Sheriff talks about Vegas incident

San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos

Daily Post Staff Writer
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos opened up yesterday (May 1) about being detained and released during an FBI raid of a Las Vegas brothel in 2007, an episode his opponent in the June 5 primary is emphasizing on the campaign trail.

“I refuse to apologize for something I didn’t do,” Bolanos told the Post in an interview.

“Even if it would put everything behind me and I would not have to answer to it again, I wouldn’t do it. I didn’t do anything wrong,” Bolanos said.

Then-sheriff Greg Munks and Bolanos, who was the undersheriff, were detained at a brothel two-miles west of the Las Vegas strip on April 21, 2007. The two were in Las Vegas for the weekend to participate in a law enforcement run, the Baker to Vegas Relay. After the raid, Bolanos told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that Munks was sore after the run and he asked a limo driver to take them to a massage parlor. While prostitution is legal in some Nevada counties, it is illegal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located.

When they got back to San Mateo County on April 24, 2007, Munks said he thought they were visiting a “legitimate business” and he apologized to his family, the sheriff’s office and the people of the county, but he denied breaking any laws. Both have maintained that Bolanos never went inside of the establishment.
According to news reports at the time, 3,500 Ecstasy pills and $25,000 were confiscated from the bordello.

On March 13 of this year, San Mateo resident Mark DePaula, who has been investigating the Las Vegas incident, addressed the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors with information he received about the raid from the FBI through a Freedom of Information Request. DePaula said there was at least one minor in the brothel. Following DePaula’s March 13 address, Deputy Mark Melville, Bolanos’ opponent in the June 5 primary, picked up the theme, using the raid’s code name, Operation Dollhouse.

Bolanos, 59, told the Post yesterday he never went into the house that was raided.

“I was detained and released and no charges,” Bolanos said.

Alluding to the constant rumors about the Las Vegas episode, Bolanos said yesterday, “It’s been 11 years which is a longer sentence than someone committing a robbery.”

Deputy Mark Melville

Melville says Bolanos has “too much baggage” and needs to come clean about the brothel bust.

Melville, 61, has said he is running in order to have a contested sheriff’s race, with two candidates on the ballot, which he says has not happened since now county supervisor Don Horsley was elected in 1993, after sheriff Leonard Cardoza retired.

Bolanos appointed sheriff

On Nov. 5, 2015, Munks announced that he would not be running for re-election come 2018. On the same day, Bolanos announced he would be running for sheriff.
But on July 1, 2016, Munks announced he was ending his term early due to a heart condition. Bolanos was appointed by the board of supervisors 11 days later in a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Dave Pine and Carole Groom dissenting.

Before he was appointed sheriff, Bolanos had been Munks’ undersheriff since 2007. Prior to that he was police chief in Redwood City for 12 years. He also worked in the Palo Alto and Salinas police departments.

Melville has been a deputy for nine years. Prior to that he was a councilman in the Merced County town of Gustine from 2002 to 2006. He was Gustine’s city manager and police chief and later was the city manager of Livingston, also in Merced County. Livingston’s population is 13,058 and Gustine’s is 5,520.

Cooperation with ICE

Bolanos and Melville both say the sheriff’s department should not be used to enforce federal immigration law but Melville said he would be less cooperative with ICE.

Currently, Bolanos’ policy for dealing with ICE is compliant with the bill that would make California essentially a “sanctuary state.” Deputies do not ask anyone about their immigration status, nor do they report people to ICE. The Sheriff’s Office only hands off criminals to ICE if they are considered “violent and serious” offenders, such as a murderer or rapist.

Inmates’ anticipated release dates are posted on the county’s inmate search engine, which can be accessed by anyone, potentially including ICE.

But Melville says he would do away with posting the discharge date of an inmate and there would be no arrangements made between ICE and the Sheriff’s Office to
hand over immigrants.

Body-worn cameras

Both Melville and Bolanos see bodyworn cameras as a needed tool in the department, which currently lacks the devices.

Bolanos said he had a report estimating the annual costs of operating cameras at $1.1 million ready for the board of supervisors to review. But he withdrew it after County Manager John Maltbie suggested the Sheriff’s Office pay for those annual maintenance and data-management costs out of its reserves, he said. Bolanos is pushing to have the county manager pay the costs.

The sheriff’s department would need to order around 500 cameras in order to outfit both patrol officers and those stationed in the jail. Bolanos said while he understands it’s expensive, since the $1.1 million would be an ongoing cost, it shouldn’t be something paid for with one-time funds.

The sheriff’s reserves, which he estimates are at $16 million, are amassed through savings the department makes, such as when a position is vacant, but money is allocated in the budget to fund it. Melville says the fact that the office is sitting on $16 million and hasn’t bought the cameras yet is “ridiculous.”

Jail visitations

Neither candidate is thrilled with the fact that there is no face-to-face visitation at the new county jail on Maple Street in Redwood City. Melville said it’s “mind-boggling” there’s no such interaction between inmates and their loved ones at the jail, especially since there are visiting rooms in the old jail.

Bolanos said he doesn’t agree with the lack of in-person visitations at the new jail, which is why the facility is being renovated to include six in-person visiting rooms. But the current video visitation is useful for inmates’ families who may not have the means to get to

Redwood City to visit, Bolanos said.


  1. Bolanos didn’t really clear things up. What were they thinking when they arrived at that place? As experienced law enforcement officers didn’t they know that wasn’t a “legitimate business”? How were they able to avoid being charged? How many times have they done something like this before but weren’t caught? If Bolanos did nothing wrong, why isn’t he willing to talk about it today? Would he hire somebody as a deputy with an incident like this in his past? You can’t get hired as a cop with something like that on your record, so why should we elect him as sheriff? If he did nothing wrong, why not take a polygraph to confirm that? New hires have to take polygraphs, so what would his problem be? With an incident like this on his record, what other law enforcement agency would hire him?

    • There is no record it would be like you where in a building well it was being raided you sent charged no record

  2. I’m annoyed that Bolanos would stall the body cameras when he has the means to make it happen. I heard him speak at the candidate forum. He speaks about being all about addressing the issues, but when we analyze the reality of his actions, he’s just blowing smoke like these body cameras. He made the $16 million surplus a huge deal, but this critically important tool for public safety (and officer safety or disproving those “majority of allegations against law enforcement being false” claims Bolanos made, you think he would’ve made them a priority).

    He’ll probably roll out and fit an officer or two with one and make a big deal about it on facebook or the website he talks about so it looks like he’s doing something. But, I’ve heard enough and seen enough to see that there’s some major issues in the department that have happened over the last many years that are being glossed over in the hope that the public forgets or doesn’t pay attention.

    It’s definitely a time for a change!

  3. The news stories about Operation Dollhouse says that none of the Johns found at the brothels were arrested. The women were released as well. Bolanos doesn’t mention that the only people who were arrested were the men who had trafficked the women. That was the point of the sting. Doesn’t mean that Bolanos didn’t do something wrong. The tv news reports show a filthy sordid house with nothing in it. No sign to advertise a massage. Bolanos is a coward for not manning up and speaking the truth to his unforgivable act- frequenting a place that had among the trafficked women- MINORS. You can’t have a Sheriff who has such disdain for the plight of trafficked girls

  4. Failure to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement isn’t just wrong, it’s evil. It’s an assault on legal, law-abiding citizens using politically correct bureaucratic subversion. Every crime committeed by an illegal alien in San Mateo County rests on the shoulders of Carlo Bolanos and this other character should he win. They’re more worried about visitation rooms in jails than your safety!

    • Melville addressed his stance on ICE and immigration at the candidate forum. His stance is that everyone is walked out the front door after serving a sentence, no release date publishing, etc. and none of this BS about raiding work sites and crap in cooperation with the feds either.

      Bolanos…he says he supports immigrants, except hes all about cooperating with ICE, putting up release dates, and facilitated having officers escort ICE agents at one point.

  5. San Mateo voters deserve a sheriff who answers all questions about a shady visit to a dark and dirty brothel where there were trafficked girls. Bolanos won’t. Enough said.

  6. In this article there was no mention of the video Mark DePaula received from the FBI show Bolanos IN the brothel. It also didn’t mention that EVERYONE detained in Operation Dollhouse had to be released because Munks and Bolanos was released. There’s another “Obstruction of Justice”.

    Time to shut down “Club Bolanos” that our tax money has been financing.

  7. I noticed that too. Is it perhaps county-wide policy that current police chiefs cannot endorse or is that they just don’t like him? San Mateo Chief Susan Manheimer’s not on the list

  8. In regards to the video visitation, I have spoken with many individuals and groups that are totally against this. It is incredibly dehumanizing and harmful to families and community.
    I hope the Sheriff will make sure that the Maguire Facility doesn’t get rid of the in-person visits that they have now.

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