This weekend brought yet another account of reportedly questionable actions by higher-ups in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
In this newest case, an LASD deputy named Edwin Tamayo wore a wire for the FBI last month in a reported attempt to get the goods on a department captain, who—according to Tamayo—was strong-arming subordinates to sell tickets to a 2011 fundraiser for Carmen Trutanich’s failed campaign to become LA’s district attorney. All this, said Tamayo, was done at the behest of those far higher on the department food chain, going ultimately up to Sheriff Baca.
To bolster his novel-esque tale of double-agentry (complete with a clandestine meet-up with the feds at the local iHop), Tamayo provided the LA Times with texts from his fed handlers who apparently coached him in real time through his wire-wearing outing.
Here’s a clip from the story by Robert Faturechi, Jack Leonard and Andrew Blankstein:
Tamayo said he told federal agents that the captain instructed about a dozen sheriff’s employees to sell 10 fundraiser tickets each, saying the order came down through the chain of command from Sheriff Lee Baca — an allegation his spokesman denied. It is unclear what specific law such conduct might violate.
Tamayo provided The Times with a text message exchange he said he had with an FBI agent during the secret recording. The messages show Tamayo being coached on how to use his recording equipment and what to say.
In one text, Tamayo is instructed to mention Trutanich and to bring up “the difference between the truth and staying loyal.” Do so “at your own pace,” he was advised.
“You’re doing fine…. End well so you can stay in touch,” the messages continue. “OK when you have a chance turn everything off, we’ll meet you at ihop.”
In addition to Tamayo’s wearing-a-wire story (parts of which the reporters were unable to verify), the LA Times article contains other accounts of possible questionable donations that certainly deserve further investigation.
For instance, they said Tamayo told them that his captain ordered him to “routinely pick up donations for the agency — sometimes in what appeared to be envelopes full of cash — from wealthy residents in the area.”
What exactly is meant by “donations for the agency.” And cash? In what dollar amounts? And how was it reportedly accounted for?
And then there is this:
Paul Tanaka, whom Baca recently ousted as the department’s second in command, contends that the sheriff has engaged in improper campaigning in the past. He said that in about 2004, when Baca was campaigning for a sales tax increase to fund law enforcement, he ordered former Undersheriff Larry Waldie to go to tow companies that had sheriff’s contracts and pressure them to donate.
“I don’t remember the exact words but something to the effect of ‘We make them a lot of money because of the tow contracts with us so they should contribute to this campaign,’” said Tanaka, who is considering running against Baca next year. Tanaka, who has himself been criticized for accepting political donations from sheriff’s employees, called Baca’s request improper: “The tow companies are not obligated to part with their hard-earned money.”
Steve Whitmore denied that Baca gave the order for the fundraising that Tamayo describes.. Whitmore also told the Times that “any claim that Baca ordered sheriff’s employees to raise money for the Trutanich event was ‘absurd.’”
We too have heard reports of those at the highest level of the department allegedly leaning on a person or persons, whose company has a lucrative contract with the LASD, to donate money to pet political campaigns.
(We’ll likely have more on this to come.)
In the meantime, we can tell you that those who talked to us about such matters, have also talked extensively to the FBI.