A Los Angeles police officer has been charged with attempting to illegally export guns to Belize after customs officers intercepted and seized the weapons at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said.
Johnny Augustus Baltazar, 50, who owns a private security firm in Belize and was placed on administrative leave by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) last year, surrendered to authorities in Los Angeles Monday, November 2nd, following his indictment.
He is named in an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury October 23rd, charging him with one count of unlawful interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said.
The indictment is the culmination of an investigation by ICE that began when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted and seized the weapons at LAX, ICE officials said.
According to the indictment, Baltazar allegedly sought to ship a container packed with firearms and ammunition to Belize. The weapons included eight .40-caliber handguns and two 9-mm handguns, along with more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.
Investigators allege that the weapons were intended for use by officers with the Belize-based company Elite Security, which is owned by the defendant. Baltazar did not have the required licenses to export the firearms, according to ICE.
“As a law enforcement officer, this defendant should know full well why there are strict controls on the export of dangerous firearms,” said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. “These laws are designed to ensure that potentially lethal weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands — that threat is the reason cases like this are an ICE priority.”
The LAPD is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations and Baltazar is awaiting a department administrative discipline hearing, department officials said.
“In cases like these we find ourselves disappointed in the actions of an officer that lead to an indictment on criminal charges,” said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael Downing. “In this specific case, the department has initiated an internal investigation which, unlike the criminal case, is substantially restricted from public disclosure.”
If convicted, Baltazar could face up to five years in prison.