California bill would limit cash cops can pay jailhouse snitches

March 22, 2017

Following revelations that a pair of Mexican Mafia members made hundreds of thousands of dollars working as jailhouse snitches, a California bill that would restrict payments to informants is making its way through the state Legislature. [LA Daily News]

Assembly Bill 359 calls for capping monetary and nonmonetary payments to informants at $100 per case. Currently, there is a $50 per case limit for testimony and no compensation limit for investigative work.

Critics say the current payment system allows some informants to live like kings behind bars and provides snitches incentives to lie.

The bill was inspired, in part, by Mexican Mafia members Raymond “Puppet” Cuevas and Jose “Bouncer” Paredes. Cuevas and Paredes were paid $335,000 over a four-year period as jailhouse snitches who worked dozens of cases in Southern California.

Cuevas and Paredes received as much as $3,000 a case, as well as cartons of Marlboro cigarettes, fast food, Xbox machines and other perks. Likewise, they received leniency on charges that could have kept them in prison for life.

Court ledgers show that, between 2011 and 2015, police in Orange County paid the men $14,200, Riverside County paid them $6,000 and law enforcement in San Bernardino County paid them $3,750. The remainder of the informant pay came from law enforcement agencies in Long Beach and Los Angeles County.

Authorities typically sent the men into jails to befriend suspects, usually other members of the Mexican Mafia who had yet to obtain legal representation. In cells wired with recording devices, Cuevas and Paredes offered to help the suspects avoid a death penalty from the Mexican Mafia, but only if they confessed a complete history of their alleged crimes.

Records show Cuevas and Paredes were also among the informants whom, at times, law enforcement tasked with getting information from suspects who already had lawyers, a practice that violates federal law. The practice of police using informants to get information from suspects who already had lawyers was a key component of a recent jailhouse snitch scandal in Orange County.

Orange County prosecutors faced allegations that they routinely misused jailhouse informants and withheld information from judges and defense attorneys on payments and promises of leniency to snitches. In turn, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was booted from the prosecutorial role in a mass shooting case, and some murder convictions were overturned. Also, there are ongoing state and federal investigations in the case.

The Orange County snitch scandal likewise served as inspiration for AB 359.

“The integrity of our criminal justice system is crumbling, and one contributing factor is California’s long history of unethical and illegal use of jailhouse informants, like we are seeing play out in Orange County,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), one of the sponsors of the bill.

In addition to limiting payments to informants, AB 359 would also require prosecutors to keep databases tracking informant work and locations and to turn detailed informant histories over to defense attorneys no later than 30 days before preliminary hearings.

On Tuesday, the bill unanimously passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The bill heads next to the Assembly floor.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

“…law enforcement tasked with getting information from suspects who already had lawyers, a practice that violates federal law.”

The conservatives best friend, violating the law to uphold the law. Who’s more repugnant, folks? The one who is up front about what he or she does or the one who hides behind his or her shield to get the results they want? Who costs us more? F*** the money! What about the confidence lost with these types of “criminals”? How does it effect what good cops try and do every single day, you know? Protect and Serve?

You don’t give one rats ass though, as long as it happens to others it’s all good.

I hope these two get to keep all the cash they received, I hope they are comfortable, well fed with a 50″ HDTV in their cells all on YOUR DIME! It’s only when money is part of the equation do folks like those in SLO give one rats ass about our “justice system”.

And when they come to collect their dues from you? Shut the f*** up and just give ’cause you ain’t no better than any other criminal out there.

That’s quite a hate thing going there, Roman Gabriel would not approve

Imagine living ones life with so much hatred and vitriol for people you don’t even know, but who just have a different point of view.

These dudes are in prison and we pay them for info?

One word: waterboarding…….it’s free

Ahhh, good ol’ OC! The epitome of conservatism in the great state of Kalifornia… Not to worry though, SLO is not far behind!

So is it conservatism or common sense to not give convicted felons hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Paying two convicted gangbangers over $40k/year each for 4 years is insane.

What happened to the good old days of bribing them with cigarettes or an extra hour in the exercise yard?

$335,000! That’s nearly as much as the rams pay their quarterback(s)! Although to be fair’ the snitches have likely been worth more.

Just can’t leave it alone, huh dumb ass?!

I know OC, very well, and have been a guest not only in its jail but have been on the roles of their justice system, one of the most conservative in the country! I know how they work and their “conviction at any cost” approach to “justice”.

They boast one of the highest convictions rates in the country and this type of “tool” was the most often used in their tool box when it came to convictions within the world of drug dealing.

And you show your ignorance with the “What happened to the good old days of bribing them with cigarettes or an extra hour in the exercise yard?” venture… Tobacco is not allowed and the exercise yard you speak of is on the roof at 550 N. Flower St…..

Get a clue then post, Bubba!

Your points might come off as more effective without name calling and swearing.

Recognizing when statements are mad for the purpose of irony (ie. the pay in cigarettes statement) might also help.

Does anyone else agree?

Do the snitches get a 1099 form? Is it taxable income? Are politicians exempt from this too?

Snitches end up in ditches

Or working the public sector or being elected.

More like snitches get riches.

Snitches get stitches