The Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy pulled up to the pot-filled warehouse just after three in the morning.
He held up an official-looking document to a guard, who promptly unlocked a gate. The deputy and two other men, each of them armed and dressed in sheriff’s jackets, got out.
After locking the guard and two other employees in the back of the deputy’s SUV, the men went to work lugging bags of marijuana from the warehouse.
But far from an official raid, the deputy and his associates were carrying out a brazen heist, federal authorities said Friday.
Dep. Marc Antrim and his team, which included more men who arrived with a moving truck, are accused of stealing hundreds of pounds of marijuana and safes filled with cash from the warehouse, which served as a distribution center for a legal marijuana operation.
Antrim, a patrol deputy in the sheriff’s Temple City station, and two other men were arrested Thursday on federal drug charges. During searches of Antrim’s house and another man’s home, agents found several weapons, ammunition and about $350,000 in bundled cash, court records show.
At a court appearance Friday, the three men were appointed lawyers by a judge who ordered that they be kept in custody pending their detention hearings, which were continued to next week. Government official said prosecutors will argue against bail.
Attorneys for the three men could not be reached for comment.
“Deputy Antrim allegedly was able to use his law enforcement expertise and his access to Sheriff’s Department gear to stage a robbery that netted over a million dollars in marijuana and cash,” U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a statement. “We cannot tolerate this type of behavior from sworn officers, and this case demonstrates our commitment to quickly address corrupt behavior by law enforcement.
At the time of the robbery late last month, Antrim was not on duty and was not assigned to a narcotics unit that would have given him a reason to search a marijuana distribution warehouse in the city of Los Angeles, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
Antrim, 41, of South El Monte, and the others carried out the alleged robbery early Oct. 29, according to affidavits written by an officer from the Drug Enforcement Agency to obtain search and arrest warrants. Much of the affidavits are based on footage from dozens of security cameras at the warehouse that captured the event.
One of the cameras recorded the deputy pulling up to the warehouse on Commercial Street near downtown Los Angeles in an unmarked sheriff’s SUV that Antrim allegedly took from the Temple City station, according to the affidavits.
Along with holstered handguns, Antrim and the two men riding with him wore equipment belts typically used by police, and one man carried a larger weapon that appeared on the cameras to be a rifle or shotgun, an affidavit said.
Minutes later, a rental truck pulled up and the men began loading boxes and bags filled with marijuana that had been packaged for shipment. In all, they took 600 pounds of the drug, authorities said.
Unbeknownst to the men, someone had called the Los Angeles Police Department, which polices the area where the warehouse is located, to report a group of sheriff’s deputies trying to execute a search warrant, according to one of the affidavits.
Around 3:45 a.m., several LAPD officers arrived. As the other men fled out the back of the warehouse, shedding their gear and jackets, Antrim approached the officers, according to security camera recordings and footage from one LAPD officer’s body camera described in the affidavits.
Telling the officers he was a Sheriff’s Department narcotics investigator, Antrim made a call on his phone and said it was to his supervisor. A man on the other end of the line told an LAPD officer that Antrim was conducting a legitimate search, and the officers soon left, the affidavits said.
Antrim went back to loading the moving truck and soon was joined by several men who arrived in a white pickup and on foot. Authorities suspect some of the men were the ones who fled earlier.
Along with the marijuana, the men carried two safes filled with about $100,000 in cash to the moving truck and left.
The scam quickly fell apart. A few days after the robbery, an attorney for the marijuana business contacted the Sheriff’s Department and handed over thumb drives with a copy of the security camera footage, according to the affidavit.
Sheriff’s officials notified federal authorities and assisted them as agents from the DEA and other agencies began to investigate.
“We have systems in place to root out misconduct within the organization, as well as any Department member who chooses to violate the law and public trust,” spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said in a statement.
Using a tracking device installed in the rented moving truck, authorities followed its movements after the alleged heist to a house in Glendora. When agents searched the house Thursday they found about two pounds of marijuana, a loaded Beretta handgun registered to Antrim, ammunition that is issued to law enforcement officers and a flashlight with Antrim’s name on it, court records show. They also recovered $150,000 to $200,000 in cash.
The man living at the house, Kevin McBride, 43, was arrested and is charged with being one of the men on Antrim’s team.
A search of the house Antrim rents turned up a similar amount of cash and a cache of four firearms, which included a double-barrel shotgun and a “submachine gun-style firearm,” one of the affidavits said.
The third man arrested and charged is Eric Rodriguez, 32, of Adelanto, who authorities also allege was at the warehouse. All three men are in custody and charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
Authorities said they were still trying to identify the other men involved.
The failed con job is the second time this year a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on drug charges.
In January, Dep. Kenneth Collins and three other men were arrested by FBI agents and charged with operating a large-scale drug trafficking scheme. According to court records, Collins boasted that he hired other law enforcement officers to provide security to drug dealers and could assault people for his clients.