Two former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have been charged after allegedly planting firearms at a South Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary to justify making an arrest, the DA’s office announced Wednesday.
Jesus Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32, were charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and peace officer altering evidence. Martinez was also charged with two counts of perjury and one count of filing a false report.
They were arrested Friday and released on $50,000 bail each. Their arraignment was set for June 17, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The two deputies had been “separated from” their jobs in February 2013 “due to an administrative investigation where appropriate administrative action was taken,” the Sheriff’s Department stated in a brief news release on the charges Wednesday afternoon.
Martinez was a 15-year veteran of the Department and Paez was an 7-year veteran, the release stated.
The charges against them were filed amid an ongoing federal investigation into alleged inmate abuse at county jails that several Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials are accused of trying to obstruct.
The two deputies allegedly wrote in a report that Martinez witnessed Antonio Rhodes in August 2011 complete a “hand-to-hand narcotics transaction and reach for a firearm in his front shorts pocket area,” the criminal complaint against the deputies stated.
Martinez witnessed the supposed drug deal while the deputies were on patrol on West 84th Place in Los Angeles, according a news release from the DA’s office. It was not immediately clear why the deputies were patrolling in the city of Los Angeles, which is policed by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, said she could not provide details on the exact location of the dispensary, and a call to the prosecutor was not immediately returned.
KTLA was later able to confirm with police that the incident occurred at Superior Herbal Health at 1011 West 84th Place in South L.A.
Martinez allegedly falsely stated he followed one “suspect” inside a medical marijuana dispensary and found a “discarded firearm near a trash bin and another firearm on top of a desk next to ecstasy pills,” according to the DA’s office.
But, according to the complaint, Paez had crawled under a desk to shut off a video surveillance system in the location before planting two handguns on top of a desk and withdrawing one from a drawer and placing it on a chair. Martinez allegedly shut off the electricity.
Rhodes was falsely arrested for possessing an unregistered firearm, and Johnny Yang was falsely arrested for possessing ecstasy pills in the presence of a firearm, according to the complaint.
The deputies did not obtain a search warrant before entering the dispensary, the complaint states.
Yang entered a plea of no contest and was sentenced April 27, 2012, to a year in jail based on the case filed by Paez and Martinez, Robison said. Prosecutors were trying to contact Yang’s attorney, Robison confirmed in an email when asked about what was originally reported by the Los Angeles Times.
A Sheriff’s Department internal investigation into the case in 2012 discovered the video taken from the dispensary that was inconsistent with Martinez’s and Paez’s reports, according to the DA’s office.
The two men were referred to as “former deputies” by the DA’s office. It was not immediately clear when they left the Sheriff’s Department.
If convicted, the men face more than seven years each in state prison.