Inglewood officer faces federal drug trafficking charges

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LOS ANGELES — An Inglewood police officer has been arrested on federal drug-trafficking charges alleging two cocaine transactions, one involving more than two pounds of the narcotic, prosecutors announced Oct. 29.

A second man who was once approved to work as an informant for the officer also was arrested, with prosecutors saying investigators found more than two pounds of heroin and more than a pound of suspected cocaine at his residence.

Officer John Abel Baca, 45, of Whittier, a 21-year veteran of the Inglewood Police Department and the police union representative, was arrested Oct. 21, two days after a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging him with distribution of cocaine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the indictment, Baca allegedly delivered cocaine to a witness cooperating with law enforcement on April 29. He allegedly delivered about two pounds of the drug to the same witness during another meeting on May 4, according to prosecutors.

The indictment was unsealed Oct. 29 following the Oct. 28 arrest of Baca’s alleged accomplice — Gerardo Ekonomo, 42, of South Los Angeles. FBI agents served a warrant at his home and seized narcotics buried in his yard, along with a firearm and ammunition, prosecutors said.

Ekonomo was charged with a federal count of possession with intent to distribute heroin.

According to court papers, Baca obtained approval for Ekonomo to work as a confidential informant five years ago, but Ekonomo has not performed any known law enforcement work in that time.

According to a court affidavit, Ekonomo was arrested in North Las Vegas June 16 when officers found six pounds of heroin in his vehicle. On July 13, Baca contacted a North Las Vegas police officer to ask about Ekonomo’s case, suggesting that he could “work off” the case by cooperating, according to the document.

Baca’s alleged intervention in Ekonomo’s case demonstrates that “Baca 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,” according to the affidavit.

The Nevada case against Ekonomo is still pending.

Baca appeared in court Oct. 22, when he was ordered to remain jailed without bond. His trial is tentatively set for Dec. 14 in Santa Ana federal court.

Baca faces a sentence between five and 60 years of imprisonment. Ekonomo faces a sentence between 10 years and life in prison, prosecutors said.

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