Jury Convicts Six L.A. Sheriff’s Deputies of Stealing Drug Cash
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Six deputies were convicted Monday of conspiring to steal cash from suspected drug dealers in one of the worst scandals in the history of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
A seventh deputy was convicted of money laundering, but the jury deadlocked on whether to convict him of conspiracy. The panel also deadlocked on numerous other charges against all the lawmen.
The seven deputies, all former members of an elite narcotics unit in the nation’s most populous county, were charged with stealing $1.4 million in drug cash. The case caused embarrassment and a major shakeup in the department.
Prosecutors portrayed the defendants as corrupt individuals who abused the public trust and showed evidence that they stashed thousands of dollars in shoe boxes and bought boats, homes, cars and vacations and made numerous other purchases beyond their $40,000 to $60,000 salaries. They dismissed the defendants’ arguments that they bought the items with cash earned through gambling, inheritance or baby-sitting.
The defense criticized the prosecution’s reliance on testimony by drug suspects and the deputies’ ex-boss, former Sgt. Roger Sobel, who testified as part of a plea agreement.
The deputies were part of a narcotics team called Major Violators Crew II, which made some of the department’s biggest cocaine and money seizures.
Authorities accused the men of seizing drug cash during raids, then obtaining statements from alleged traffickers disowning the cash. The deputies then allegedly stole a substantial portion of the money and divided it among themselves.
The defense said the deputies were victims of their former boss, Sobel, who pleaded guilty in the case and testified about alleged money skimming operations.
The trial lasted seven weeks and the federal jury deliberated just over six days before reaching its verdicts. U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie declared a mistrial on the deadlocked counts.
″I’m sure this jury did the best job they could,″ said one of the seven, Deputy James R. Bauder. ″But we’re disappointed.″
″The verdicts handed down today are not an occasion to celebrate,″ Sheriff Sherman Block said Monday. ″They are not a victory. They are the just conclusion to the unlawful actions of a few who sought to hide their crimes behind a badge of honor.″
The jury concluded that six of the deputies stole $48,000 in a 1989 incident captured by the FBI on videotape. But the panel deadlocked on other charges and reached not-guilty verdicts on charges related to the theft of $527,000 by three deputies.
Convicted of conspiracy and stealing funds earmarked for the Sheriff’s Department were Bauder, Daniel Garner, Terrell Amers, Eufrasio Cortez, John Dickenson and Ronald Daub. The jury also convicted Garner, Amers, Bauder, Cortez and Daub of filing false tax returns.
A seventh deputy, Macario Duran, was convicted of structuring cash transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements of transactions of $10,000 or more.
Cortez and Daub also were convicted of money laundering and structuring transactions. Cortez also was convicted of interstate transportation of unlawfully gained money.
The deputies remained free on bail.