Three people, including a member of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' office, were arrested last week on suspicion of running a self-described police force that claims to be thousands of years old, authorities said.
Brandon Kiel, 31, who has worked for the California Department of Justice since July 2013, was arrested April 29 by Los Angeles County Sheriffs on suspicion of impersonating a police officer, along with David Henry, 46, and Tonette Hayes, 56.
The trio are allegedly members of the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department, a Freemason and Knights Templar-linked group that claims to have been founded in 1100 B.C. and have jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico, according to its website.
During a search of two locations, "detectives recovered badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police type vehicles, and other law enforcement equipment," the Sheriff's Department said in a statement.
"Detectives believe these three suspects were attempting to deceive individuals in the community as to their status as law enforcement officials for a purpose yet to be determined," the department said.
In addition to the trio being arrested on suspicion of "impersonating a peace officer," Kiel was booked for misuse of a government identification, while Henry was arrested for perjury under oath, the Sheriff's Department said.
Investigations into the Masonic Fraternal Police Department began earlier this year when letters were posted from the group in late January to law enforcement agencies across Southern California announcing that David Henry had been elected as the group's chief.
"[This] immediately created suspicion and confusion within the law enforcement community," the Sheriff's Department said.
Kiel then began calling several agencies to request meetings, claiming to be the "chief deputy director" of the Masonic group, authorities said.
During a meeting between Captain Roosevelt Johnson of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, the Masonic members could not answer basic questions about the group's jurisdiction nor its overall mission, the Sheriff's Department said.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Masonic Fraternal Police Department requesting more information, but its website states that the group is "the oldest and most respected institution" in the world.
"When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us," the site reads. "We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then an application. This is more then a job it is an obligation."
"Our mission is to preserve the integrity, honor and legacy of our Founding Fathers, Masonic Organizations, all Grand Masters and their Constitution /By Laws. We will uphold our sworn obligation to protect Sovereign Grand Masters and their jurisdictions."
Images on social media show Kiel and Henry at a number of Masonic events. Henry is identified as a "grandmaster," while Kiel is said to hold the role of "grand high priest."
In one 2014 video, Henry identifies Kiel as his son-in-law and says the government employee plans to run for the U.S. Senate in the 2016 elections.
On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the office of California Attorney General Harris told BuzzFeed News Kiel had been placed on administrative leave and a personnel investigation had been launched.
The spokesperson said the Department of Justice had been "cooperating with law enforcement on the criminal investigation from the beginning and will continue do so."