First Responders

Plea Deal Reveals Dirty Cop on International Drug Ring’s Payroll

September 10, 2021Carl Prine
Montebello officer Rudolph Petersen

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.

The Montebello Police Department boasts 75 sworn officers, 10 reserve officers, and 30 civilian employees. Rudolph Petersen served in the department for nearly four years. Montebello Police Department photograph.

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.

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.”

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.

Read Next: Feds Seize 25K Canadian Loonies in Tennessee

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

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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