An attorney representing San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos is demanding that the County halt its investigation into the Sheriff’s decision to pursue the so-called Batmobile replica case in Indiana.
The case was first brought to light by the ABC7 I-Team, which reported that Atherton realtor Sam Anagnostou, a Bolanos friend and campaign donor, had asked the Sheriff to help him retrieve the $210,000 Batmobile replica he ordered. The case led to four members of the Sheriff’s Vehicle Theft Task Force (VTTF) serving search and arrest warrants at a garage in Casa County, Indiana.
On Aug. 30, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to hire an independent investigator to look into Bolanos’ decision to the purse the case. Board President Dan Horsley said the probe is “not a criminal case,” according to the Daily Journal.
“It’s just a question of was this best judgment,” Horsley said.
Sheriff Bolanos accuses ABC7 of spinning the facts, saying the Batmobile probe was launched not due to his friendship with Anagnostou, but because “I believed that it was likely that one of our residents was a victim of a felony crime.”
“I make no apology for that decision,” Bolanos said in a statement last month.
Bolanos says multiple law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judicial officers reviewed and approved of the investigation.
His attorney, James R. Touchstone of Jones Mayer Law, said the Board’s decision to hire an independent investigator likely violates California law forbidding the elected Board from obstructing the investigative function of the sheriff and the investigation and prosecutorial functions of the district attorney.
“The Board’s ‘investigation’ appears to be designed to chill the Sheriff’s and the District Attorney’s authority to investigate and prosecute crimes, respectively,” Touchstone stated in a letter to County Attorney John Nibbelin on Sept. 1.
According to Bolanos, Anagnostou first reported the alleged “theft by false pretense” of a replica Batmobile to Atherton police, which prepared a short report and submitted it to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute. Anagnostou contacted Bolanos, who assigned the case to the Sheriff’s Vehicle Theft Task Force. The investigation by Lt. Mike Leishman led to a San Mateo County judge approving requests for search warrants and a County deputy district attorney to decide to request an arrest warrant for the suspect, identified as Mark Racop, on two felony charges of “Obtaining Money, Labor and Property by False Pretenses” and “Diversion of Construction Funds.”
Four members of the San Mateo County VTTF traveled to Casa County, Indiana to execute the warrants. Bolanos said an affidavit requesting the execution of a search warrant for Racop’s business was additionally reviewed and approved by a Casa County prosecutor and judge. Prior to executing the warrants, the VTTF team called Racop and asked him to meet at his business. He was cooperative and no force was used, Bolanos said. Two file folders related to the investigation were seized, the Sheriff said, adding that Racop was released upon his promise to appear in San Mateo County for arraignment. The criminal prosecution of the case is pending.
“At any time during this investigation the DA’s Office could have informed us that we did not have enough evidence to proceed and that would have ended the investigation,” said Bolanos. “Had judges not issued the search or arrest warrants, we would have never served them. To further validate the decisions made by prosecutors and judges in San Mateo County, a prosecutor and judge in Indiana also agreed that probable cause existed for a search of Mr. Racop’s business.”