaine while serving as a police officer.
47-year-old John Abel Baca of Whittier, California was originally arrested on October 2, 2021 after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he sold cocaine to an informant on two occasions in 2021. A recent announcement by the United States Department of Justice indicated that Baca recently agreed to plead guilty to one charge of cocaine distribution.
Baca served as an officer with the Inglewood Police Department for 21 years before being accused of drug dealing. He also served as the police union representative. The DOJ press release said that Baca brought a federal informant an undisclosed amount of cocaine on April 29, 2021. A recording of this meeting would later show that this was for the pseudo-purpose of the cooperating witness showing the cocaine to potential buyers.
According to the DOJ, a second meeting was then arranged in which Baca agreed to provide the witness with one kilogram of cocaine for $22,000 USD. That meeting was arranged for May 4 of the same year when Baca reportedly delivered the kilogram of cocaine to the informant’s workplace and then collected $22,000 from the informant’s residence later that same day.
A plea agreement entered by Baca would later show that before these exchanges, Baca allegedly told the witness in February that he could get him one kilogram of cocaine, two kilograms of “white china” heroin and an unlimited supply of black tar heroin which the witness said Baca claimed he had stolen during traffic stops in his capacity as a police officer with the IPD.
The DOJ said that in Baca’s plea agreement he admitted that he “abused his position of trust as a police officer, including by stealing drugs from IPD’s lock-up and reselling them.”
Another man involved in this case is also awaiting trial after authorities said he may have helped Baca distribute the drugs while Baca was still a police officer.
44-year-old Gerardo Ekonomo of South Los Angeles was arrested on October 28, 2021 in connection with the John Baca case, who was arrested just a week prior to Ekonomo. CBS Los Angeles said in 2021 that Ekonomo’s arrest is what ultimately led to Baca’s downfall.
Federal authorities alleged that Ekonomo, who had previously been approved to serve as a police informant for Baca, was culpable in helping Baca distribute drugs. When Ekonomo’s home was raided in 2021, police found drugs and a firearm in his home as well as a kilogram of heroin and half a kilogram of suspected cocaine buried in his backyard.
Ekonomo was also arrested in Las Vegas in June of 2021 with three kilograms of heroin in his car, according to the article by CBS LA. It was after this arrest that Baca reportedly contacted the Las Vegas Police Department to see if Ekonomo could help his case by cooperating with IPD. The charges were not dropped but Ekonomo was then registered to work as an informant for Baca.
However, according to an FBI affidavit, Ekonomo never actually did any work as an informant. The FBI alleged that Ekonomo ‘conducted no documented operations after he was signed up as an informant,” and that Baca “[was] 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.”
Ekonomo faced a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum life sentence if convicted at the time he was arrested in 2021. Before Baca accepted his plea deal he faced a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 60 years. It was not immediately clear how Baca’s plea deal would affect his sentencing or when Ekonomo’s trial was set to begin.
This case remains under investigation by the FBI and the DOJ said that the Inglewood Police Department has given their full cooperation in this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cassie D. Palmer of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section. John Baca is due in court on October 17 where he is expected to plead guilty.