Ex-Montebello Police Department officer Rudolph “Rudy” Petersen has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. Montebello Police Department photograph.
Ex-Montebello Police Department officer Rudolph Petersen was a dirty Southern California cop on an international drug ring’s payroll until a year ago, according to his federal plea agreement.
Signed June 14 but announced Tuesday, Sept. 7, by Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, Petersen’s agreement details at least $14,000 in bribes he took between late 2018 and Aug. 5, 2020.
Petersen, 34, confessed to dressing like a mall security cop to escort a drug shipment and later ran names through a law enforcement database to identify suspected snitches.
Free on a $15,000 unsecured appearance bond, Petersen faces sentencing Jan. 11 before US District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. in Los Angeles.
Neither Petersen nor his criminal defense attorney returned Coffee or Die Magazine’s calls and messages seeking comment.
The two suspects who bribed the cop aren’t named in court documents, but Petersen’s case links to the late 2020 federal grand jury indictment of Viengxay Inthavong and Loth “Wicked” Bounlom, according to federal filings.
Prosecutors accuse Inthavong and Bounlom of mailing at least 15 parcels stuffed with cocaine and methamphetamines to China, New Zealand, and Australia — contraband they allegedly stuffed into Marvel Avengers action figures, a Disney Princess suitcase, toy USS Missouri battleships, an NFL Showdown game and multiple baby shampoo and lotion gift packs.
Court documents accuse former Montebello police officer Rudolph Petersen of accepting about $14,000 in bribes from gang member to protect drug shipments and access law enforcement databases #crime #corruption #California https://t.co/hVMdRcj4Z9
— Scott Schwebke (@TheChalkOutline) July 16, 2021
Inthavong awaits federal trial in Los Angeles. Bounlom already entered a guilty plea but hasn’t been sentenced.
Neither man is charged with bribing Petersen, a San Gabriel Valley native who lives in Montebello, a suburb located east of Los Angeles.
But according to the ex-cop’s plea deal, an unnamed ringleader in mid-2018 offered to put Petersen “on his payroll,” triggering an initial $500 payment to the officer.
In late December of that year, two alleged drug dealers contacted Petersen with a $10,000 job, the plea deal states.
They asked him to don his Montebello Police Department uniform, bring a gun, and drive in an unmarked “decoy” cruiser in case “law enforcement attempted to intervene or stop” their U-Haul van or a rival gang tried “to rob the shipment.”
We're #hiring in several departments: #Fire, #Police, Recreation, Transportation and more! Visit https://t.co/XCGgAe1WSx to apply today.#jobs #work #myMontebello @MontebelloBus @MontebelloPD @montebellofd pic.twitter.com/xhszOOCWkX
— City of Montebello (@MontebelloCity) August 10, 2021
Petersen tricked out his own car “with takedown lights to create the appearance that his personal vehicle was an unmarked police car” and wore “a security officer uniform that resembled an official police uniform,” according to his plea deal.
Over the next 19 months, prosecutors say Petersen kept doing favors for the ring — at least one more narcotics delivery, plus digging up info about an intercepted cocaine shipment and suspected snitches inside the gang.
Prosecutors say he did that by accessing the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.
Often called “CLETS,” it’s a database containing sensitive information from multiple law enforcement agencies, including ongoing criminal probes and their targets.
Petersen received “names, dates of birth, and other personal information belonging to other people” suspected of ratting out the gang, which he ran through CLETS and then reported back to one of the ringleaders, his plea agreement states.
Prosecutors estimate Petersen received between $500 to $1,000 each time he used CLETS for the gang, including trying to find which agency put GPS trackers on a ringleader’s personal vehicle and a white delivery van.
Petersen could spend up to 10 years in federal prison, but most defendants receive lower sentences.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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