A pair of former Orange County police officers are facing allegations of kidnapping and working as illegal bounty hunters.
Rodger Corbett, 49, a former sergeant in the Fullerton Police Department, and Kevin Pedersen, 34, formerly of the Anaheim Police Department, were indicted earlier this month in Orange County Superior Court. They face felony charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment by violence and fraud as well as enhancements for using a firearm, according to court records. The two will be arraigned in court on June 29.
Corbett and Pedersen allegedly kidnapped and handcuffed the girlfriend of a man they were seeking for bail recovery and drove her around for several hours, according to a news release from the California Department of Insurance. They were “visibly armed” at the time, according to the insurance department.
The insurance department said it began investigating the incident after seeing a video on social media of the two men attempting to locate a subject who had missed court appearances.
The video misidentified them as undercover police officers, the department said, when they were actually working as bail fugitive recovery agents, or bounty hunters. An investigation found that the two had not completed state requirements to work as bounty hunters and “were operating in that capacity unlawfully,” the department said in a statement.
Marlin Stapleton Jr., the defense attorney representing Corbett, decried the allegations facing his client and Pedersen and said the two were “completely innocent.”
“Our clients were trying to capture a violent fugitive and now they’re being charged with a kidnapping. It’s almost incomprehensible,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton said that his client was looking for a man who had skipped on a $300,000 bail, and that the man’s girlfriend had been “aiding and abetting” him avoid his court appearance.
Edward Welbourn, the defense attorney representing Pedersen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both former officers left their respective police departments under controversial circumstances.
Pedersen was fired from the Anaheim Police Department after a 2018 high-speed car chase during which he and his partner fired 76 shots at a suspect. The suspect, Eliuth Penaloza Nava, was killed and the city of Anaheim later paid a $2.9-million settlement to his family.
In 2018, Corbett was charged with filing a false police report over a drunk driving incident involving then-Fullerton City Manager Joseph Felz. The incident occurred on election night 2016, when Felz, who was city manager at the time, drove over a curb and crashed his car into a tree.
The case was settled last year when Corbett took a court offer that allowed him to participate in a pretrial diversion program requiring community service and $500 in restitution. He left the department in March 2018, and it was unclear whether his departure was voluntary or if he was dismissed, according to the Orange County Register.
Corbett began working as a bail fugitive recovery agent with Bail Hotline Bail Bonds in October 2018 and completed all required training, according to Stapleton.
Bounty hunting is an unlicensed practice in California, and state law allows individuals to arrest people who have skipped bail on behalf of bail companies. California law allows individuals to work as a bounty hunter on behalf of a licensed bail company, if they complete a pair of required trainings, which last 40 hours and 20 hours each.
The California Department of Insurance is currently pushing for new state legislation to regulate bounty hunting. The department is sponsoring Assembly Bill 2043, which would require individual bounty hunters and bail agents to be licensed.