What started with a bad cop stealing cocaine from police evidence lockers mushroomed this year into the worst police corruption scandal in city history.
The full scope of officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez’s allegations of police corruption rocked the city in February when The Times published transcripts of his confidential interviews with Los Angeles Police Department investigators.
“I’m going to make a very broad statement. And you’re not going to like it,” Perez told authorities two days after agreeing to a plea bargain on drug theft charges. “I would say that 90% of the officers who work CRASH, and not just Rampart CRASH, falsify a lot of information. They put cases on people. . . . It hurts me to say it, but there’s a lot of crooked stuff going on in the LAPD.”
During those interviews, Perez told detectives that an organized criminal subculture thrived within the LAPD, that a secret fraternity of anti-gang officers and supervisors in the Rampart Division routinely conspired to frame innocent people and to cover up unjustified shootings and beatings.
In exchange for a five-year sentence for stealing eight pounds of cocaine, Perez agreed to finger fellow dirty cops. Perez identified about 70 officers as having committed either crimes or misconduct or as having known about such activity and failing to take action. Dozens of officers have been relieved of duty as a special corruption task force investigates Perez’s allegations.
One alleged victim, former gang member Javier Francisco Ovando, was paid $15 million by the city to settle a lawsuit. Perez said he and partner Nino Durden shot the unarmed young man and then planted a gun on him to cover their tracks. Ovando was sentenced to prison for 23 years after the officers testified that he had attacked them. Ovando served 2 years before being released.
Three of Perez’s former Rampart cohorts were convicted of corruption-related offenses in November and a fourth officer was acquitted. The convictions were overturned by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline A. Connor, who concluded that jurors had considered irrelevant evidence.