Former undersheriff convicted of obstruction of justice

April 7, 2016
Paul Tanaka

Paul Tanaka

The second in command of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was found guilty Wednesday of two obstruction of justice charges for overseeing efforts to derail a federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations by sheriff’s deputies at two downtown jail complexes, according to a press release.

After only a few hours of deliberations, a federal jury convicted Paul Tanaka of being the leader of a broad conspiracy to obstruct the federal investigation, a scheme that started when the Sheriff’s Department learned that an inmate at the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) was an FBI informant. Tanaka directed a conspiracy that has previously resulted in the conviction of eight other former LASD deputies.

In addition to the conspiracy count, Tanaka was found guilty of one substantive count of obstructing justice.

Tanaka, 57, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson on June 20.

“Another jury has spoken and sent a clear message that the former leaders of the Sheriff’s Department who abused their positions by encouraging, and then concealing, a corrupt culture, must be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mr. Tanaka joins eight of his former subordinates who have been found guilty of actively working to undermine a federal investigation into illegal conduct at the jails.”

Tanaka was the undersheriff – the number two in the LASD – until 2013, and he ran an unsuccessful campaign for sheriff in 2014. As he rose through ranks during a 31-year career with the LASD, Tanaka became well aware of “problem deputies” at the jails, allegations of rampant abuse of inmates and insufficient internal investigations into deputy misconduct.

Nevertheless, Tanaka encouraged jail deputies to work in a “gray area,” and he transferred a jail supervisor who sought to implement reforms at the jails, according to the testimony presented during a 10-day trial.

The scheme to disrupt the federal investigation started in Aug. 2011 when unknown deputies recovered a mobile phone from an inmate in MCJ, linked the phone to the FBI, and determined that the inmate was an informant in the FBI’s corruption and civil rights investigation. The phone was given to the inmate as part of an undercover investigation by a corrupt deputy, who subsequently pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.

In response to the federal investigation, members of the Tanaka-led conspiracy took steps to hide the cooperator from the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, which was attempting to bring the inmate to testify before a federal grand jury. The evidence presented during the trial showed that the deputies altered records to make it appear that the cooperator had been released from jail, when in fact he had been re-booked into custody under a fake name and moved to secure locations. Members of the conspiracy prohibited FBI access to the informant, and then told the cooperator that he had been abandoned by the FBI.

Over the course of several weeks, members of the conspiracy sought an order from a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to compel the FBI to turn over information about its investigation to the LASD. After the judge refused to issue the order because he had no jurisdiction over the federal law enforcement agency – and even though it was clear that the FBI was acting legally – two LASD sergeants confronted the lead FBI agent at her residence in an attempt to intimidate her. The sergeants threatened the agent with arrest and later reiterated this threat to her supervisor, stating that the agent’s arrest was imminent.

Tanaka oversaw co-conspirators who told fellow deputies not to cooperate in the federal investigation. Members of the conspiracy engaged in witness tampering by telling fellow deputies that the FBI would lie, threaten, manipulate and blackmail them to obtain information about the Sheriff’s Department.

“Mr. Tanaka created a culture of corruption seen only in the movies, and certainly nothing that anyone would expect from the nation’s largest Sheriff’s department,” said David Bowdich, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Tanaka was indicted last year along with William Thomas Carey, a former LASD Captain who headed the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau. Carey pleaded guilty last year and is pending sentencing. Now that Tanaka has been convicted, 10 members of the department – including former Sheriff Leroy Baca – have been convicted in relation to the scheme to obstruct justice.

As a result of the federal investigation into the LASD, another nine deputies who held various ranks have been convicted on charges related to the illegal use of force, illegal firearms and bribery. Two additional deputies are scheduled to go on trial May 3 in a case alleging an illegal use of force at the Twin Towers Jail.


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7 Comments

  1. NewsResponse says:

    San Luis Obispo Sheriff department share many similar characteristics as seen in this CalCoastNews article: .http://calcoastnews.com/2016/04/former-undersheriff-convicted-of-obstruction-of-justice/ There has been a lot of violence, corruption, civil rights violations, excessive use of force, framing & setting up citizens, use of fear and intimidation, within the SLO County Sheriff department, NTF, SWAT for years. This going back to the days of Sheriff Hedge’s and continues now through the time Ian Parkinson has been Sheriff.

    In fact Sheriff Ian Parkinson was part of Hedge’s NTF and SWAT, and helped to develop and train the officers involved in these groups – groups in which “Mayor Yates said. “I have no respect for the old Narcotics Task Force for the trauma that they brought to our county residents and their children.” Fact and timeline establish that QUID PRO QUO was used to fund Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s new NTF: https://plus.google.com/110149834187224289194/posts/RxsNGhDvKRb

    Further evidence of the violent culture within Sheriff’s NTF, SWAT, and sheriff department: https://plus.google.com/110149834187224289194/posts/cv43uKLMFtG

    Regarding SLO Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s NTF, SWAT and sheriff department: Please list within your posts any other incidences and evidence of violence, conspiracy (to cover up, set up, REVAMP reports), civil or constitutional rights violations, excessive use of force, case #’s, false affidavits information, unlawful practices, REVAMPING reports about specific “operations” to hide information out of sight of the public, media, and other law enforcement agencies, etc., listing the names of deputies, officers, detectives involved. The more facts and detailed the better.

    This will be placed in the hands of DOJ, FBI, etc., to further investigate.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. slojustice says:

    When government employees are convicted of corruption they should have to forfeit their government pensions!

    (21) 23 Total Votes - 22 up - 1 down
    • kayaknut says:

      With the amount of money their union pays to buy their representatives it will never happen, but agreed it should.

      (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
  3. isoslo says:

    Make him turn over his pension to help pay for the incarceration costs, forever!

    (30) 30 Total Votes - 30 up - 0 down
  4. diamond says:

    It’s always a good day when the people in charge are busted for breaking the law. Only 80 % more to go! Just sorry it wasn’t a politician, even though he ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff , so many crooks ( politicians ) get through the cracks. Unfortunately they cover up for each other, giving everyone amongst themselves huge salaries and benefits. Wish we had real investigations like that here.

    (27) 29 Total Votes - 28 up - 1 down

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