Convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement to federal investigators, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca began serving his three-year prison sentence on Wednesday. The former sheriff was responsible for leading a conspiracy against an FBI investigation into prisoner abuse committed by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies.
In 2011, an FBI informant named Anthony Brown bribed a deputy to smuggle a cellphone into Men’s Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles. While using the phone to record evidence of prisoner abuse committed by deputies at the jail, Brown was later caught with the piece of contraband and eventually admitted he had been working as a confidential informant for the FBI.
Instead of allowing the FBI to conduct their work, Baca and his deputies engaged in a conspiracy to hinder and impede the federal investigation. After abruptly terminating an interview between Brown and his FBI handlers, Baca’s subordinates repeatedly altered Brown’s name in the computer while secretly transferring him to a series of undisclosed locations without the FBI’s knowledge.
As Baca’s deputies falsely convinced Brown that the FBI had abandoned him, several members of the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau confronted FBI Agent Leah Marx at her house on September 26, 2011. Recorded on surveillance video, Sgt. Scott Craig lied to Marx by telling her that she was a named suspect in a felony complaint and threatened to obtain a warrant for her arrest.
On April 12, 2013, FBI agents and federal prosecutors interviewed Baca regarding his role and knowledge of the misconduct taking place within his department. Instead of answering honestly, Baca lied at least three times to the federal agents.
On February 10, 2016, Baca agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of making a false statement to federal authorities who were conducting a wide-ranging corruption and civil rights investigation into the Sheriff’s Department. In August 2016, Baca was indicted on federal charges alleging that he conspired to obstruct justice, obstructed justice, and lied to the federal government.
In March 2017, the former sheriff was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement to federal investigators. On May 12, 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison.
On Wednesday, Baca began serving his prison sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution La Tuna, near El Paso, Texas, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Baca’s former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, and more than 20 other deputies were also convicted on corruption charges as a result of the FBI investigation into prisoner abuse.