An aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been arrested along with two others for allegedly operating an illegitimate “police department” that traces its origins to the Knights Templar.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced that the three suspects were taken into custody last week on suspicion of impersonating police officers through their roles in the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department.
Among them is Brandon Kiel, 36, who has worked as deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice — which is led by Harris, also a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Kiel was arrested on suspicion of misusing his government ID.
A spokeswoman at the department told FoxNews.com on Wednesday that Kiel is now on administrative leave.
“We cannot comment on the ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation,” the spokeswoman said in an email.
The Masonic Fraternal Police Department, while not a recognized law enforcement arm, maintains it has existed for 3,000 years and claims jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico.
The Los Angeles Times reported that suspicions about the group’s presence in California were aroused when local police chiefs got a letter in January announcing its new leadership. A man claiming to be Kiel reportedly called law enforcement agencies to schedule meetings.
According to the Times, investigators found badges, weapons and other law enforcement materials when they searched two sites. Also arrested were Tonette Hayes, 56, and David Henry, 46.
The group’s website claims it is linked to the ancient Knights Templar.
The site says: “When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first!” It claims to be part of a special jurisdiction located with Santa Clarita, Calif. — while stressing they are not part of the “sovereign citizens” movement.