Federal prosecutors are recommending a three-year prison sentence for an ex-Glendale police detective who took bribes from organized crime members in exchange for inside information about upcoming gang raids, according to court documents.
John Saro Balian, 46, of Seal Beach, pleaded guilty last July to federal charges of bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators looking into whether he had connections to the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter set sentencing for March 8.
After a long career with the Glendale Police Department, Balian “made a conscious decision to turn to a life of crime and join forces with Armenian organized crime and the Mexican Mafia,” choosing to “subvert law enforcement, place other officers at risk, and live the life of a gang member,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers filed late Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
Defense sentencing recommendations were not made public and Balian’s attorney, Craig Missakian, declined to comment.
Along with the 36-month prison term, federal prosecutors are asking that Balian be ordered to pay a $95,000 fine.
Balian, a former spokesman for the Glendale Police Department, was terminated from the agency following his guilty plea.
Quoting from a report prepared by U.S. probation and pretrial services, prosecutors wrote that the ex-detective functioned as “an active gang member” while wearing a badge. “He kept watch for criminals, acted on their behalf, and profited from criminal activity,” according to the report.
Balian admitted lying to investigators about his ties to accused organized crime members, including Jose Loza, described as a Mexican Mafia member and shot caller for a Santa Fe Springs street gang. Loza is awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges.
Around the time of an April 2017 interview with an FBI agent and Los Angeles police detectives, “Balian was communicating with Loza via a burner cell phone to discuss jointly undertaken criminal activities,” according to court papers filed before he entered his plea.