A former Orange County judge and two other men have been indicted on federal charges alleging that they tried to establish a large-scale cocaine operation in which the judge would receive sales commissions for finding customers.
Alan A. Plaia, 48, who served from 1979 to 1983 in Central Municipal Court in Santa Ana, faces three felony counts stemming from an attempt to sell a kilogram of cocaine to undercover investigators from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The charges, contained in a secret indictment unsealed Tuesday, include conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and distribution of the drug. If convicted on all three counts, Plaia could face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Also indicted were Grisha Moradian, 53, of Costa Mesa, who was arrested Monday in Newport Beach, and David Nicol, a former Surfside man now serving a four-year term in federal prison on a separate drug conviction. Moradian is being held without bail.
Plaia is scheduled to surrender Monday at his arraignment in U.S. District Court. He and his attorney, Robert Perry of Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
According to the seven-page indictment, undercover informants and narcotics officers posing as potential customers repeatedly met with Plaia, Moradian and Nicol in Orange and Los Angeles counties from January, 1989, to February, 1990.
Investigators say Plaia would introduce Moradian to them, and Nicol would agree to provide loans to help finance the cocaine purchase. For his role in the sales, Plaia was going to earn $200 per kilogram, authorities allege.
After practicing civil law in Newport Beach for 10 years, Plaia was appointed to the Orange County bench in September, 1979, by then Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. He resigned in 1983 to resume his law practice, but he occasionally filled in as a temporary judge in Municipal Court until 1989, when he closed his law office and opened a jewelry store in Corona del Mar.
DEA officials said Plaia was arrested last September in a Kona, Hawaii, hotel room while allegedly trying to buy $24,000 worth of cocaine from undercover officers. He was allowed to remain free pending the outcome of that investigation. The indictment unsealed Tuesday is not related to the Hawaii case.