A man driving around Irvine in a mock Chinese police vehicle was arrested, and investigators are working to determine his motive, officials said Wednesday.
Several people reported last Tuesday, Sept. 10, that an Asian man driving an Audi sedan made to look like he was an officer with the Chinese People’s Armed Police, a national paramilitary force, said California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera.
The vehicle was outfitted with the security force’s seal and Chinese police symbols, photos released by CHP show.
But while the sedan was black, Chinese police vehicles are traditionally white with a blue stripe.
Officials are still investigating whether he had pulled anyone over; those who reported the vehicle had only seen it driving around, Olivera said.
The man was arrested on Jamboree Road along the 405 Freeway, the officer said.
He’s since been charged with impersonating a peace officer and possessing a fraudulent public seal, Olivera said, and he will be prosecuted the same as if he’d tried to impersonate an American official.
The suspect’s name was not available Wednesday night.
Authorities are looking into reports of a second, similar vehicle spotted in Irvine, according to Olivera.
Earlier this summer, officials in Northern California arrested another Asian driver with Chinese markings on their car after the person tried to pull over an off-duty officer, Olivera said.
A series of fake Chinese police vehicle sightings last month in Australia raised concern amid pro-Hong Kong protests, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
But when officials tracked down one of the drivers, he told them he’d bought the decals online and put them on his car as a “joke.” The man did not face consequences, since it’s only a crime to impersonate an Australian law enforcement official in the island nation, according to ABC.
Last year, the FBI alerted people in Washington state that scammers were impersonating Chinese law enforcement officials in text and email scams. The fraudsters were targeting Chinese citizens on student and work visas, telling them they were under investigation and needed to send money.
A motive in the Irvine case remains unclear.
The city’s population is 41.8% Asian, with another 3.7% of people at least partially Asian, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Anyone who may have come in contact with the fake officer can contact CHP’s Santa Ana office at 714-567-6000.