Orange County sheriff officials are being charged in court filings with tampering with evidence by transferring drugs found during an investigation into the records of a second drug case. , irrelevant.
More than 17 grams of methamphetamine was found in five plastic bags in a room of a motel in Buena Park during an investigation in 2020. But attorneys for the public attorney’s office Wednesday alleged that the amount This drug was turned nearly two weeks later into evidence against another suspect, Ace Kuumeaaloha Kelley, whose criminal case was unrelated.
“The shocking fact is that methamphetamine was actually seized during a search of another motel room that same day, unrelated to this defendant,” the filing reads.
At the heart of the charges filed in the court Wednesday is police chief Sgt. Matthew LeFlore, a recently promoted investigator has faced a series of allegations of misconduct, including proof of mishandlinglied in reports about it, and allegedly illegally wiretapped private phone calls between a county inmate and his attorney.
In court filings, the attorneys allege that not only was drug evidence transferred from one unrelated case to another, but that LeFlore and other officers in the department “conspired to conceal defendant truth about transferring evidence into this case. “
“This is the kind of behavior that will send chills to the public — officials sworn to transfer evidence from case to case and then do everything in their power to cover up what they did, ” said Tammy Nguyen, a deputy public attorney. in case.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, in a brief statement, did not respond to questions regarding the allegations against LeFlore and other officials.
“We have received the petition and will comply with all court orders,” a spokesman said.
According to court records, officers searched two rooms of a motel in Buena Park during unrelated investigations on October 19, 2020.
In an October 20, 2020 report, LeFlore is said to have noted that he had collected and placed evidence in the investigation against Kelley, including 17.8 grams of methamphetamine. Investigators also found heroin in the room.
But Kelley’s attorney said evidence was found in another motel room, unrelated to Kelley’s case. Two weeks after the search, methamphetamine was moved from that box to Kelley’s box, they allege.
Defense attorneys say documents recently released by the Orange County Crime Lab show them that evidence has been turned over. The lab examines and reviews evidence such as confiscated drugs. According to the filing, a note in documents provided by the lab said evidence was transferred, at the request of the Sheriff’s Department, from one case file to another on May 4. 11, 2020, nearly two weeks after the search.
“This is no different than giving evidence in a case,” said Deputy Public Attorney Scott Sanders, who previously discovered in court filings numerous instances of the Sheriff’s mishandling of evidence. Orange County. The scandal of mishandling of evidence led to the case reduce or reduce fees in at least 67 cases.
Defense attorneys also allege that, after the evidence was turned over, another sheriff official, Sgt. Arthur Tiscareno’s “manipulated” records show when evidence was booked in the Kelley case, making it appear that methamphetamine was booked on October 19, 2020.
“Transportation of methamphetamine should have been reasonably carried out under the direction and coordination of Sergeant LeFlore and Sergeant Tiscareno,” the 110-page court document reads.
However, Tiscareno’s report also indicates that he was the one who collected and placed evidence in the case that day, contradicting the LeFlore police report.
In an interview, Sanders said evidence that the action was intentional and not an accident on the part of law enforcement, pointing to their alleged efforts to conceal the movement of drugs from one case to another.
“The only reasonable view is [LeFlore is] conceal intentional misconduct,” Sanders said. “LeFlore and Tiscareno have long since lost their right to falsely claim innocence.”
According to court filings Wednesday, Tiscareno was promoted to sergeant in November. LeFlore was promoted to sergeant in January.
Since at least 2019, Sanders has brought up issues in court filings detailing mishandling of evidence within the department, prompting the agency to examine and file criminal records against deputies.
He said Tiscareno and LeFlore have appeared repeatedly in these allegations and audits of the department’s handling.
“We know that Tiscareno wrote dozens of false reports about when he put the evidence,” Sanders said. “After all of that, they not only secretly transferred evidence into this defendant’s case, but also made the purported decision not to write the report or tell anyone outside of their department. know what happened. The community can assume the worst.
LeFlore was commissioned by the Sheriff’s Department in 2018 to look into allegations of mishandling evidence within the agency. An investigator at the time, he was later referred to a self-investigation of crimes on allegations that he also improperly placed evidence.
In previous court filings, Sanders alleges that the department was aware of allegations LeFlore placed evidence late and wrote reports in which he lied when placing evidence when he was selected as a person. head of the audit.
When the department referred the allegations surrounding LeFlore to the Orange County district attorney’s office, it allegedly withholding multiple reports allege that the investigator lied.
LeFlore has also been charged with unlawfully listening to privileged recorded phone conversations between a lawyer and an inmate in 2017, according to court records.
On Friday, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered part of LeFlore’s confidential personnel files to be turned over to defense attorneys in a case involving an inmate LeFlore had twice arrested. . KABC-TV Channel 7 reported.
An audit by the Sheriff’s Department also revealed 40 cases in which Tiscareno claimed to include evidence in reports, but has yet to do so, according to court records.
To date, it is unclear what evidence methamphetamine might have in either case. Kelly pleaded not guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.
The defendant in another drug case pleaded guilty to possessing a controlled substance with intent to sell. According to court records, the second charge was dismissed and he was sentenced to two years of probation.
Previously, Sheriff officials said they had taken steps to improve the way staff were educated about evidence handling policies and procedures. Still, Sanders said it continues to be an issue in criminal cases, while the consequences appear to be minimal.