Employees at Magnolia Private-Security Firm Have Extensive Criminal Histories

Homeowners in Magnolia hired a private security firm, Central Protection, to drive around their neighborhood in Humvees and protect them from property crimes they say the Seattle Police Department has failed to adequately address. Under the umbrella of the Magnolia Patrol Association, homeowners pay about $250 a year for supplementary protection and peace of mind that they have more eyes on the street preventing car prowls, break-ins, drug sales, and other crimes. Other neighborhoods, such as Queen Anne, are poised to follow suit, arguing that the extra private guards keep them safer than police alone. (Magnolia Patrol president Joe Villarino did not respond to questions about Central Protection.)

Earlier this month, however, an incident in which a Central Protection guard named James Toomey pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and detained a convenience-store clerk (a Magnolia resident who had recently started living in his car) called into question whether the private patrols were keeping residents safe, or victimizing innocent bystanders in the war between neighbors and property criminals. After the incident, I reported that Toomey was convicted of a felony, forgery, and violating a domestic-violence protection order, a misdemeanor, related to DV charges by his ex-wife, and KIRO reported that he had been charged with assault for pepper-spraying two teenagers in Tacoma.

Now, a review of court documents from across the Puget Sound region reveals that many (at least seven) of Central Protection’s 24 employees (identified as such by a state Department of Licensing database) have extensive criminal records, including charges of sexual assault, domestic violence, resisting arrest, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The sheer number of drug and alcohol charges, not all of which are included here, is noteworthy because one of the primary concerns expressed by homeowners in the press, on social media, and in public meetings is the fact that people, usually homeless people, are using drugs and alcohol in their neighborhoods—and committing crimes like petty theft to get their next fix. Yet many of the people those homeowners have hired to protect them have significant drug- and alcohol-related criminal histories themselves.

What follows is a partial accounting of the criminal records of current Central Protection employees, many of whom are patrolling Magnolia, keeping it “safe,” today.

Except in the case of Central Protection owner Denis Kurdija, I have kept the individual security guards anonymous because they are not currently involved in any disputes related to their work patrolling neighborhoods on behalf of organizations like the MPA. Kurdija did not return a call for comment.

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Kurdija, the Central Protection owner, was arrested for sexual assault after a former employee at the Belltown nightclub he owns, the Sarajevo Lounge, called 911 late one night in 2013. According to a Seattle police report, Kurdija allegedly invited the woman and a female friend to his apartment near the club, invited her into his bedroom, locked the door and, according to the report “threw her on the be [and] tried to kiss and feel her up.  The alleged victim told police she told Kurdija “no” and tried to leave, but he grabbed her by the throat, “told her to leave and not contact him again, [and] then shoved her away by the throat.” The report goes on to recount a similar scene in the club itself later that  night, when the woman and her friend returned to Sarajevo Lounge to find their friends; at that point, the report says, the woman said Kurdija “grabbed her again by the throat and told security to escort her from the club.” She called police shortly thereafter. (The friend gave a nearly identical account of the night’s events to police.)

Kurdija was arrested for assault and released for $3,000 bail. He pled not guilty and a no-contact order was approved in August, and eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor, which allowed him to stay out on probation as long as he went to treatment (what kind is unspecified in the available court records) and didn’t violate the terms of his probation; although court records indicate he didn’t finish treatment in time and  indeed “fell asleep in class,” he eventually did and his case was finally dismissed last month.

Kurdija pled guilty to carrying a concealed gun without a license in 2010. He was also charged with using drug paraphernalia in Snohomish County in 2008, but that charge was dropped.

But it isn’t just Kurdija who brings a criminal history to Magnolia (and other neighborhood) streets. Many of his employees have records that would likely disqualify them from actual police work, according to Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb, including DUIs, assaults, and allegations of domestic violence.

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One Central Protection employee, whom we’ll call Tom, 38, was in trouble with local law enforcement as a young man as far back as 1997, when he was charged with resisting arrest and being a minor in possession of alcohol, as well as unlawful possession of a weapon, in Lynnwood. (He pled guilty to the latter charge and the former was eventually dismissed). Also that year, he was charged separately with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was caught with pot and, presumably, a pipe again later that year and found guilty of possession. A few years later, in 2001, he was caught driving with a suspended license and paid a fine.

These old charges are relevant because in 2008, when he was about 31, Tom was charged with driving under the influence, which was later reduced to negligent driving. A few years later, in 2013, he was convicted of still another DUI, after an officer saw him weaving from side to side on the road, pulled him over, and “observed the driver’s watery bloodshot eyes as well as the obvious odor of intoxicants and marijuana emanating from within his vehicle,” according to the police report.

Because it was his second offense, Tom was given a suspended year-long sentence, (he served a little over three weeks, according to court records) and was required to wear an ankle bracelet, go through an alcohol assessment and treatment, use an ignition interlock device on his car, and attend a victims’ impact panel. He was put on work release and ordered not to use drugs or alcohol on October 14, 2015.

Tom, according to court records, violated those terms almost immediately, testing positive for cocaine on December 1, 2015, which landed him back in jail. He is now back on patrol for Central Protection.

• Another Central Protection employee—we’ll call him Mark—who is 33, was charged with DUI in 2001 and required to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment as a condition of his release before trial. (He was also charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol, though that charge was dismissed).

After failing to go in for his assessment and then failing to show up in court (he said he was sick), a warrant was issued for his arrest and he bailed out for $1,000. Eventually, he pled guilty to the DUI but then failed to appear again, claiming he had taken the wrong bus. He failed to show up a third time (his attorney said he didn’t know why he wasn’t there), was booked in the Issaquah jail, and bonded out for $5,000 this time. Finally, he was sentenced and required to complete a six-month drug treatment program, go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, use an ignition interlock device, undergo periodic drug and alcohol tests, and pay a $1,355 fine.

Court records indicate that he never did pay the fine, which was still in collections ten years later, when the case was dismissed.

In 2004, Mark was again charged with driving under the influence in Renton, and pled guilty to negligent driving with the condition that he would attend AA meetings and undergo alcohol evaluation.

In 2007, Mark was charged in Kirkland with driving with a suspended license and again repeatedly failed to show up for court, resulting in multiple warrants for his arrest and escalating bail after he failed to show up to serve his 30-day jail sentence.  That verdict required him to install an ignition interlock device in his car, to abstain from alcohol and drugs, to undergo an assessment for alcohol dependence, and other conditions, which he did  not do.  Eventually, he served some jail time, agreed to go through a 12-month treatment program and attend AA meetings, but also failed repeatedly to comply with those requirement, according to Kirkland court records. He also failed again, repeatedly, to show up in court, boosting his bail at one point to $15,000—an unusually high bail for a DUI case. That case was finally closed in 2013 after Mark completed his required jail time.

In the meantime, however,, in 2012, Mark had been jailed again in Renton for failing to have the required ignition interlock device and for driving with a suspended license (which had been suspended two years earlier for unpaid tickets) after causing an accident and leaving the scene; Mark was also ticketed for following too closely and for having no insurance.

• A different Central Protection employee, whom I’ll call Arthur, 45, was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault and issued a no-contact order in 1998; that case was dismissed when the woman who accused Arthur of domestic violence declined to testify against him and asked to have the order withdrawn (a relatively common occurrence in domestic violence cases when the defendant and the accuser are in an ongoing relationship). Since then, his record has been relatively clean except for traffic violations.

• Another Central Protection employee, Dan, 27, was arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence while speeding, and pled guilty to reckless driving in 2011. As a condition of his plea, his license was suspended, and he was subsequently charged with driving with a suspended license. In a separate case in Kitsap County for which most records have been destroyed, he was charged with malicious mischief in 2011 and pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge.

• Finally, yet another Central Protection employee, Todd, 24, was the subject of a sexual-assault protection order by an ex-girlfriend, who was 14 at the time (Todd was 18) and claimed that Todd was harassing her and her family and would not leave her alone. In the request for the order, which was granted after a Snohomish County Superior Court judge determined that “by a preponderance of the evidence that a sexual assault has occurred,” the parents said they had ordered the girl not to see the older teenager because of the “age gap and his academic, legal … history [ellipsis in original]” and that he had manipulated her emotionally and given her an STD. In statements supporting the protection order, the girl’s friends described him as “dangerous,” threatening, and verbally abusive.

Also in 2011, Todd was charged with resisting arrest and with being a minor in possession of alcohol—specifically, a bottle of vodka he had set down on the pavement outside a large party in Marysville.

This is by no means a comprehensive account of the criminal records of all Central Protection employees. A few employees were hard to identify in court records because they have common names, and many records were no longer available or are still being produced through the public-records process. Cumulatively, though, the extensive criminal records of some employees of this private security firm are noteworthy and could give some residents of Magnolia, as well as other neighborhoods that are thinking about hiring private security guards to “supplement” protection by Seattle police, pause. Perhaps the $250,000 Magnolia residents reportedly spend on their private security force would be better spent funding shelter and services for the homeless population in their neighborhood.

Asked about SPD’s own hiring requirements and background-check process, SPD’s Whitcomb says new police hires go through a “meticulous” background check that takes “weeks, sometimes longer, and that is because we want to make sure we are getting the best candidates possible.” SPD hiring standards automatically disqualify any applicant who has gotten a DUI within the past five years, any felony conviction, or any domestic-violence conviction, but Whitcomb says the department can also exclude candidates for other factors, such as multiple DUIs that are more than five years in the past.

“When we’re talking about criminal history, it doesn’t have to be a conviction,” Whitcomb says. “If someone is involved in a number of different events but not convicted or not arrested, these are things that will be weighed as they seek employment with us. … With domestic violence, let’s say it wasn’t a conviction but it resulted in an arrest and perhaps charged, that would be scrutinized closely.” Having two or three DUIs on your record, no matter how long ago, “would probably be a disqualifier” as well, Whitcomb says.

Whitcomb says he can’t comment on the hiring practices of a separate business, but adds that, in general, “Anyone who is conducting security in the city does have to understand that the law applies to everyone. There’s no special dispensation for uniformed security.”

18 thoughts on “Employees at Magnolia Private-Security Firm Have Extensive Criminal Histories

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  3. I personally know one of the security guards whose past you bring up. How you portrayed him and the “charges” against him are slanted to prove your story snd are not at all as you wrote. You should fact check before you persecute and enlist others to judge. This particular guard is not a menace as you make them all out to sound. He grew up in Magnolia, has lived there many years, worked in the village and other places in the area, volunteered at the Community Center to coach kids, and has good relationships with the people in the community. He has a job to do and works hard to protect the people in the community, which incidentally they hired the company which he works for to do!

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    • Angel, I didn’t “portray” anyone any way, and in fact didn’t use names or identifying details so as to make the piece simply about the charges (charges, not “charges” with scare quotes, as all of my records are court documents in which charges, and often multiple charges, were filed.) I don’t doubt that someone can volunteer at a community center and do other good things and also commit crimes that might be disqualifying for a job at SPD or, potentially, at other security firms that do more stringent background checks.

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    • Hi, Angel. My names Andrew. I don’t know that we’ve met, but I’m the person who works in the Village that was pepper sprayed last month.

      I spoke with Robbie and he isn’t mentioned in this article. (No offense, just fact checking.) Robbie also doesn’t patrol in Magnolia for Central Protection.

      I suggested it might not be a bad idea, but he’s only interested in 9 to 5 hours watching over the Seattle Times building downtown that’s currently occupied by homeless. Apparently he doesn’t interact, only documents.

      But anyway, if Central Protection is still patrolling, I would assume the guard they’re using is Solomon Kale, who I met once last year and my impression of him was favorable.

      I gathered this simply through his Facebook profile page where he recently updated his cover photo with an image taken on Magnolia Blvd.

      Interestingly, according to the DOL database, outside of the two principal owners of Central Protection, Kale is the only guard they employ who’s licensed by the state to carry a firearm while working.

      I’m just bringing that up because, according to Robbie, the only time he worked with Toomey, Toomey was armed.

      Toomey was also armed with a semi automatic pistol on March 2nd when he decided he was going harrass, assault and steal from me.

      And so, simply carrying a firearm on that morning was at the very least unlawful, if not outright criminal.

      Other guards who’ve previously been in Magnolia have also been armed and out of all of them, only Kale is licensed.

      I know this because they would loiter around my places of work. I’ve also “fact checked” this with other neighborhood employees, who discribed them as “fully armed” & none of them have licenses.

      Here’s a link to the DOL database, if you want to check it out:

      https://fortress.wa.gov/dol/dolprod/bpdLicenseQuery/venRelatedRecords.aspx?RefID=529637

      But don’t worry, seriously, because all of this has been reported to investigators with local and state agencies.

      Basically, the “Magnolia Patrol Association” was so concerned about “crime” they brought violence into the neighborhood & the end result was who earns an honest living was attacked.

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    • “Current Central Protection employees, many of whom are patrolling Magnolia.” That is a fact, unless the description of this service provided on the MPA’s website is outdated or wrong and only one or two people are on patrol, which would work out to extremely minimal part-time security coverage. Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say that many (or, if you prefer, numerous) CP employees are indeed patrolling Magnolia.

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      • Per the MPA website, “MPA has contracted with CP for four to seven hour patrol shifts (random) for four to six days per week.”

        Per the shift reports provided to subscribers, there is only one CP employee (James Toomey) who patrols Magnolia.

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      • Hi, Jill. I’m not sure the Magnolia Patrol Association is honest with it’s subscribers.

        For the longest time they were soliciting donations to hire off duty Police Officers.

        Then, last December the MPA announced on their blog that they were “temporarly” hiring security guards because off duty Officers were in “high demand” because of the holidays.

        MPA’s next wonder blog maneuver was to post statistics from December claiming that crime was down, therefore Central Protection must be a success, which is backwards logic.

        Last December was also the rainiest December on record, therefore more sound logic could suggest that criminals don’t like rain.

        MPA then foisted the concept that “private security” was better than hiring off duty Officers because “private security” didn’t have the same Constitutional restraints. Offering as a reference a video “kung fu” blogger off YouTube.

        Anyway, don’t know if you subscribed to the MPA, but it would be nice to know if Joe Villarino was aware Toomey was/is unlicensed to carry a firearm while working. And if so, why was Toomey armed?

        Also, I talked to Robbie Zimmerman, who also works for Central Protection who said, “Yeah, they, umm, they put him somewhere else.”

        So, I don’t know what people are being told, but the entire handling of the situation from the beginning seems shady to me.

        There’s a scene in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” where Clark Griswold has already paid for a really nice car, but the dealership rolls out the “Family Truckster” instead.

        That’s the only thing that I can think of as comparable. LOL. Central Protection is the Family Truckster. –>

        The MPA also disabled their blog link to “Private Security vs. Law Enforcement”, but there is a web archive at this link of the page from last March. The Kung Fu YouTube video reference is #4.

        http://web.archive.org/web/20160310025048/http://www.magnoliapatrol.org/private-security-vs-public-law-enforcement/

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  4. Thanks for the background info on the Central Protection employees. Kinda frustrating as I had hoped to see the Magnolia Patrol as a positive step for the situation in Magnolia. And please don’t count me in with the “hysterical” Magnolia-ites all worked up by Nextdoor. In the past year, there have been 4 residential burglaries and 2 vehicle burglaries within a half block of my house. Might have been more, those are just the ones I heard about directly (not via Nextdoor).

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    • Within a half block constitutes no more than three or four houses away from your residence.

      Can you provide Case Numbers regarding what you’re basically referring to as “home invasions” aka: Burglaries, or no?

      If no, I very much don’t believe you, “Mike”.

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      • Andrew,

        First, I’m sorry to hear about your recent confrontation with Central Protection. Second, thanks for the comments on Central Protection employees and the unlicensed carrying of firearms.

        I wasn’t happy with the decision to use “rent-a-cops” instead of SPD officers. I’m well aware of the problems that can be associated with individuals seeking this type of employment and the lessened restraints on their behavior. Personally, I’d prefer the city hire the number of officers it needs and every neighborhood get the service it deserves.

        As to the crimes in my immediate neighborhood, I apologize, the furthest was 5 houses away. I’d obviously have no cause for concern if they were all at the other end of the block.

        Having retired from a 28 year career in the criminal justice system, I probably have a bit more realistic and informed take on crime and less of a tendency to get rattled or distraught in it’s presence. I do know the difference between a “home invasion” and a residential burglary. These were residential burglaries and not residential robberies. Many do confuse the two. If you’d like more clarification on this topic let me know. I can offer some other perspectives on the topic having interviewed hundreds of convicted criminals and victims in the course of my work.

        Yep, I probably can look up the case numbers, but I really don’t feel inclined to do so. It’s not that I don’t care whether you believe me or not, but I don’t particularly want to put myself on the map.

        I stand by my statement.

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  5. This whole fiasco makes me embarrassed to admit I’ve been a Magnolia resident for ten years.

    About a month ago one of those obnoxious Humvees was blocking a major thoroughfare while they were poking around a motor home parked on the side of the road. I took photos and honked at them.

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  6. This is an outrage. The only people who deserve second, third and fourth chances are the homeless and those who live in their vehicles.

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  7. This is not at all surprising. Private security tends to attract the type of people that like the ego boost that comes from enforcement aspect of police work but couldn’t hack it in a formal law enforcement position because they lack the rest of the attributes required to make a good cop – discernment, judgement and interpersonal skills. Certainly not the kinds of people I’d want to invite into my neighborhood, much less pay to be there.

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  8. I couldn’t plow through the rap sheets but are there employees there who aren’t on this list?
    Looks like the barrel and apples are pre-rotted.

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    • Yes – you can go to the DOL and search for Central Protection (under “security guards”) to find a complete list of licensed guards working there. You’ll see that there are significantly more guards than the half-dozen or so whose records I refer to in my post.

      Like

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