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Soboroff: Group offers to repay LAPD for meeting on Mexican Mafia

The nonprofit group of business leaders who attended an LAPD-arranged event featuring a convicted ex-shot caller for the Mexican Mafia has approached police officials with an offer to reimburse the department's costs, an official said.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said the Young Presidents' Organization contacted him about reaching out to the department for an invoice for "any and all expenses" stemming from the security provided at Wednesday's event in downtown L.A.

"I think that's a positive step," Soboroff said. "But that doesn't mean the inspector general shouldn't look at the other issues -- why it happened in the first place. And he's doing that."

The LAPD has been criticized for coordinating the private meeting between business leaders, local police officials and Rene "Boxer" Enriquez, a former shot caller with the prison gang who was sentenced to life in prison for two murders.

The LAPD has not provided an estimate of how many officers were used and how much the event cost the department. But Times reporters saw a heavy police presence around the building, including several unmarked police cars, a police helicopter overhead and officers searching a nearby coffee shop with a police dog.

Soboroff has called for an investigation by the inspector general, describing the meeting as a "giant waste of public resources." A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti also blasted the department over the event.

"This was inappropriate and never should have happened," Yusef Robb said. "We expect a full accounting of why this occurred and we are going to make sure this sort of thing never happens again."

Late Thursday, Chief Charlie Beck issued a statement acknowledging "mistakes were made in holding this event."

"I have directed the department to more thoroughly review future events before committing LAPD resources," Beck said.

State prison records show that a parole board granted Enriquez's request for release following a Sept. 25 hearing. Enriquez has testified as an expert witness in gang prosecutions, instructed law enforcement on the workings of the Mexican Mafia, co-authored a book on street gangs and taught online courses at UC Irvine, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Gov. Jerry Brown has about three weeks to decide whether to allow or block Enriquez's release on parole.

LAPD officials initially defended Wednesday's event, saying Enriquez helped educate both law enforcement personnel and private sector attendees. 

In a text message Wednesday, Beck said the ex-gang member "offers a perspective on organizations and leadership that is unknown to much of this audience."

LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing said the meeting originated when someone in the Young Presidents' Organization approached him and asked if the department could help the business group talk to someone who had experience with a "transnational criminal enterprise." 

Downing said the LAPD then decided to sponsor the event and invite local police officials from the region. He estimated the meeting lasted about an hour and a half.

"He talked about how it grew, how it was branded, how it expanded, how it evolved," Downing said.

For more Southern California police news, follow @katemather@lacrimes and @LATvives.

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