Gangland makes inroads inside law enforcement as FBI investigate secret society of tattooed cops in East Los Angeles who use gang-like tactics to recruit more officers – ‘Banditos’ are known to intimidate and beat up deputies who don’t join them
FBI investigating secret society of tattooed cops in East Los Angeles who use ‘gang-like tactics to recruit more officers’ and ‘beat up deputies who don’t join them’
The Banditos are an alleged band of Latino police officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept
It’s alleged they use criminal tactics and recruit young Latino rookies to their fold
It is understood new members of the gang are required to commit criminal acts to prove their loyalty, such as planting evidence or writing false incident reports
The anonymous informants say the Bandito leaders control key functions of the station including choosing whether back up is dispatched on dangerous calls
The FBI investigation appears to have been initiated after a group of deputies filed a lawsuit against the county accusing sheriff officials of hostility to rookies
As deputy gangs face renewed scrutiny at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s dept, the dept is facing a lawsuit that implicates Deputies David Silverio, Gregory Rodriguez and Rafael Munoz, and Sgt. Mike Hernandez
The four officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after they harassed and severely beat up a rookie cop
The FBI is investigating a secret society of tattooed deputies in East Los Angeles dubbed The Banditos, who allegedly use gang-like tactics to recruit young Latino police officers into their fold.
The the district attorney’s office is weighing potential criminal charges against members of the Banditos, a gang or clique that operates out of the East Los Angeles patrol station.
The Banditos, who brand themselves with matching tattoos of a skeleton wearing a sombrero, bandolier and pistol, are accused of beating and harassing young police officers who rebuff them.
Deputy gangs are facing renewed scrutiny at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s as it is understood that new members of the gang are required to commit criminal acts to prove their loyalty, such as planting evidence or writing false incident reports, an LA Times investigation suggests. According to reports with anonymous police officers, the group has a gang-like hierarchy and may even have rival gangs within the department numbering around 10,000 law enforcement officials. The anonymous informants claim the Bandito leaders control key elements of the station including choosing whether back up is dispatched during dangerous calls.
The deputies say Bandito leaders, who are alleged to control key elements of station operations, put others’ lives at risk by not sending backup to help on dangerous calls, enforced illegal arrest quotas and carried out other forms of harassment.
Such is the growth of the gangs that investigators are looking into the possibility of there being rival gangs within the state, including one called the Reapers in South LA, and another dubbed the Spartans and Regulators in the Century Station.
According to reports with anonymous officers, the group has a gang-like hierarchy and may even have rival gangs within the department, which numbers around 10,000 law enforcement officials
The federal investigation appears to have been initiated after a group of deputies filed a lawsuit against the county accusing sheriff’s officials of failing to tackle a hostile atmosphere in the East LA station.
In one instance, it is alleged four Banditos harassed a rookie and when other deputies stepped in, were punched, kicked and choked unconscious, the legal files claim.
‘There’s people getting, you know, stomped on… being choked out… it was just crazy, crazy to believe they’re all cops,’ one deputy told Eyewitness News.
The deputy who was beaten up at that party is speaking out anonymously as he and six other deputies filed a legal claim alleging harassment and discrimination.
The lawsuit implicates Deputies David Silverio, Gregory Rodriguez and Rafael Munoz, and Sgt. Mike Hernandez, who were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident. Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Department presented a criminal case involving the four men to the district attorney’s office on June 19.
County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has repeatedly downplayed the importance of tattooed deputy groups within the LA law enforcement ranks, calling them a ‘cultural norm.’
“Chavez identified the problem and the problem players, and he’s been doing a commendable job of sifting through them to get the station up and running to serve the community,” Villanueva said.
Last month, Villanueva announced a new policy that specifically bars department members from participating in any groups that promote conduct that violates the rights of other employees or the public.
The sheriff claims he transferred from the station 36 people who were associated with the Banditos or were otherwise identified as problematic. Villanueva said he thinks there is no longer a hostile work environment at the East L.A. station. “Now that it’s been broken up and scattered, I’d say yeah, it’s over,” he said.
But Capt. Chavez, in a recent interview, said the 36 transfers simply reflect the general group of deputies who left the station since January, and that the departures were voluntary, some because of promotions. He said he did not know how many people allegedly tied to the Banditos were transferred.
Attorney for the deputies who filed the claims, Vincent Miller, said any changes at the station have been cosmetic and have failed to abolish the toxic work environment there. Maintaining that the department has not held the problematic deputies accountable and that some of his clients have suffered ongoing emotional stress because of the situation, prompting him to file additional grievances in the case.
“The captain and everyone else at East L.A. station knows they haven’t transferred 36 deputies, and the real number is just six,” Miller said. “We specifically filed the supplemental claims very recently because the cop gang problem has not been fixed.”
While reports about cliques of law enforcement officers occasionally surface across the country, no agency has received more public scrutiny for them than the Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles County.
The secretive groups have been entrenched in the department for decades. Defenders say the cliques are harmless fraternities, likening them to close-knit groups in the military. But time and again, the deputy clubs have come under fire for promoting aggressive tactics and an us-versus-everyone mentality.
A watchdog panel in 1992 pressed the Sheriff’s Department to address the problem. Two decades later, a blue-ribbon commission sharply criticized the department for turning a blind eye and allowing the groups to use excessive force against people in the county jails and on the streets.
The LATimes reported in 2018 that a new tattooed club of lawmen surfaced at the Compton station after a deputy there admitted under oath to having ink of a skeleton holding a rifle.
The deputy, who was accused of excessive force in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, said as many as 20 of his colleagues have the same tattoo.
Los Angeles county recently reached a $7-million settlement in a lawsuit after attorneys for the slain man’s family said the shooting was driven by the hard-charging policing of inked deputies.
In a separate case last year, a Palmdale station deputy admitted in a deposition to having a tattoo of a skull in a cowboy hat that matched the ink of several other lawmen at his station.
More recently, internal documents showed that Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, who was fired for domestic violence and dishonesty and later was rehired by Villanueva, acknowledged having a tattoo as a member of the Reapers.
Despite the disturbing trend of cops joining police gangs, Chief Villanueva maintained Wednesday that he does not believe there are problems with deputy groups at any other stations.