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Ex-deputies allegedly cut power, cameras to plant guns in pot clinic

Law EnforcementCrime, Law and Justice

Two former L.A. County sheriff's deputies allegedly turned off the electricity and a security camera system inside a medical marijuana dispensary as they planted guns they used to justify two arrests, according to court documents.

Julio Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32, have been charged with two felony counts of conspiring to obstruct justice and altering evidence, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Martinez faces two additional felony counts of perjury and filing a false report.

Prosecutors said the men, who are scheduled to be arraigned June 17, each face more than seven years in state prison if convicted. The Sheriff's Department did not immediately comment on the allegations.

According to a complaint filed by prosecutors last week, Martinez claimed he saw a man take part in a drug deal and reach for a gun in his shorts pocket. The deputy said he then saw the man discard the gun near a trash bin inside the dispensary.

Before he got a search warrant, Martinez kicked a wall outlet and shut down power to the room, according to the complaint. Paez then allegedly opened a drawer, pulled out a gun and put it on a chair.

The complaint alleges Paez also planted a gun on top of an office desk, next to some ecstasy pills. At some point, Paez allegedly crawled under the desk and disabled the security camera system. 

Prosecutors said the deputies claimed in their report of the incident they found one gun near the trash can and the other on the desk. 

The deputies arrested two men: one for possession of an unregistered gun and the second for possession of a controlled substance while armed with a gun. Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said charges were filed against the men but later dropped.

The sheriff's Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau began investigating the incident a year later and discovered video from inside the dispensary that was "inconsistent" with the report filed by the deputies, prosecutors said on Wednesday. Robison referred questions about the inquiry to the Sheriff's Department. 

Prosecutors described the men as former deputies, but it remains unclear when they left the department. Martinez and Paez were each arrested Friday and released later that day on $50,000 bail.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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