Three people claiming to be members of the “Masonic Fraternal Police Department” were arrested in California under suspicion of impersonating police officers.
Police arrested Brandon Kiel, 36, David Henry, 46, and Tonette Hayes, 56, last week on charges of perjury and impersonating offices after a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation determined the organization represented by the trio to be illegitimate.
One of the suspects, Kiel, is also an aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and is also being charged with misusing his government identification.
A website believed to be associated with the group claims its origins go back 3,000 years to 1100 B.C., and boasts “The Masonic Fraternal Organization is the oldest and most respected organization in the ‘world.’”
“When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first!” states the group’s website, masonicfraternalpolicedepartment.org. “We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then an application. This is more then a job it is an obligation.”
The website, which prominently features the “Honorable Grand Master David Henry 33º,” bears a logo made up of a police badge, the masonic square and compass and the upside-down pentagram emblematic of the Order of the Eastern Star, a Freemason-related fraternity which accepts both men and women.
Police in the area first grew suspicious of the group when departments began receiving letters back in January addressed to various Chiefs of Police.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson followed up on one of the letters and grew even more concerned when members failed to provide satisfactory explanations of the group’s jurisdiction and purpose.
“Following an investigation, officials said, sheriff’s investigators searched two sites in Santa Clarita and found badges, weapons, uniforms and law enforcement paraphernalia,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
A neighbor also told CBS Los Angeles she would “see them with their uniforms, so I thought they were part of any department. I didn’t know it was a fake one.”
Police say the three were “attempting to deceive individuals in the community…for a purpose yet to be determined.”
The Masons of California, the official state headquarters for “Free and Accepted Masons,” said they were in no way affiliated with the group, according to The Guardian.
California Department of Justice spokesperson Kirstin Ford told The Washington Post Kiel, deputy director of community affiars at the state justice department, is now on administrative leave, but that the deparment had no further comment.
Investigators tell The Post they’re unsure exactly how many other members there are in the group.