Two former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies allegedly posed as police officers and searched an apartment for drug cash--even while still on trial with other deputies in a drug money-skimming scandal that ended in their convictions.
The allegations against James R. Bauder and Daniel M. Garner, contained in court documents that were sealed until their release Wednesday, were raised several months ago by federal prosecutors when they unsuccessfully sought to revoke the bail of both men, who have vehemently denied the assertions.
The documents were unsealed when government attorneys filed reports as part of their arguments for harsh prison terms against Bauder, Garner and five other fired deputies.
The former narcotics officers, who had worked together on elite investigative teams, were convicted in December for their roles in what prosecutors charged was a money-skimming ring that stole $1.4 million during drug raids.
In calling for substantial prison terms, prosecutors said the officers had participated in "the largest corruption scandal in the history of this city's law enforcement" and have shown little remorse for their crimes. Bauder and Garner were singled out for "attempting to commit other crimes during trial," although neither has been charged with an additional offense.
"This allegation is absurd," said attorney Harland Braun, who represents Garner. "These guys are trying to get a higher sentence on Dan Garner, and they are using evidence that they know is false or that they haven't even investigated."
Bauder said he was at home at the time of the alleged incident, watching television with a neighbor and his family. He also volunteered to provide telephone records to show he was at home that evening.
"If they truly believe that I had gone down there and engaged in an unlawful search for cash in the middle of the trial, then I personally challenge them to indict me," Bauder said. "I did not do that."
Nonetheless, prosecutors maintain that on the evening of Nov. 7--while Bauder and Garner were still on trial--both men went to the Los Angeles apartment of a suspected drug dealer searching for illegal drug cash. The deputies were aware that the trafficker had $928,000 seized from him during past searches by narcotics officers, prosecutors said.
Although Bauder and Garner had been suspended, Garner allegedly flashed "a silver-colored badge" to gain entrance to the apartment in the Westlake area and searched a bedroom while Bauder remained in the living room, prosecutors said.
The pair, however, halted their search when Garner saw the business card of a sheriff's investigator who coincidentally had stopped by the home a day earlier, the government charged. Bauder and Garner left abruptly without finding any cash.
When occupants of the home were questioned, they picked Bauder and Garner from photographs of deputies who had been indicted in the money-skimming case, prosecutors said.
Braun said his client was not in the apartment that night.
"I have telephone records that prove Garner could not have done this because he was at home (in Orange County) at the time and I was talking to him," Braun said. "It would have been physically impossible for him to do this."
The allegations against Bauder and Garner came a day after a federal judge revoked the bail of another former deputy, Macario M. Duran, who was accused of trying to arrange a cocaine deal while free on bail in the same trial.
Duran, who faces a second trial, along with his wife and mother-in-law, had allegedly contacted an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration and attempted to arrange the purchase of 20 kilograms of cocaine to sell in an effort to raise cash, government attorneys said.
Duran has been convicted of structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting the source of thousands of dollars in his bank accounts. The other defendants--Terrell H. Amers, Eufrasio G. Cortez, Ronald E. Daub, John C. Dickenson, Bauder and Garner--were convicted on various charges including theft and conspiracy.
Sentencing for the seven men is scheduled for Monday before U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie. They face possible prison terms ranging from 15 to 53 years.
In seeking stiff prison sentences, prosecutors said the deputies were once "the best and brightest" of the Sheriff's Department before turning to "wholesale corruption." Prosecutors also released a portion of a letter from Capt. Larry Waldie of the Narcotics Bureau measuring the cost of the money-skimming scandal.
"Bureau productivity plummeted. Arrests and cocaine and asset seizures dwindled," Waldie said. "Little or no major narcotic trafficking investigations went on for a full year and a half . . . (and) numerous cases of major drug dealers were lost due to suspensions and/or indictments."