Federal Lawsuit Targets Vicious Gang Composed Of... Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies

from the keeping-the-crime-rate-down-by-hiring-criminals dept

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is a law enforcement agency known mainly for its criminals. Yes, it oversees the largest jail system in the world, but even that can't hold all the criminals the LASD associates with. The Department hires (and re-hires) criminals to staff itself. It has 300 employees on the LA District Attorney's "Brady list" -- the list of officers prosecutors feel are too untrustworthy to testify in court due to past misconduct and lying.

For an entity that prides itself on policing gang activity in East LA, the Department has shown no similar willingness to police itself. The Department has been the home to several gangs over the years, composed of deputies and jailers willing to break the law in order to enforce the law.

The LASD has rolled out of one federal investigation and right into another one. Former Sheriff Lee Baca ran a corrupt jail system presided over by a racist deputy gang that hid an FBI informant from his federal handlers and allowed (another) white supremacist gang to run the prison. Deputies were so sure they were untouchable they openly threatened FBI agents. Seven convicted deputies later, Sheriff Baca -- himself convicted of obstructing an investigation -- was out of a job.

You'd think a change in management would have resulted in some internal housecleaning. It didn't. Baca's replacement, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, did nothing while pretending to do something. Taking credit for employee turnover he had almost nothing to do with, Villanueva claimed he had rid the department of its toxic deputy "gangs."

A recently-filed lawsuit says otherwise. It also says the LASD protects it most violent and racist members, many of whom belong to a deputies' gang known as the "Banditos." Ali Winston of The Appeal reports on the good cops who are hoping to take down the department's many bad cops.

A 63-page civil lawsuit, filed on Sept. 18 in California Superior Court, alleges that the gang’s power stems from its close ties to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was elected in 2018 on the promise to “reform, rebuild and restore” the scandal-plagued department. Since then, however, disillusionment with Villaneuva has grown over several of his decisions, including deactivating misconduct investigations. In July, Los Angeles Magazine dubbed him “the Donald Trump of L.A. Law Enforcement.” And the eight deputies allege in their complaint that Villanueva protects the Banditos and other deputy gangs, even rehiring deputies fired for misconduct.  

According to the lawsuit, the approximately 90-member Banditos maintain a “stranglehold” on the unincorporated communities east of downtown through a reign of unlawful policing, violence, and intimidation from their base at the East Los Angeles station. Members sport tattoos featuring a pistol-wielding, sombrero and bandolier-wearing skeleton with a thick mustache and a unique number for each member.

The tattoos should make the Doe defendants a bit easier to identify. Sheriff Villanueva and a handful of Bandito members are listed as defendants in the lawsuit [PDF], along with an unknown number of unnamed Banditos. It paints a very vivid picture of what happens to deputies who cross LASD's most powerful clique.

Commencing in 2016, the Defendants harassed the Plaintiffs based on their race and ethnicity. In 2017, the Defendants began retaliating against the Plaintiffs by withholding back up on dangerous calls. By 2018, the atmosphere at the East Los Angeles Station had become so hostile, the two veteran Plaintiffs, Deputies Zaredini and Granados, blew the whistle on the Banditos gang, and reported it to the Defendant County. However, instead of properly investigating the matter and protecting its deputy employees, the County informed the Banditos that the Plaintiffs had blown the whistle on them. Subsequently, the incredibly hostile environment became unbearable as the Banditos stepped up its retaliation against the Plaintiffs, and repeatedly withheld back up on dangerous calls.

And, as if creating a dangerous and hostile workplace wasn't enough, the Banditos decided to physically assault the deputies they believed were blowing the whistle.

On September 29, 2018, at Kennedy Hall, the Defendants came to a department party and savagely attacked the young Latino Plaintiffs. Unprovoked, the Defendants pushed, hit, kicked, and stomped on the Plaintiffs, punching one of them unconscious and chocking and strangling another one unconscious three times. After the attacks, the County failed to take steps to protect the deputies and end the hostile work environment.

The lawsuit points out internal gangs have been a problem for years, dating back to the 1960s. The department has faced multiple investigations by city and state authorities and has ignored every finding, recommendation, and order handed down. Deputy gang members went unpunished. One -- Paul Tanaka -- was even promoted to undersheriff. Like Baca, Tanaka was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation.

The gangs continue their 50-year run at the LASD with the chief's tacit approval. And his explicit approval. Sheriff Villaneuva secured the endorsement of the local union by promising consequence-free employment for all deputies.

What’s worse is Sheriff Villanueva, when he was a candidate for the position, won the support of ALADS, the peace officer’s union, while pledging to rehire every single deputy of the 196 fired for wrongful conduct over the last 4 years. This was regardless of offences committed by the disgraced deputies, be it excessive force, false imprisonment, filing false police reports, dishonesty, planting evidence, domestic violence, etc.

The lawsuit accuses LASD brass of covering up severe wrongdoing by Banditos, including a deputy's killing of two children with her police vehicle when she ran a red light and collided with another car. In another case, Bandito leader Rafael Munoz allegedly ran over an elderly immigrant. This was handled by other Banditos who arrested and deported the immigrant so he would be unable to press charges against Munoz.

This is only the tip of a very sordid iceberg. The lawsuit traces the history of the gang and its actions, which include falsifying evidence and narrative to support unconstitutional arrests, stealing property from arrestees and inmates, threatening members of the public and other deputies with physical retaliation, as well as harassing deputies who choose not to become members of the clique. This harassment included overloading deputies with calls at the end of the shift and refusing to provide backup.

If this lawsuit results in an overhaul of the LASD, it will be the first time this has happened. The plaintiffs, however, likely know that a ruling in their favor may result in no change at all. The LASD has ignored a number of outside authorities over the years and it's unlikely to change its ways just because this time it's a federal court. But the positive side effect is further outing of the LASD's malignant internal culture, which increases the chance citizens' accusations of misconduct and excessive force will be heard and believed.

Filed Under: alex vllanueva, banditos, gangs, lee baca, los angeles, los angeles county sheriff's department


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 2:00pm

    Holy shit... No wonder LEOs see the public as the enemy. If they themselves are each others' enemies the the public must be even lower on the totem pole.

    What is the fix for this, short of firing/jailing every last one of them and starting over?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 2:42pm

      Re:

      That wouldn't be the fix, that would be the start to the fix. A full fix at this point would basically require tearing down the police system(and parts of the legal system) and rebuilding from the ground up, given every level has become filled with rot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 2:59pm

    What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't work?

    If this lawsuit results in an overhaul of the LASD, it will be the first time this has happened. The plaintiffs, however, likely know that a ruling in their favor may result in no change at all. The LASD has ignored a number of outside authorities over the years and it's unlikely to change its ways just because this time it's a federal court.

    Easy solution to that: Stop. Asking.

    Stop asking them to behave better.
    Stop asking them to their investigate their own and hold their own accountable.
    Stop asking them to clean up their own act.

    Have an outside, independent group empowered and willing to use the power to investigate, apply punishments for non-compliance, and bring appropriate charges go through the lot and bring the hammer down as needed, weeding out what seems to be systemic and long entrenched blatant corruption.

    Corruption like this is able to flourish because those that can prevent and/or stop it utterly lack the willingness to do so, instead all-too-happy to pretend that if they just ask the badge wearing criminals nicely enough that said criminals will shape up and stop being a disgrace to their badge and uniform, making all those that wear it look bad in turn.

    Stop asking, start telling, and if that means dragging a bunch of people with badges into court, fining if not throwing them in prison for years if not decades for their actions so be it, that's the price that will need to be paid for leaving the corruption unchecked for so long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 3:33pm

      Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't work?

      They honestly need to use the California National Guard at this point. The entire department is clearly ignoring the law and needs to be physically removed with superior forces.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 3:54pm

        Re: Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't work?

        The State Police might do, but there's no telling how far the rot has spread. Try the State Police, and that will tell you if it's spread that far.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 6:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't w

          By 2018, the atmosphere at the East Los Angeles Station had become so hostile, the two veteran Plaintiffs, Deputies Zaredini and Granados, blew the whistle on the Banditos gang, and reported it to the Defendant County. However, instead of properly investigating the matter and protecting its deputy employees, the County informed the Banditos that the Plaintiffs had blown the whistle on them.

          Given the county has already shown itself to be compromised it would not be surprising if higher levels were similarly corrupt. Can't start handing out punishments to people with badges after all, never know when you might need someone to return the favor and 'overlook' your actions down the line...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Paul B, 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:55pm

        Re: Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't work?

        You need the governor involved at this point, He needs motivation from the city's insurance or from a federal agency basically telling them to shape up or be shut down.

        Insurance you ask? Its already been the most effective way to solve small and mid size law enforcement agencies by simply declining to insure them.

        https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/insurance-companies-police/529833/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 8:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't w

          Imagine that, once they face the possibility that someone else might not pick up the check they suddenly find the motivation to care about how they and those around them act...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 25 Oct 2019 @ 12:06pm

          Re: Re: Re: What do you mean 'pretty please stop that' doesn't w

          You need the governor involved at this point,

          Governor Covergirl is too busy trying to pass health care and college scholarships and free attorneys for illegal aliens, and superseding local zoning laws to ensure everyone has a homeless encampment within 100 yards of their neighborhood to bother with cleaning up a local sheriff department.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zauberin Paracelsus (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 4:11pm

    Villanueva's name is similar to the word "villain". Funny coincidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      R/O/G/S, 19 Nov 2019 @ 11:42pm

      Re: Villanueva

      It translates to “new villa”, and I dont think that stereotypes and tropes about peoples ethnic names will help anything.

      And notice how Latinx people are now being categorized as “white supremacists.”

      ADLification in action.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 24 Oct 2019 @ 5:09pm

    Gee I wonder why he was nicknamed the Trump of the lasd. Not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 6:18pm

    The LASD is just being more honest then the rest of the law enforcement community.

    Pretty much every agency is comprised of members who view their own as more important than outsiders; they enforce their own version of their rules; don't tolerate any disrespect from those outside their group; are willing to use force to protect their own at the expense of others.

    This is different than a gang how?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 25 Oct 2019 @ 12:03pm

    Baca-McDonald-Villanueva

    Baca's replacement, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, did nothing while pretending to do something.

    Villanueva isn't Baca's replacement. Robert McDonald was Baca's replacement, and he was making good progress in ridding the department of these criminals in uniform. McDonald was responsible for most of the 200 firings mentioned in the article. The ones Villanueva pledged to re-hire.

    Villanueva ousted McDonald in a last-minute surprise victory on election night. Up until that day, polling indicated McDonald was the clear winner. Then Villanueva came racing from behind in the final hours of the election and won due to a change in California law that now allows 'ballot harvesting' by activist groups rather than just family members as it used to be. And surprise, surprise-- the organized ballot harvesting effort by pro-illegal immigrant anti-law enforcement activist groups put Villanueva into office, where he immediately started doing whatever those groups told him to do, to include rehiring corrupt cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R/O/G/S, 19 Nov 2019 @ 11:06pm

    ...its called gang stalking

    Corrupt gangs in policing and intelligence and its trickle down into community policing are at the centerpiece of what is called organized gang stalking (OGS) all across America

    Shitbag journo Mike McPhate ran an infamous and now discredited feature in the NYT back in 2016 “They See Gangs of Stalkers”, discrediting victims of OGS, and running police narrative that “targeted individuals” are delusional.

    Later, he wrote about this exact topic, long after I and a few others tore him a new bunghole to compliment his face-anus.

    And, here, after three years, we see this police corruption, and its intimidation and buzarre online/offline discrediting narratives finally brought to light.

    In LA, these guys,work with actual gang members, and community polucing assets from many state employee pools, retired cops,and military, and literally stalk people in bizarre ways, even killing them (as the Bandidos are known for).

    Beyond ALPRs, and Fusion Center dossieres, there also appears to be a database where gang stalking cops are able to stalk, harrass, and target people interstate, though no one has identified it yet.

    Stay Tuned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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