A Glendale detective was arrested on Tuesday (May 15) for his alleged ties to organized crime. John Saro Balian reportedly made false statements to investigators about his connections to Mexican and Armenian crime gangs. Balian is suspected of alerting gangsters to raids, and even allowing suspects to elude arrest.
Cop Arrested for Gang Ties
A statement from federal officials said that John Saro Balian, 45, was arrested on May 15 for lying during interviews with investigators looking into his connections to the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime.
The Seal Beach resident is charged in a criminal complaint for making false statements. He was arrested in his home without incident.
Investigators allege that Balian has connections with several gang members. He allegedly tipped off the gangs about raids in exchange for money.
He also reportedly collaborated with gang members in extortion plots, and once allegedly helped dispose of a firearm used in a shooting.
A 47-page affidavit based on information from confidential informants claims that Balian helped a wanted criminal evade arrest, stole cars to be sold abroad, and even instigated clashes between gangs. The affidavit was signed by a special agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
Different law enforcement agencies interviewed Balian over a six-month period in 2017. Balian allegedly misled investigators with “misrepresentations” about his criminal activities.
“His alleged actions impeded legitimate investigations into organized violent crime and consequently presented a threat to public safety,” said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
Timeline of Balian’s Interviews
Balian was interviewed by an FBI agent and L.A. Police Detectives in April last year. He reportedly lied during this interview about his connections to Mexican and Armenian criminal circles.
Investigators questioned him about his connection to Jose Loza, a dreaded “shotcaller” from the Mexican Mafia, the Canta Ranas street gang. Loza is facing federal racketeering charges.
Balian and Loza allegedly collaborated for criminal activities. The officer purportedly communicated with Loza using a burner phone.
In this interview, Balian reportedly claimed to be an expert on the Mexican Mafia when he worked with the Montebello Police Department. He claimed to “stay on top of all these guys,” according to the affidavit.
Balian had a second interview with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security two months later. According to the criminal complaint, “Balian allegedly lied about accepting money to locate individuals who may have been associated with a burglary at the offices of a convicted felon who later became an informant.”
The informant claims to have paid Balian to find two suspects who stole something from the informant’s house. In that effort, Balian sought details about one of the suspects from a deputy U.S. marshal. Text messages exchanged between Balian and the informant are evidence of this deal.
In a third interview, Balian was questioned about his transaction with the informant. Authorities also questioned him about his connection to several members of the Mexican Mafia.
The criminal complaint said that Balian texted members of the gangs regularly, provided them burner phones, and even met with them in person.
An HSI agent and FBI task force officer interviewed Balian, where he allegedly lied about meeting Loza on one occasion.
This fourth interview was the basis for filing the criminal complaint about false statements made by Balian.
Accusations against Balian
Investigators relied on informants’ stories to file charges against Balian. The informants’ reports were corroborated with cellphone records, police reports, and interviews.
Balian allegedly worked with an associate of the Mexican gang after Loza was taken into federal custody. That associate turned into an informant who told authorities that Balian would tip off the gang about a Frogtown gang member, which led to the suspect evading arrest for a month.
One informant claimed that Balian planned the shooting of an Armenian businessman’s bodyguard. The alleged shooter told the informant that he hit the bodyguard. However, it’s not clear if the victim survived.
He also gave the gang’s locations of marijuana grows and drug stash houses before law enforcement executed a search warrant for those locations. He was privy to such information as a veteran law enforcement officer.
Balian Sued the City
John Balian was one of five Armenian-American Glendale police officers who sued the city in 2010. The joint lawsuit filed against the city of Glendale and the police department alleged discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.
The city eventually settled the case. Balian received $7,500 in attorney fees, 250 hours of sick time, and 50 hours of vacation time into his leave bank.
If convicted of making false statements to federal officials, Balian faces up to five years behind bars.