Sheriff Alex Villanueva

UPDATED: Man Claiming to Be LA Sheriff’s Sergeant Threatens County Counsel With Arrest

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Monday afternoon, the Office of the Inspector General announced that it has launched an investigation into a threat made over the weekend in a telephone call to County Counsel Mary C. Wickham, according to a message from Interim Inspector General Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva, which was  emailed just before 5 p.m.

The call that launched the investigation reportedly came to Wickham’s personal cell phone on Saturday, April 20, 2019.

According to the OIG, the caller identified himself as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sergeant and demanded that Wickham go to a sheriff’s station immediately and surrender for an alleged failure to appear in response to a 2006 Grand Jury summons.

“When she responded that there was no basis for this outrageous and unfounded demand, the caller threatened to come to her home to arrest her.”

The OIG will lead “a full and comprehensive review to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators of this blatant attempt at intimidation,” Monday afternoon’s announcement stated.

“These threats are a hostile act intended to intimidate a public official doing her job on behalf of Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors and the residents we serve,” Castro-Silva said. “I anticipate and expect the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s full and immediate cooperation in determining the individual or individuals behind this unwarranted attack on the County’s top legal advisor.”

At around 6 p.m., Supervisor Hilda Solis sent out her own statement condemning the call.

“Threatening a public servant is despicable and will never be tolerated,” Solis wrote. “This undemocratic intimidation is designed to chill the County Counsel from doing her job. Mary Wickham represents the Board of Supervisors with respect, honor, and with a life dedicated in service to all residents of LA County. Neither she nor my office will be deterred from doing our jobs as representatives of LA County residents.”

On Monday, department spokesperson, Capt. Darrin Harris, issued an emailed statement saying that the call “appears on the surface to be the common jury scam that is occurring that we have been repeatedly warning the public about.”

(The LASD link to information on the scam is right here.)

And according to a second department mailing, detectives from the LASD Major Crimes Bureau were assigned to the matter just to be on the safe side, and they “stand ready to launch a full assessment of this potential threat.”

Yet, the OIG has continued to take the threat seriously.

When asked why this is the case, Lennie LaGuire, spokesperson for the LA County CEO’s office, stated that “the details of this call do not appear to match the scam outlined by the Sheriff’s Department.”

LaGuire also confirmed that the caller gave his name, and the name he gave matches the name of an LASD department member.

It has likely not helped that, in past weeks, Wickham seems to have drawn the ire of a few department members who have expressed their anger to friends about the involvement of County Counsel and her office in the legal challenge by the Board of Supervisors to Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s rehiring of Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan.

Furthermore, Villanueva has recently kicked his own county counsel, Elizabeth Miller, out of the department’s offices.

None of this in any way suggests that the sheriff,  or those who work with him, have anything to do with the call, however.

Furthermore, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Information Bureau (SIB) reported that the threatening call to Wickham comes at a time when county residents have reported receiving a spate of similar calls from people claiming to be sheriff’s officials.  The spokesperson expressed the hope that, whatever the provenance of the threatening call County Counsel received, that the issue will draw more attention to the scam calls, causing fewer people to be frightened or duped by the scammers.

Get this and other essential justice stories delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing to The California Justice Report, WitnessLA’s weekly roundup of news and views from California and beyond. Read past editions – here.


  • There is a scam being perpetrated in Orange County wherein the caller claims to be a OCSO Sergeant and tries to intimidate the recipient to post cash bail for a failure to appear for a long ago jury summons. I think this is more likely the same scam gone wrong than AV’s minions harassing the lady.

  • It sounds like a really juvenile prank phone call. Or maybe like 25 cents said, a failed scam call. Was there any request for payment via gift cards? (snort)

  • How is this “News” again? This is being covered as real news??? And even funnier, implying that the LA County Sheriff may have been involved? This is the STUPIDEST story ever written. God forbid a council member gets a flat tire on the way to work!!! Maybe The Sheriff or his Deputies put tacks, small nails, or miniature explosives all over the road in an attempt to create “havoc” and/or “distress” to an LA Board Member??? What a joke!!!!

  • Fake News! Sounds like some people will do anything to try and make the dept look bad. Only if those same people cared about how it screws over the other thousands of Deps that have to do their job still. Yet a brother in blue gets shot by thugs and no coverage. Very sad the era we live in these days.
    FYI. If Anyone gets a IRS call saying they will go to jail if they don’t send visa gift cards, it’s probably legit and we should spend tons of tax payer dollars to investigate AV even though the scam happened in an other state by a fake sgt for another dept. seriously!!! Smh

  • Editor’s note:

    Dear “Oh, Boy,”

    We are not in any way suggesting that Sheriff Villanueva or any of those close to him are involved in any manner. He’s sending detectives from Major Crimes in to help investigate. We meant what we wrote. No more, no less.


  • Major crimes! This will be interesting . They’ll probably send some private investigators to handle this issue.

  • It was Jussie! Lol. Once again what hypocrites the BOS to make these FAKE accusations. But, it’s totally ok for the BOS to threaten the elected Sheriff AV. County Counsel should resign when this fake report comes up empty. Ok, it was the Russians.

  • No coverage regarding the abolishment of the death penalty in California, “crap” problem in progressive San Francisco or “train to nowhere” but this crap gets coverage.


  • So, she really went to surrender herself like a dummy without asking any questions? …and shes the county attorney. We are so screwed.

  • Sorry Celeste but you gave yourself away by adding your own little conspiracy theory to the story. You at the very least implied that was related to the Mandoyan case with zero evidence to back that up. Using the old “sources say” trope to push your agenda, typical hack move so common these days.

  • The biggest story is the firing of Elizabeth Miller, Alex’s assigned county council. She advises him to follow the law, he disagrees and fires her!

  • I must agree with Oh Boy, this is much ado about nothing and opportunity for some to play victim and others to grandstand. So, she got a phone call. So, what. It would be news it if it did come from an officer, but there is no evidence that it did. Is the LA Times going waste so much paper and ink every times a bureaucrat claims to have gotten such a call? It gives the likes of Hilda and her fellow supes an opportunity to grandstand instead of tending to the people’s business. And, what is this Ms. Solis says about “This undemocratic intimidation is designed to chill the County Counsel from doing her job.” Is there such a thing as democratic and undemocratic intimidation?

    Having said that, Madame Kong again sees things that do not exist and leaves much to be desired with his reading comprehension. Could it be an officer? Sure. Might it not be an officer? Sure. So, Celeste has one sentence from an officer saying that it is possible that it might be officer trying to score some points with AV. Ok, its possible. Celeste did not say or imply that its related to the Mandoyan case. Keep reading.

  • They should assign the “Elite” LASD Judicial Protection team. They’ll probably find some burner phones on them board of supervisors. Maybe they were using snap chat. It’s Julian Assange!!

    Stop the madness

  • Where does it say she went to surrender herself in the article? Oh, let me “Think about it.” It doesn’t.

    I do have to agree that there should not have been an unattributed, speculative comment about the call being made at the direction of, or for the gratification of, AV. The more appropriate, attributed speculative comment based on a recent criminal trend (we like to call that a clue) leads some in the dept. to believe it was a scam call.

  • Wow. I got a message once from a heavily accented gentleman claiming to be with the IRS. He demanded in a menacing fashion that I pay monies owed immediately, or risk court proceedings and going to jail. Who knew I should have filed a report after this attack? After I stopped laughing, I hit delete…The process is sure different for those that breath more rarified air.

  • Irresponsible inferences made. This is an excellent example of how much research you do for an article. 1 google search revealed that Law Enforcement has been warning the public for a few years about this scam. But like an ethical, unbiased, and excellent fact finder of a reporter you are, you quickly did a superb job and wrote an accurate piece with no agenda. Continue to sway the public to believe law enforcement, specifically the sheriff’s dept, is unethical and dishonest with these irresponsible articles because I’m sure that will never negatively impact anyone.

    Seriously You should be ashamed!!!

  • The above comments are spot-on. Whether or not the sheriff should have played nicer with the Board, etc, their reactions on this (and the coverage in general) is highly politicized and irresponsible. So were the statements made by a supposedly objective interim-Inspector General. I, like others, have received calls such as this before and just hung up. Most people have–except perhaps the board members. who have people take their calls for them. If there’s no actual evidence this was a legitimate threat, and there’s lots of evidence it wasn’t, this isn’t NEWS. The fact that it occurred and the sheriff doesn’t get along with this person also doesn’t make it news. Would this have been a story if it occurred under the prior sheriff? I don’t think so. Will the Times (or WLA) retract, correct or update this story if it turns out it’s highly likely or proven the call was a scam? Will Kuehl or Thomas? Yeah, not holding my breath. They got off another cheap shot at the sheriff–job well done.

  • This is exactly why no one takes the media or the BOS seriously. I now see where Sheriff V is coming from. This is a media spectacle that the BOS staged. I wonder what would the media do if it’s discovered that the call came from within BOS aides or never occurred. What will you publish then Celeste? Just curious. My guess is crickets.

  • Maybe it wasn’t a phone call after all. What if it what a message using the TigerText app? These folks threaten people to their faces and now complain because somebody called them trying to sell them a nice set of encyclopedias …

  • I got a call from a man identifying himself as an IRS Agent. He said there was a team coming to arrest me if I didn’t give him my credit card number.

    I think it was Mark Ridley Thomas trying to get money to put another addition onto his garage.

  • This is the lamest “news” article posted by WLA and that says a lot. I get these calls all the time where’s my article?

  • I received a call just yesterday from a person identifying themselves as a public defender. She said there was a team of deputies coming to take me to a mental institution if I didn’t give her my Wifi password. So I gave it to her G*F**KY***S*LF

  • I got a call from a guy today telling me to install solar panels on my house or I’d be fined daily and will ultimately go to jail. Ughhhhh… I’m calling the media because this HAS to be the Sheriff’s Department out to get me. Celeste, can you write a story about this. I feel very very scared and offended. The mean Sheriff’s Department is forcing my hand to buy solar panels against my will because I commented on your blog. Hell, while you’re at it, name yourself as victim 2 of 2.

  • I had the same problem a couple of years ago. Some fella would cruise down the block on his motorcycle pitching solar panels and handing out some psychologists business cards that had recently started working out of a friends local office. What a sham!

  • Be careful with the solar panel scams. My boxer “Fletcher” helps keep away the daily folks walking around pitching solar panels.

  • Celeste, why not follow up on the CHP overtime scandal? Were these unethical officers moonlighting as private investigators and billing Cal Trans??

  • @Leibrich

    Lmao!! I still can’t wrap my mind at the idiocracy of the media and all the agenda filled stories they write. What ever happened to balanced, unbiased reporting? Must be a lost art. Also, I move to start an Oversight Commission monitoring unethical and biased reporters. Who’s the oversight body we go to for all BS that’s being reported. Who can we report the reporters to?

  • @Leibrich

    Not important enough for her, oh, wait, CHP officers don’t visit her blog. Only anti Sheriff, PPOA board, LA Times Lau and the BOS. If she reported on CHP, it’d get the same amount of traffic as all her other posts do… ZERO!

  • I see a scenario with WLA being so vehemently hated like a bad drug, say for instance crack cocaine, then those of you who respond would be crack heads.

    You haters bring reality to “Bad press is better than no press”

  • C:
    If this turns out that Ms Wickham lied, regardless of degree, about this call will you be the first to call for her resignation? Bob Muller is doing anything at the moment maybe we should hire him? Why is it if you or I get the same threatening phone call the BOS could give a rats butt less? The phone call is as authentic as the Contract Cities letter and Russian Collusion. Contract Cities never cared when Pitchess, Block or Baca promoted unqualified people, reinstated deputies who committed fireable offenses. Could it be because the majority of people getting preferential treatment are minorities? You have not made any real notice of the number of women in executive positions, why? Can’t be because they didn’t deserve it in your eyes?

  • To Celeste Fremont, (aka crazy cat lady) That’s what is implied and you know it. Your journalism is case and point example of biased reporting. No honorable journalist would ever have published this nonsense. I will forever refer to this “story” as why you can not be taken serious. Thanks for the ammo. Also your editor should be fired for letting you publish this.

  • @WLA Journalism is a Joke

    I just spit my drink out of my mouth from laughter.

    I nominate you for the best all time posts.

    Case in point to everything we’ve been talking about.

  • Elizabeth Miller is a stand-up person and great county counsel. She dedicated her life to LASD. To remove her from her position is yet another misstep by the man who would be king. Too many firings of good people, and too many rehires of questionable ones. The merry-go-round will ultimately stop and everyone will be wondering how they ended up where they are; disoriented, dizzy, falling down and throwing up their last meal.

  • Getagrip, Elizabeth Miller is still assigned to the sheriffs department last time I checked, so why are you spreading bad info?

    And since it didn’t happen, how’s that “misstep” working out?

  • BTW: OIG doesn’t have any legal standing or authority to order a S sandwich-less a criminal investigation. And they now know what happened! Ok, C time for the bad news. Pls update

Leave a Comment