An officer with the Inglewood Police Department has been arrested and faces federal charges for allegedly participating in two cocaine transactions, the United States Department of Justice announced Friday.
Officer John Abel Baca, 45, of Whittier, was arrested on Oct. 21, two days after he was indicted by a federal grand jury.
Baca, a 21-year veteran of the Inglewood Police Department who serves as their police union representative, was accused of delivering cocaine to a “witness cooperating with law enforcement” on April 29 and May 4, with the second transaction including the exchange of about 1 kilogram of cocaine for $22,000 in cash, according to the DOJ release.
The Baca case came to light because of his work with an “alleged confederate,” 42-year-old Gerardo Ekonomo of South Los Angeles, who was arrested Thursday by the FBI after agents found drugs, a gun and ammunition at his home, the release added.
Ekonomo, who was once approved to serve as an informant for Baca, had buried more than a kilogram of heroin and more than half a kilogram of what is believed to be cocaine in his yard, authorities added.
Though Ekonomo was allowed to be an informant for Baca, he “conducted no documented operations after he was signed up as an informant,” according to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
Ekonomo is also facing another case in North Las Vegas, where he was arrested on June 16 after North Las Vegas Police Department officers found 3 kilograms of heroin in his car, authorities said.
After the Nevada arrest, Baca called a North Las Vegas Police Department officer to ask about the case and see if “Ekonomo could ‘work off’ the case by cooperating,” according to an FBI affidavit.
The charges were not dismissed, but Baca’s attempt to aid Ekonomo shows that he “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,” the affidavit said.
Ekonomo is scheduled to make his initial appearance in the federal case on Monday in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
Baca’s trial is set to begin on Dec. 14 at the United States District Court in Santa Ana. He is currently being held without bond after he was determined to be a flight risk and a danger to the community, authorities said.
If convicted, Ekonomo faces a minimum 10-year sentence and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Baca faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of 60 years in prison.