Visalia cop charged with forgery, perjury in vehicle buys

A Visalia police officer has been charged with forgery and perjury in connection with vehicle transactions following an investigation by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Jacob Heaton, 40, who has been a Visalia cop for at least 10 years, was charged last week by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. He was arraigned and released on his own recognizance, and is now on paid administrative leave.

Visalia Sgt. Damon Maurice called the incident “an unfortunate situation.”

The charges appear to involve buying and selling cars while off duty.

In May 2013, Heaton bought a 2005 Jeep but told the DMV he paid only $500 for it and committed perjury in doing so, according to charges filed last week.

In February 2012, he allegedly filed a forged document for official recording, the complaint said.

Both are felonies and Heaton could be sentenced to four years and 8 months in custody. The District Attorney’s Office said it may seek an aggravated sentence.

Misdemeanor charges included forging a car registration for a 1948 Jeep and passing it off as the real thing, and doing the same for a 1997 Jeep Cherokee and a 1998 Jeep Cherokee.

In December 2013, he gave a false name in a DMV application for a duplicate title, which came to light in May when a DMV investigator learned he had paid $4,000 for the car but told the DMV he paid only $700.

In Oct. 2013, he gave a false name when seeking a duplicate title for another car, for which he also paid $4,000 but reported paying only $700.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold