A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant has pleaded not guilty to charges of tipping off a West Hollywood massage parlor about potential raids “in exchange for sexual favors or other gifts,” according to a criminal complaint made public Friday.
David Smith, 59, was accused of giving information about law enforcement activities to an employee at the massage parlor and has been charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Smith, a former lieutenant with the West Hollywood station, is accused of advising an employee at Pine Therapy Massage on Santa Monica Boulevard about vice operations being conducted in the area, according to the complaint. In June 2017, Smith told the woman he believed police were in the area and suggested “she should be careful or close for the evening,” according to the complaint.
Prosecutors also accused Smith of visiting the parlor and paying for acts of prostitution in 2016 and 2017, the complaint said. In addition, Smith “utilized on-duty [Sheriff’s Department] personnel” to determine whether authorities were “involved in any law enforcement actions” in the area, according to the complaint.
Under questioning from Sheriff’s Department investigators last June, Smith admitted to warning the employee about potential law enforcement activities and said he frequently visited the parlor for sex, according to the complaint.
If convicted, Smith could face up to three years in prison.
Calls to Smith’s attorney, Vicki Podberesky, seeking comment were not immediately returned Friday. Smith made a brief appearance in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Friday and is due back in court July 23, prosecutors said.
Greg Risling, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, described the employee Smith was in contact with as an “uncharged co-conspirator” and did not say whether she might face prosecution in the case.
While the complaint names the parlor connected to the case as “Pine Therapy Massage,” the only business listed at that address on Santa Monica Boulevard is named “Fine Therapy.” An employee who answered the phone at Fine Therapy declined to comment.
Smith was arrested after the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau launched a “comprehensive undercover investigation,” according to Nicole Nishida, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
Nishida said Smith left the Sheriff’s Department in September, ending a 35-year career, and a case was presented to the district attorney’s office in December.
Nishida did not say whether Smith was fired or resigned. The district attorney’s office described him as “retired.”
Smith, who worked in the West Hollywood station for roughly three decades, was a beloved local cop who went by the nickname “Smitty” in the neighborhood, according to a profile published in the WeHo Times in March of last year.
“I love the community,” Smith, who was described as a father of five, told the publication last year. “It’s something new every day. It’s not stagnant. This is a fun place to work. There’s always something new to discover and challenges that we have to work on to make it the safest city possible.”