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Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. (Photo: Riverside County Sheriff's Department)

Riverside County Deputies Indicted In Tow Truck Bribery Case

Owner of towing company also charged in the criminal scheme

By Michelle Mears, March 16, 2020 2:15 am

A Riverside County criminal grand jury on March 11, indicted a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant, sergeant, and a former deputy along with a tow truck company owner in a criminal conspiracy case.

Sheriff’s Lt. Samuel Flores, Sgt. Robert Christolon, former deputy Kevin Carpenter, and the owner of DJ’s Towing, Cody Close, have been charged with bribery, conspiracy to commit a crime, and unlawful computer network access. Flores and Christolon are currently on administrative leave and Carpenter is no longer employed by the Sheriff’s Department. All four men are scheduled to be arraigned on March 27.

“I am disappointed in these allegations which do not reflect the integrity and daily good work of the women and men of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Chad Bianco in a statement on Thursday. “We will continue to work with the District Attorney’s Office as they proceed with prosecution.”

In 2018, Flores and Christolon supervised the traffic division at the Temecula Police Department. Temecula contracts its law enforcement from the Sheriff’s Department. Carpenter was assigned to Court Services in Banning but worked overtime with the Temecula police traffic division. DJ’s Towing contracted with the Sheriff’s Department to provide towing services.

According to the District Attorneys office, “Evidence and testimony presented to the criminal grand jury, between 2018 and early 2019, showed Close provided Flores, Christolon, and Carpenter with free or steeply discounted vehicles, free meals, the use of his facility for vehicle repairs, and a free stay for Flores in a beachfront home in exchange for extra business and preferential treatment.”

Carpenter and Flores are accused of using DJ’s Towing “out of rotation.” The term “out of rotation” means another tow company on a “rotation list” should have had the opportunity to respond to a call. However, DJ’s Towing would instead get that call. Carpenter is said to have falsely logged tows as traffic citations in the Sheriff’s Department’s computer network in attempts to avoid detection.

Flores also used Close’s hazardous waste cleanup business and promoted it to other sheriff’s employees despite that business not having a contract with the Sheriff’s Department to provide such service.

According to the DA, “When other members of the traffic division noticed and complained, Flores and Christolon provided cover for Carpenter’s activities.”

The scheme was discovered when another tow company in the city of Temecula noticed DJ’s Towing being used “out of rotation” and complained to the Sheriff’s Department.

The California Globe was told by the DA Public Information Officer John Hall, “Although vehicles were towed out of rotation it appears they were still legal tows.”

The case being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys David Allen and Emily Hanks of the DA’s Public Integrity Unit. The case was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department’s Riverside Auto Theft Interdiction Detail (RAID).

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