A former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy from Chino received a sentence of more than 17 years in federal prison Monday for using his position as a law enforcement officer to protect drug shipments in exchange for cash, authorities said.
Kenneth Collins, 51, pleaded guilty in August to a charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ciaran McEvoy said in a written statement.
He admitted to conspiring with at least two other men to transport large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana across state lines, promising the traffickers who employed him that his position as a deputy offered their drugs an extra level of protection from legitimate law enforcement officials. Collins took payments of as much as $250,000 for his illicit services.
“For years, former deputy Collins abused the trust of the people of Los Angeles County as a corrupt law enforcement officer motivated by greed,” United States Attorney for the Central District of California Nick Hanna said. “In public, he was sworn to uphold the law, but in private he was a gun-for-hire willing to help drug smugglers in exchange for getting his cut of the dirty profits.”
Investigators set up a sting after becoming suspicious of Collins, officials said.
An undercover FBI agent bought two pounds of marijuana from Collins in October of 2017, according to the DOJ. Collins told the agent he could provide a ton of marijuana each month.
The following month, they arranged to have hims escort a shipment of what he believed to be 45 pounds of cocaine and 13 pounds of methamphetamine, along with marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes from Pasadena to Las Vegas, prosecutors said.
Collins also bragged that he could intimidate and assault people, claiming to have had recently torched an $85,000 Cadillac truck on behalf of one of his “clients,” McEvoy said.
While entering his guilty plea, Collins admitted to stealing $160,000 in cash in a separate incident. He conducted an illegal traffic stop on a car after learning it contained a large amount of money, prosecutors said. He then kept the money and never reported the encounter, or the cash seizure, to the Sheriff’s Department.
Co-defendants David Easter and Grant Valencia have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs, according to McEvoy.
Ironically, Collins met Valencia while teaching in the Sheriff’s Department’s Emerging Leaders Academy, which is a program meant to have deputies mentor ex-convicts as they reintegrate back into society, officials said. Valencia was a student in the program.
Collins’ crimes victimized the very people he was sworn to serve, said Paul Delacourt, Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
“Former deputy Collins betrayed the public’s trust by placing a higher priority on satisfying his personal greed rather than ensuring the safety of our communities he was sworn to protect,” he said.