Current News

/

ArcaMax

FBI investigating tattooed deputy gangs in Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Maya Lau and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The FBI is investigating a secret society of tattooed deputies in East Los Angeles as well as similar gang-like groups elsewhere within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, multiple people familiar with the inquiry said.

The federal probe follows allegations of beatings and harassment by members of the Banditos, a group of deputies assigned to the Sheriff's East L.A. station who brand themselves with matching tattoos of a skeleton outfitted in a sombrero, bandolier and pistol. The clique's members are accused by other deputies of using gang-like tactics to recruit young Latino deputies into their fold and retaliating against those who rebuff them.

In interviews with several deputies, FBI agents have asked about the inner workings of the Banditos and the group's hierarchy, according to three people with close knowledge of the matter who spoke to The Times on the condition their names not be used because the investigation is ongoing.

In particular, the sources said, agents have been trying to determine whether leaders of the Banditos require or encourage aspiring members to commit criminal acts, such as planting evidence or writing false incident reports, to secure membership in the group.

The agents also have inquired about other groups known to exist in a department that polices the sprawling county and has nearly as many peace officers as the LAPD. They have asked for information about the tattoos and practices of the Spartans and Regulators in the department's Century Station, and the Reapers, who operate out of a station in South Los Angeles, according to the sources.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he could not comment when asked about the FBI probe Wednesday. An FBI spokeswoman also declined to provide any information.

 

The inquiry marks the return of federal law enforcement authorities tasked with digging around in the Sheriff's Department, which has been beset by episodes of corruption and mismanagement in the past several years.

In 2011, the FBI secretly opened an investigation into reports of inmate abuse by deputies working in the county jails. The sweeping probe involving an inmate who served as an undercover informant upended the insular department, sending several deputies to prison for beatings and cover-ups. Former Sheriff Lee Baca, his second-in-command and other senior staff were convicted of conspiring to obstruct the FBI.

The current investigation appears to have been spurred by a group of deputies who in March filed a legal claim against the county accusing sheriff's officials of failing to address a hostile work environment in the East L.A. station. The deputies say Bandito leaders, who are alleged to control key elements of station operations, put others' lives at risk by not sending backup to help on dangerous calls, enforced illegal arrest quotas and carried out other forms of harassment.

The claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, focuses on what deputies say was an unprovoked attack by members of the Banditos during an off-duty party in the early morning hours of Sept. 28 at Kennedy Hall, an event space near the station.

...continued

swipe to next page
 

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus