Tanaka, ex-captain face indictment in L.A. County jail corruption scandal, sources say

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Federal authorities are expected to announce indictments Thursday against former Los Angeles County Undersheriff and mayor of Gardena Paul Tanaka and a retired sheriff’s captain in the ongoing investigation into excessive force and corruption in the county’s jails, according to sources familiar with the probe.

Tanaka and former Capt. William “Tom” Carey are expected to surrender early Thursday.

The indictments would come as federal prosecutors appear to be setting their sights on the upper echelons of former Sheriff Lee Baca’s department after already charging mostly low-level officials in the case. Baca abruptly stepped down last year, not long after those first charges were filed.

The federal investigation originated with allegations of brutality and corruption against jail deputies. It branched off into obstruction of justice after sheriff’s officials found a cellphone that had been smuggled into jail to an inmate working as an FBI informant.


The officials were accused of hiding the inmate informant under various aliases and threatening an FBI agent with arrest.

One former deputy, Gilbert Michel, pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with his smuggling the phone into Men’s Central Jail. Another pleaded guilty to constructing an illegal firearm.

Sources told The Times in January that authorities had been focusing on meetings in which top sheriff’s officials discussed the discovery of the cellphone. Some of those deputies convicted were testifying before a grand jury, the sources said.

Neither Tanaka nor Carey could immediately be reached for comment. Tanaka and Carey testified in the trial of the deputies last year and said they were subjects of the federal investigation.

Tanaka retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2013 and still serves as mayor of Gardena. He ran to replace Baca but was beaten by a wide margin by Jim McDonnell.

Baca told The Times in January that he was unaware that the grand jury was meeting.