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Former L.A. sheriff's deputy sentenced to more than 17 years in drug trafficking scheme

Former L.A. sheriff's deputy sentenced to more than 17 years in drug trafficking scheme
A former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was sentenced more than 17 years after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Monday to more than 17 years in federal prison for his role in a drug trafficking scheme in which he charged up to $250,000 to protect large shipments of drugs being transported out of state, officials said.

Kenneth Collins, 51, had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in August, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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“For years, former Deputy Collins abused the trust of the people of Los Angeles County as a corrupt law enforcement officer motivated by greed,” U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a statement. “In public, he was sworn to uphold the law, but in private he was a gun for hire willing to help drug smugglers in exchange for getting his cut of the dirty profits.”

Collins — who separated from the Sheriff’s Department about a month after his January arrest — was also ordered to pay $38,000 in restitution.

Collins claimed to run “teams,” including other law enforcement officers, who provided security for illegal marijuana grow houses and drug transports, according to a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors. In 2017, he offered to recruit a team for an undercover agent posing as the partner of a wealthy investor who wanted to get involved in drug trafficking.

The U.S. attorney’s office said that in recorded negotiations with the undercover agent, Collins also offered to intimidate and assault people for cash. “I fix problems,” Collins bragged, prosecutors said. “I make a lot of things go away.”

At a meeting with the agent, Collins showed his sheriff’s badge and gun to prove his ties to law enforcement. At a later meeting, Collins demanded $25,000 to escort a shipment of methamphetamine, marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes from Pasadena to Las Vegas, justifying the expense by saying he and his team were cops.

“All of our transports make it through,” Collins said, according to the plea agreement. He didn’t know the methamphetamine was fake.

During the drive to Las Vegas, Collins drove behind the transport vehicle, while an alleged co-conspirator drove in front. A third person rode in the car with an undercover agent and the drugs, according to the court filing. All three were keeping an eye out for police and other threats.

After that, Collins and the agent started making plans to transport an even larger shipment of meth and cocaine in January, according to the plea agreement. Since more drugs were involved, Collins named a higher price: $250,000.

When the trio showed up in Pasadena early on Jan. 16 to carry out their end of the deal, officials said, they were arrested by FBI agents.

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