A Glendale Police officer was arrested on federal charges of lying to federal agents investigating his ties to Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime, Justice Department officials announced Tuesday.
Detective John Saro Balian, 45, of Seal Beach was arrested and charged with making false statement during interviews with investigators probing his connections to the organized crime operations.
The unsealed complaint alleges that Balian repeatedly made "false statements" and "misrepresentations" in interviews conducted over a six-month period in 2017.
The complaint detailed and provided examples of Balian's false statements, noting that he misled investigators about his relationship with Jose Loza, a Mexican Mafia member and "shotcaller" of the Canta Ranas street gang. Loza is currently facing racketeering charges, but authorities say that Balian was communicating about jointly undertaken criminal activities with Loza via a "burner" cell phone.
"Cases involving corrupt public officials – and particularly those involving crimes allegedly committed by police officers – are among the most difficult and troubling matters we see," United States Attorney Central District of California Nicola T. Hanna said in a statement. "We rely on law enforcement officers to uphold their oaths to faithfully serve their communities. If the allegations in this case are proven, this police officer provided meaningful support to criminal enterprises, and his attempts to cover up his associations served to obstruct justice."
Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles Joseph Macias added, "HSI stands with all of our partners in our commitment to ensuring that corrupt law enforcement officers who break our laws, violate public trust and compromise safety are prosecuted to the fullest extent. The public deserves no less."
The DOJ alleges that Balian continued to work with a street gang and Mexican Mafia associate after Loza was taken into custody. That associate turned informant provided information to authorities about another racketeering case where Belian helped the lead defendant avoid arrest. The fugitive went on to spend a month on the run.
The informant also told authorities that Balian was involved in disposing of a firearm used in a shooting and even acted as the "bag man" on at least two extortions.
Balian's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Mitchell of the Violent and Organized Crime Section. The evidence to be used in the case was a result of ongoing investigations by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, which includes the FBI, HSI, IRS Criminal Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, along with officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Glendale Police Department, the Burbank Police Department and the California Department of Health Care Services.