FBI LA County Jail Pandora's Box

LA Jails Deputies Testify Before Fed Grand Jury About Reportedly Hiding an Inmate from the FBI

A Federal Grand Jury is now investigating whether certain members of the LA County Sheriff’s
Department moved FBI informant, Anthony Brown, from place to place inside the county jail system, giving him phony names and fake inmate numbers, all done specifically to keep him away from his Fed handlers. A convicted bank robber, Brown was reportedly gathering information for the Feds about possible deputy misconduct inside the jails.

The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard report that Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore explains the whole thing, saying they were only doing this for the inmate’s own good, and in response to his request:

Here’s the relevant clip:

Sheriff’s officials insist that they were not hiding the informant, Anthony Brown, from the FBI but protecting him from other deputies.

Department spokesman, Steve Whitmore said Brown wrote a letter after his identity was discovered, complaining that he feared for his life and felt abandoned by the FBI.

“He was frightened not of inmates but of deputies because he was snitching on deputies,” Whitmore said. “We were moving him around to protect him from any kind of retaliation.”

Yes, well….our sources say otherwise. In fact one of our sources told us he has direct knowledge of what went on because he was part of the team of deputies ordered to participate in the hiding of Anthony Brown. He said unequivocally that there was no ambiguity whatsoever about what he and his fellow team members had been instructed to do:

“Our job was to keep this inmate away from the FBI,” he said.

Moreoever, according to our source, the supervisor who ordered the deputies to hide Brown was Lt. Greg Thompson, the former head of Custody Investigative Services Unit (CISU)—AKA the intelligence-gathering and investigative unit inside the jail system.

(Thompson, if you’ll remember, was the lieutenant accused earlier this year of interfering with a criminal investigation that implicated a deputy working in the jails of wrongdoing. In that instance, Thompson allegedly took the report on the deputy’s actions and, instead of turning it over to the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB) where it belonged, instead gave the unredacted report to the deputy being investigated—among others—thus blowing the investigation entirely.)

According to our source, Thompson announced to the team tasked with hiding the FBI informant, that he, Thompson, “was ordered to do so by Paul Tanaka.”

“He said, ‘It’s our job to keep the FBI our of our jail,’ or, [if they come in] to make it as unpleasant as possible for them.'”

Since our informant admitted he participated in hiding Brown, in talking to us he was acting against self-interest.

However, like so many Sheriff’s Department members who have talked to WitnessLA (or to the LA Times) at risk to themselves, this informant said he contacted us because he was sick of the corruption.

More in this vein after we come back in January.

In the meantime, read the story in the Times for additional details.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although we keep trying to be on break, we’ll have one more story tomorrow on an unrelated topic that, again, we couldn’t ignore. (After that, we’re fervently hoping for a series of nice boring news cycles.)


  • Unfortunately, none of this is surprising to any of us who have worked LASD during the Baca/Tanaka years. The loyalists will continue to defend, deflect and attack the informers while the flow of facts continue to illuminate the depravity fostered by Tanaka and Baca and their cronies. Not one current, clear-thinking chief has had the courage to publicly speak out on what they know has become a very corrupt organization apparently because it benefits them personally to stay silent. This is an outrageous and sad period for LASD.

  • I also would love to see Tanaka indicted,,, I have been retired for over 16 years and I’m sick and damn tired of reading all the bad press about LASD….

  • Sgtbuzzkill –

    To be fair, while this story was initially run by the LA Times, it sounds like our friend Celeste has a source from the team of foot soldiers used to hide this informant…

    There really wasn’t anything in the LA Times in the way of quotes directly refuting the official sheriff’s stance that this informant was being “protected from deputies”…

    Or maybe there originally was, and the LA Times editors that lunch with Baca/Tanaka had it edited out?

    The wheels are certainly coming off the Tanaka car. Obviously some of the deputies tasked with hiding this guy thought the operation stunk from the word “go” and weren’t comfortable going to anyone within the department to contest it (I wonder why?).

  • How stupid is Tanaka? So stupid that the only story he could come up with was we were hiding the informant for his protection? So much for the “Cop’s Cop!” What BS! I would be interested to hear from those us that are or were cops answer the question; was Tanaka a “Cop’s Cop?” If lying and hitting the pumps early defines a good cop then I guess Baca and Waldie would need to be included on that list! Now we all know that’s not true; is it Lee?

  • Thanks, 10-29Henry.

    SgtBuzzKill, I can completely understand your question. Here’s the truth of the matter: I’ve had lots of info on this issue for months, which I intended to put in a much larger piece, but I was waiting to meet with one other important source. Unfortunately much other stuff has come in between, and I figured I’d do it after Jan. 1st.

    Then the grand jury news broke so, seeing the LA Times story, I emerged from my holiday hidey-hole and wrote the story you see above, bouncing off that of the Times.

    Not a very exciting explanation, but there you have it.

    Nevertheless, your question gets to one of the challenges we have here at WLA. The good news with this site is that there’s no editor or publisher telling us what we can or cannot put up.

    The bad news is we’re a tiny non-profit news site that’s run by one editor/reporter/writer/executive director (that would be me) and several very talented part time people (Matt, Taylor et al). AND the foundations to whom we look to for grants to pay our bills think that we should focus on things other than an ongoing look at problems with the LASD.

    As time goes along, we intend to have a larger staff. But we’re not there yet.

    And so, when we compete with the LA Times on Sheriff’s department stories, we’re competing with two excellent full time reporters (Faturechi and Leonard), one of whom does nothing but cover the LASD. The other covers the LASD part time. (Jack Leonard also covers courts.) PLUS they have three sets of editors—the Metro editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader—to help perfect their prose, and an art department that acquires the photos, a web group puts the story online,etc. etc.

    WLA has…..um….me to fill all of those jobs. And the LASD is far, far from our only beat.

    So-o-o-ooo, as a consequence, the LAT beats us on all kinds of things, many of which—like this story—we had the information on first, but didn’t post it, because I’m working on other, non-LASD things. Many other times they just beat us—because Robert and Jack are excellent journalists.

    I’m not complaining. I’ve had a long, happy, award-winning career writing for publications like the LA Weekly and the Times, plus a string of national magazines, along with teach journalism at USC and UCI. But I chose to give that up and swing out on a wire to do WLA, because I think this little, scruffy site can make more of a dent in some of the problems that vex us all than I could in my far more fiscally secure past.

    Will I continue to be able to make it work, and expand it? I think and hope so. In the meantime, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do something every day that I love this much. And, hopefully, we’re able to do some good. I think so. The issues with the undersheriff were entirely ignored until we entered the ring. And, amazingly, we’ve seen changes in thinking and policy in other criminal justice areas as a result of our ragtag reporting and commentary.

    That’s probably lots more than you needed to know. But you asked, WTF? That’s, WTF.

  • Paul: must be tough trying to get a good night’s sleep these days. You are a smart guy. Time to take your very good percentage retirement and hit the road.

    It certainly seems like the noose is getting tighter around that small neck of yours.

  • I heard that assistant sheriff Rambo was ordered to retire by December 31, 2012 by Sheriff Baca. The new pension law that goes into effect January 1st 2013 says that anyone convicted of an on job felony looses their pension. Tanaka has to decide if he will be convicted of a felony if so, it is in his best interest to retire on December 30th 2012.

  • Celeste: “…AND the foundations to whom we look to for the grants…think that we should focus on things other than an ongoing look at problems with the LASD.”

    Yes, but you, I, and Joe Blow down the street know that the LASD is the Everyman of Law Enforcement; problems uncovered here are problems that we can reasonably suspect are occurring in every other metropolitan law enforcement agency in the country

    Oakland, Calif., for example, has just now been put under a Federal Consent Decree for a long history of excessive force & putting falsified facts into arrest reports–that in itself should be reminding you of the problems bedeviling the LASD. This Consent Decree is different from previous consent decrees: the Compliance Monitor can fire, demote, promote, and transfer personnel at will. He can even fire the Police Chief( who, by the way, used to be the Long Beach Chief).

    None of this should be happening in a Democracy–were the three years I spent in the 101st Airborne Division parachuting out of C-130’s and other military aircraft all for naught?–so any effort made to rectify this state of affairs is absolutely not a misfocus.

    Not at all.

  • Alot of Regime Haters will be disappointed. If you base your opinion on rumors and slanted truths, stand by. Remember, the Federal Government will soon come out with a thorough investigation based on facts.

    J.London will lose some money.

  • The man is clearly an egomaniac. Otherwise, why would he remain on a department that he clearly does nothing but bring endless negative attention to? It’s all about him. The dam has broken, and many people on the department are finally speaking out. This is still only the tip of the iceberg, as the Tanaka/Thompson connection dates back to Lynwood. Who knows who will come forward next?

  • Aww man I love reading this kind of stuff makes me feel like I’m in a sheriffs patrol car. But I’ve said it before il say it again the sheriffs department is different then any other police force ya eventually the county jails will get clean an some of tanakas cronies will get indicted but the Lasd will largely remain the same operating how it always has with a touch of lawlessness or the gray area. It’s always happend always will tanaka was just dumb enough to say it out loud. I got pulled over the other day had about a 15 min talk on the side of the street about how he knows tanaka personally an how that’s how he became a deputy and he was from reigon 3. These guys are all over the place I almost wanna get pulled over or talk to a deputy anytime I see one just to see what they say. We all publicly view it different then deputy’s do and I wanna know about what sheriffs deputies say I don’t care about names you should make an article of the honest to god opinions of he people working there that’s what I wanna see!

  • We have no problems in this department? Please. These are just a few of the deputies we have had arrested in the past few months. There are too many more to list and it makes me sick to  list all of them, but here are some. We on average have one to two deputies arrested on felony charges a month .  We have a good amount that are also suspended each month. Anyone who believes this department is fine, is out of touch with reality.  Great job Baca and Tanaka!
    Arrested Dec.13, 2012
    Jermaine Jackson, 35, a five-year veteran of the department, was charged with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, assault by a public officer and filing a false report in connection with two separate incidents.
    Arrested Dec. 7, 2012
    Miguel Antonio Aguilar, 29 a five-year veteran of the department, and Derek Robin Vonkleist, 28 a four-year veteran of the department, face charges of aggravated battery and assault likely to produce great bodily injury. 
    Arrested Nov. 14, 2012
     Francisco Gamez, 41, a seventeen – year veteran of the department, was arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
    Arrested July 27,2012
    Francisco  Enriguez,36, was charged with perjury and filing a false police report
    Arrested July 25, 2012
    Sgt. Bonnie Bryant III, a 28-year department veteran, was arrested on suspicion of stealing thousands of dollars confiscated during narcotics investigations
    Arrested June 28, 2012
    Richard DiGiovanni, 39, an eleven- year veteran of the department was arrested on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 
    Arrested  May 31, 2012 
    Rafael Zelaya, 35, a six year veteran of the department  was arrested on suspicion of drug possession ,receiving stolen property and filing false police reports. Plead guilty June 27,  2012 rec. six month jail sentence.
    Arrested May 9, 2012
    Adrienne Myers, 36, was arrested on  suspicion of making criminal threats,while apparently being escorted to a booking cell, she allegedly kicked a deputy in the groin “without provocation,”

  • #13: “…But the LASD will largely remain operating how it always has with a touch of lawlessness or gray area. Its always happened always will tanaka was just dumb enough to say it out loud.”

    You’re probably right about that but I somehow get the feeling that the Feds with the Oakland P.D. Consent Decree are really practicing for the LASD–bigger fish to fry. In Oakland the Compliance Monitor can, right now, promote, demote, fire, and transfer personnel at will–anytime he wants–and with permission of the Federal judge overseeing the Consent Decree can even fire the Police Chief, a scenario not likely to happen here because the Sheriff is an elected official.

    The power to move personnel around like this has never before been implemented in a Federal Consent Decree, but it’s being done right now up in Oakland.

    Can you imagine LASD executive personnel answerable for their actions to a Federal Consent Decree Compliance Monitor with a Harvard Law J.D. and the power to fire, demote, promote, and transfer at will?

    That would sure shake things up in the LASD

  • I think the truth will fall somewhere in the middle. Will the federal indictments fall only on deputies, sergeants, and a Lieutenant or two? Probably not. It will probably go higher. I doubt, however, that these indictments will be some restorative flood, akin to Noah’s Ark fame, that will wash away the Tanaka stain that mars the fabric of our department.

    This is going to take some committed work from within. Do we want to change what we have now? Is the status quo okay with us?

  • #9- Not true, like most of this blog.

    The Federal investigation will be FACTUAL and very THOROUGH. The disgruntled employees who are hoping for indictments of certain executives will be disappointed. In the future, I think LASD members should focus on making things better and leaving Personal Agendas behind. It’s your prerogative if you choose not to.

    Have a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in 2013!

  • # 18

    I like how anyone that has a complaint about the executives declining to abide by the core values of the department must be disgruntled. It’s a nice, convenient ad-hominem you use to attack the claims of whistleblowers and attempt to invalidate their arguments. I’d like to know what backseat of which car you ride in.

  • #19- It’s obvious many names that have been brought forth on this blog are considered to be disgruntled. The supposed “Whistleblowers” are making allegations based on spite and not fact. Twist any fact, and you have a contorted truth.

    I’ll reiterate my statement:

    “The Federal investigation will be FACTUAL and very THOROUGH”

    See you in 2013!!

  • If I were PT and Thompson, I would be very worried. I heard a recently “retired” Captain and “retired” A/S are in a talkative mood. Just as soon as they recover from their injuries received by PT Bus Lines ’cause they were just ran over, and over, and over by the little man. You know, the one who testified before the Jail Commission that he had absolutely no idea there were any problems or force issues at MCJ and anyone who said he did, is “a liar.”

    Well, who is taking the rap now? Sure isn’t Tanaka. Hey fellas, still in the mood for a cigar on the patio? Those coins do make you life time members, right? Well, I’m sure another story about this topic will soon surface by the Times or WLA with specific details. Enjoy your retirement fellas. Remember, “Core Values,” eh?

  • Hey Marv:

    I’m quite sure in your previous assignment, you made some decisions that were politically correct, but lets say ethically questionable. Now you are going to bite the hand that fed you. What happened to loyalty? Isn’t that a
    Core Value? Maybe you all can share a room in 1750. Have a great 2013.

  • Dear Insider,

    The upshot of the DA’s investigation of Abram is here (see link below), and it raised a great many questions.


    There is much speculation that the Feds are still talking to Captain Abram, which would make a certain amount of sense, but the FBI plays their cards very close to the vest thus, so far, this possibility remains purely n the realm speculation.

    I don’t know much about the progression of Narco Sgt. Bryant’s case in particular beyond what we’ve all read in the LA Times as it isn’t a case we’ve been investigating, per se.

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