Two former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies planted guns inside a medical marijuana dispensary to justify two arrests, new charges allege.
Julio Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32, were charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and altering evidence as a peace officer, the Los Angeles Times reports. Martinez was also charged with two felony counts of perjury and one of filing a false report, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors say that the ex-deputies wrote in a report from August 2011 that they saw someone selling drugs who had a gun. Martinez followed the suspect to the dispensary, he said, where he found two guns—one in a trash can and one on a desk next to ecstasy tablets.
The officers arrested two men at the scene, one for possessing an unregistered gun, and the other for possessing a controlled substance while armed.
Charges were dropped against the suspects a year later, according to a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s offices. Prosecutors say that a year after the incident, the sheriff’s Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau grew suspicious when it found video footage from the dispensary that was “inconsistent” with the report, and began investigating.
Before getting a search warrant, Martinez allegedly kicked a wall outlet to cut the power, then opened a drawer, pulled out a gun, and placed it on the chair. Paez also planted the gun on top of the desk after disabling the security camera system under the desk.
It is not clear when Martinez, a 15-year veteran, and Paez, a 7-year veteran, left the sheriff’s department.
Both former officers were booked Friday and released on $50,000 bail, with an arraignment scheduled for June 17. If convicted, they will face more than seven years in prison.
A federal probe last year revealed a long pattern of abuse of inmates by L.A. sheriff’s deputies. Former Sheriff Lee Baca retired earlier this year in the fall-out of the accusations.