LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles County deputy sheriff who allegedly agreed on two occasions to oversee the delivery of narcotics and other contraband in exchange for cash payments was arrested this morning, along with three other men, on federal narcotics charges.
Special agents with the Federal Bureau Investigation this morning arrested Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Collins and the other three after they arrived in Pasadena, allegedly to provide “security” for the transport of nearly 45 pounds of cocaine and more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine. During the FBI’s undercover investigation, Collins allegedly agreed that he and his team would accompany the narcotics and take calculated steps to prevent legitimate law enforcement from intercepting the drugs – in exchange for cash payments as high as $250,000.
Collins and two other men were charged in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. Collins and these two co-defendants allegedly provided security in November for the transport of what they thought was six kilograms of methamphetamine, as well as marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes.
In justifying the high fees for his services, Collins allegedly told an undercover FBI agent “we’re cops” and “all of our transports make it through.”
Those named in the complaint are:
· Deputy Sheriff Collins, 50, of Chino;
· David Easter, 51, of the Hyde Park District of Los Angeles; and
· Grant Valencia, 34, of Pomona.
The four defendants – who are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances – are expected to make their first court appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
“Deputy Collins sold his badge to assist an individual he thought was a drug trafficker,” said United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna. “The deputy allegedly used his status as a law enforcement officer as a guarantee when he promised safe travels for large quantities of illegal narcotics. This case is part of our long-standing and ongoing commitment to root out corruption, particularly when it involves sworn law enforcement officers.”
“Deputy Collins used his position of trust and appropriated his authority to conduct lucrative criminal activity with others at the expense of Los Angeles County residents,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department address many crime areas jointly and share the goal of identifying and addressing internal problems when they arise. Sheriff McDonnell, who continues to reform the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, cooperated fully with the investigation. While our investigation continues to determine whether others may have been involved, this should not be viewed as an indictment of the many dedicated servants at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, some of whom brought this unlawful activity to our attention. Today’s arrest exemplifies the FBI’s commitment to weeding out corruption by public officials and restoring trust in our law enforcement professionals.”
The affidavit in support of the complaint filed last week outlines a scheme in which Collins agreed to accept tens of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for his “team” providing security during the transportation of large quantities of drugs from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas, Nevada.
On November 14, after Collins negotiated a $25,000 payment in exchange for providing security during the transport of contraband, Collins, Easter and Valencia participated in a caravan that traveled to Las Vegas.
The trio was arrested this morning after allegedly agreeing to provide security for the transport of 20 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of methamphetamine and cash from Pasadena to Las Vegas, in exchange for $250,000. During negotiations, Collins said he would bring a larger team than used during the November transport, and those additional members would include other law enforcement officers. When the team arrived this morning at the pre-determined location, Font was the fourth member of the team.
According to the affidavit, the FBI had been investigating Collins in relation to a scheme to accept cash payments in exchange for providing security for illegal marijuana grow facilities, as well as assisting in the distribution of controlled substances.
An undercover FBI agent – who was posing as a family member of a wealthy investor looking to finance an illegal marijuana grow house – first met with Collins in August 2017. Collins offered to provide security for an illegal marijuana grow house and claimed to have three “teams” that already provided security for drug operations across San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.
During one of the August meetings, Collins displayed his Sheriff’s Department badge and lifted his shirt to reveal a firearm hidden in his waistband, which investigators believe was to emphasize that he was a law enforcement officer and his services therefore were more valuable to a drug organization. According to the affidavit, this meeting concluded with the undercover agent paying Collins $5,000 in “good faith” money for future services.
Over the course of several meetings, Collins also offered to “fix problems” for the undercover agent, including by physically assaulting people, in exchange for cash. According to the affidavit, Collins claimed to have a very “professional” “team” comprised of “cops” who “travel…with guns.” He described how he and two others recently “handled” a situation for a “client” in Boston by setting a luxury truck on fire.
During a meeting in September, the undercover agent told Collins that he was having an “issue” with a person in Northern California, and, in exchange for $2,000, Collins performed and delivered a “work-up” on that person, which included obtaining that person’s home address and driver’s license number, according to the affidavit. When Collins delivered the “work-up” in early October, the deputy sheriff allegedly said that he could provide additional services in relation to the Northern California person: “We can definitely, you know, kind of impact him a little bit.”
As part of negotiations with the undercover agent, Collins also facilitated the sale of two pounds of marijuana to the agent, which Easter delivered. If this smaller “test run” sale of marijuana went well, Collins offered to facilitate the sale of up to $4 million worth of marijuana every month to the agent, according to the affidavit.
In relation to the November transport of what Collins and his co-conspirators understood to be methamphetamine and marijuana, Collins provided a team of three – one of whom drove ahead of the transport vehicle to scout for law enforcement, one of whom accompanied an undercover agent driving the drug transport vehicle, and Collins in a follow car. According to the affidavit, Collins and his team received a total of $25,000 for this transport.
Following the success of the November transport, Collins discussed with the primary undercover agent another, larger shipment. During a meeting on January 5, Collins agreed to bring Easter and Valencia – as well as other team members – to oversee the transport of 20 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of methamphetamine and cash. Although the undercover agent initially offered $75,000 as payment to Collins and his team, according to the affidavit, Collins pushed for more, saying that his “guys” are used to providing security for “bigger loads.” Collins ultimately agreed to provide his team’s services in exchange for $250,000.
When they arrived at the agreed-upon location this morning where the drug transport was to begin, FBI agents arrested Collins and the other three men without incident.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If they were to be convicted of the drug trafficking conspiracy alleged in the criminal complaints, each defendant would face a sentence of up to life in prison.
The case against Collins and his co-defendants is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lindsey Greer Dotson of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.