INGLEWOOD – A 21-year veteran of the Inglewood Police Department pleaded guilty to federal drug charges on Oct. 17.
John Baca, 47, spent several years in the police department’s Narcotics unit and admitted to stealing drugs from the property room to sell to drug dealers.
It is not uncommon for members of law enforcement agencies to be charged in federal drug cases.
In 2017, two former members of the Compton Police Department were arrested on federal drug trafficking charges and in 2018, A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was charged with operating a large-scale drug trafficking scheme in which he boasted that he hired other law enforcement officers to provide security to dealers and could assault people for his clients, according to court records.
Baca admitted to distributing cocaine on two separate occasions in 2021.
Baca gave cocaine to a cooperating witness, then gave a kilogram of cocaine to that same witness in exchange for $22,000, the DOJ said in a news release.
According to the plea agreement, in February 2021, the CW informed the FBI that Baca, then an active-duty IPD officer, previously had offered to sell the CW one kilogram of cocaine, two kilograms of “White China” heroin, and an unlimited supply of black tar heroin. The CW reported that Baca claimed to have stolen drugs and cash during routine traffic stops that Baca made as a drug task for officer with IPD.
During a covertly recorded meeting in late April 2021, Baca provided a sample of the cocaine to the CW to provide to purported buyers. Several days later, Baca negotiated the price for one kilogram of cocaine – $22,000 in cash – and then delivered a brick of cocaine to the CW’s workplace on May 4, 2021. Later the same day, Baca collected $22,000 in cash from the CW’s residence.
In the plea agreement, Baca admitted that he abused his position of trust as a police officer, including by stealing drugs from IPD’s lock-up and reselling them.
“How Baca had unfettered access to the department’s property room and no one knew about is mind-boggling,” said a former Inglewood employee who declined to be named. “Why aren’t audits being performed on the contents in the property room?”
Inglewood Chief of Police Mark Fronterotta has made no public comments since the announcement Baca agreed to plead guilty.
Baca enjoyed a close relationship with Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr.
Records show the “James Butts for Mayor 2014” campaign paid Baca $2,000 out of his campaign account. The payment was labeled as a “donation”. At the time Baca served as the Vice-President of the Inglewood Police Officers Association.
The mayor initially disputed that any payments were provided to Baca until he was provided with a copy of his campaign expenditure form.
“I don’t have control over who my campaigns pay,” said Butts, after reviewing the form.
All California Form 460, which lists both contributions and expenditures for political campaigns are required to be signed by the candidate.
Mayor Butts has signed all of his campaign 460s since 2011.
He faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years when he is sentenced on February 5, 2024.