Dan Brown, eat your heart out.
An aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris and two others claiming to be part of the "Masonic Fraternal Police Department" and descendants of the Knights Templar were arrested last week on suspicion of impersonating police officers.
Brandon Kiel, the deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice, has been placed on administrative leave according to The Los Angeles Times. Two others, David Henry and Tonette Hayes, were also placed in custody.
Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for Harris, confirmed that Kiel was placed on administrative leave but declined to provide further comment on "the ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation."
According to the Times, law enforcement officials first noticed something was amiss when several police chiefs in Southern California received a letter earlier this year that announced leadership positions for the group, which traces its origins to the mysterious medieval order known as the Knights Templar. The group claims it has sovereign jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico, and that it has operated for thousands of years.
LA County Sheriff's officials said that, in the letters, Kiel had described himself as the group's “chief deputy director” and had called several law enforcement agencies to schedule in-person meetings. After investigating the matter at two locations in Santa Clarita, California, sheriff's officials found "badges, weapons, uniforms and law enforcement paraphernalia."
A statement on the group's website cheerily claims to be the "first" police department 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. We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then [sic] an application. This is more then a job [sic] it is an obligation," it reads.
But the organization denies any association to “Sovereign Citizens" -- U.S. residents who consider themselves above state and federal laws, "nor do we condone terrorist activity -- sovereign citizens or clandestine!"
Henry, one of the other two alleged members arrested last week, is identified by the group as the "Chief of Police is Honorable Grand Master." His neighbor, Sherry Elgabalawy, told CBS News that she had seen him wearing police uniforms.
“I always see them with their uniforms, so I thought they were part of any department, I didn’t know it was a fake one,” she said.
This post has been updated with comment from Ford.