L.A. County deputy arrested for allegedly smuggling heroin into jail, sources say

The North County Correctional Facility
The North County Correctional Facility is one of the county jails in Castaic.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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A sheriff’s deputy who was part of a task force focused on keeping Los Angeles County’s jails free of drugs and gang activity was arrested last week and accused of smuggling drugs into a county jail, according to booking records and multiple law enforcement sources.

Michael Meiser, 39, was arrested April 30. Jail records show he was booked on suspicion of an unspecified felony on May 1. L.A. County Sheriff’s Department records show Meiser worked at North County Correctional Facility as an investigator. He worked with the jail’s anti-gang unit, known as Operation Safe Jails, according to two law enforcement sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

One of those sources and another law enforcement official, who also was not cleared to speak publicly about the case and requested anonymity, told The Times that Meiser was arrested for allegedly smuggling heroin into the the jail complex in Castaic.


Jail records show Meiser was cited and released without bail last week. He did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Tuesday and it was not clear if he has retained an attorney.

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In an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon, Richard Pippin, president of the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, acknowledged the investigation but offered little more information.

“We are aware that there is a criminal investigation underway regarding one or more employees working in our jails,” the statement said. “All law enforcement professionals are rightfully held to a high standard both on and off duty. ALADS will wait until we have access to all the information yielded by the investigation before commenting further.”

One source said Meiser had been under surveillance for a long time and was allegedly observed buying heroin in Los Angeles before returning to the jail facility where he was arrested last week. The source described Meiser’s arrest as part of a “larger operation” to combat drug use in the jail.

A jail official said last week that the case was being handled by the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, which looks into alleged crimes by department employees. On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed only that investigators had arrested an employee for “felony charges” and that “the employee is relieved of duty pending the outcome of the case.”

Officials said the investigation is ongoing, adding that it will be presented to prosecutors “once the case is completed.”


A spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney’s office confirmed that the agency is aware of Meiser’s arrest and has not yet been presented the case for charging consideration.

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Operation Safe Jails’ main goal is to combat “the criminal activities of inmate gang members” and discourage gang activity, according to Sheriff’s Department records.

In 2013, deputies in the Operation Safe Jails program were among those indicted for attempting to hide a jailhouse informant from FBI officials who were using him to investigate jail abuses and corruption. The deception and the cover-up that followed ultimately landed former Sheriff Lee Baca and several others in federal prison.

L.A. County is struggling with a surge of deaths in the jails, many of them linked to drug use. Last year, department officials said that out of 45 inmate deaths in the jails, a dozen were drug-related — more than twice as many as a decade earlier when the jail population was much larger.

In recent years, several of those deaths have been at the county’s northern jail complex. Last year, a quarterly oversight report showed that jailers there skipped several required safety checks before discovering an inmate who had overdosed. Records show jailers only learned of the medical emergency after other inmates summoned them for help.

When a 29-year-old collapsed at the North County Correctional Facility in 2022, other inmates tried to save him by administering the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. After he died, officials discovered surveillance footage had captured him loading a makeshift syringe at his bunk and asking another inmate to help him inject it into his neck, according to autopsy records.


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Deputies also later reported seeing him inject drugs on camera a few weeks before his death — but records do not make clear how he might have obtained the drugs.

To combat the problem, officials under the prior administration made naloxone readily available by mounting the nasal spray onto jail walls. In recent months, department officials have repeatedly touted the need for better body scanners to search inmates for drugs — a solution that would not necessarily address the problem of drug smuggling among sworn staff.

Melissa Camacho, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California told The Times on Tuesday that the arrest highlighted gaps in the jail’s efforts to stop contraband.

“It’s really concerning that sheriff’s deputies are smuggling heroin in, and that the sheriff’s response to in-custody deaths has not included requiring LASD staff to be searched before entering the workplace,” Camacho said. “The arrest just goes to show how vital that kind of search is to protecting the health and lives of people who are in custody.”

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.