MEXICO CITY — Prosecutors and soldiers raided the headquarters of a local police force in central Mexico and found a strange thing: 113 of the 185 officers weren't police at all.
The Public Safety Department in Puebla state said late Wednesday the 113 are facing charges equivalent to impersonating an officer and that the state government would take over policing duties in the town of San Martin Texmelucan.
Puebla's interior secretary Diodoro Carrasco said the town government had lost control and could no longer guarantee the safety of residents. He cited multiple instances in which bound or dismembered bodies had been left on the town's streets.
Some of the fake officers presumably paid to avoid vetting and registration procedures. Others weren't registered as police in any way, but video provided by the state government showed them wearing uniforms.
A few other officers were arrested for charging potential policemen between $155 and $260 to allow them to avoid vetting and background checks.
San Martin Texmelucan has become a center for contraband sales of fuel stolen from government pipelines.
Puebla is the state with the largest number of illegal pipeline taps drilled by criminal gangs looking to steal diesel or gasoline.
The government-owned oil company Pemex said 3,691 illegal taps were found nationwide in the first three months of 2018, with about 517 in Puebla. If the thefts continue at that level, they would surpass the 10,363 taps found nationwide in 2017, itself a big increase from the 6,873 found in 2016.
Corrupt municipal police forces have been detected and disbanded in several states in Mexico.