Port of L.A. Police Chief to Be Arrested on Corruption Charges

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Newport Beach, CA

The Port of Los Angeles has been best known for union labor strife over the last year, but the scandal that is blowing up over the arrest of Chief of Port Police Ronald Jerome Boyd on federal bribery, kickback, and tax fraud charges may set a new high for port turmoil.

For nine months, the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union battled over demands for higher pay and benefits for dock workers who were already making almost $1,200 per day. Less than two months after the parties came to a settlement, this week, the Teamsters union cranked up new labor strife by setting up new picket lines at a number of port shipping companies.

Chief Boyd, 57, is a 30-year law enforcement veteran who was just promoted in January to lead the port’s homeland security and information technology operations. Since becoming chief in 2004, he has overseen the 204 sworn officers who police 43 miles of waterfront.

But on May 31, Boyd agreed to surrender to federal agents next week on 16 counts for charges ranging from kickbacks, wire fraud, tax evasion, and a dozen other federal corruption charges, according to Daniel J. O’Brien, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.

The City of Los Angeles Salary Database reveals that a “chief of police” is extremely well compensated with city’s second highest salary of $307,290.96. The job also comes with a lucrative string of cash benefits. Although the CalPERS pension database does not show what a chief of police will earn in retirement, former Assistant Chief Daniel R. McCarthy receives $855,441.59 a year, the second highest CalPERS pension.

According to his indictment, Boyd was getting kickbacks from what was described as “Company X” in return for confidential information involving a social networking smartphone app — dubbed “Portwatch” — the Port of LA was developing. A federally funded project app would have been used to notify users of port emergencies and allow rapid reporting of criminal activity.

It is alleged that in 2011, Boyd and two associates formed BDB Digital Communications, which entered a revenue-sharing agreement with “Company X” that would pay BDB 40 percent of gross revenues. Boyd stood to personally pocket 13.33 percent of gross revenue sales to any federal, state, or local agency of “Company X,” a knock-off smartphone app that was named “Metrowatch.”

The contract with “Company X” was contingent on Boyd using his duel positions as chief and head of Homeland Security to help with securing the original Portwatch from the Port of LA and then selling to other ports around the U.S.

“Company X” did get a smartphone app contract in 2012, but the federal indictment does not indicate if or how much Chief Boyd ever received from the alleged scam. But the indictment does contain a 2011 email where Boyd wrote to his business associates, “LMAO! [Laughing my ass-off!] Keep them on the ropes… At least two cities have learned of my concept and LOVE the idea!!! Especially the potential revenue split.”

The Grand Jury found that when Boyd was confronted in October by two FBI agents regarding his involvement in the Metrowatch project, he “knowingly and willfully made a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement.” Boyd appears to have tried to deflect the investigation of BDB by claiming it was created to sell body armor, and the company’s “dealings” had nothing to do with his job at the Port of LA.

Then investigation of Boyd’s port-related activities also led investigators to charge him with four counts of failing to file personal tax returns and five counts of tax evasion regarding his Torrance security business called At Close Range.