B2 High-Intermediate 42 Folder Collection
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On a Monday afternoon in 1998, a nine-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department
strolled into the vast Property Division evidence room at the downtown headquarters.
The officer's name was Rafael 'Ray' Perez and he was wearing a disguise.
A five day old beard and mustache covered the lower half of his face; he wore his wife's
thick reading glasses and a baseball cap was pulled low on his head.
At the counter Perez gave the property officer a folder with a booking number, telling her
that he needed the evidence for the case.
Without checking his ID, she quickly retrieved a taped and sealed cardboard evidence box
and allowed him to sign for it.
Perez scrawled the name of another cop 'Joel Perez' and a fake badge number before leaving
with the evidence.
Twenty minutes later, Perez parked his SUV near a strip mall.
He ran over to a nearby store and purchased a box of Bisquick baking mix.
He returned to his SUV and finally opened the evidence box.
Inside were three kilos (6.6 pounds) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $800,000.
Just like he had done twice previously when stealing coke from evidence to sell, Perez
swapped Bisquick for the drugs.
On both occasions he had been able to reseal the evidence bags full of baking mix and return
them without issue.
Typically, coke was never retested and this evidence was involved in a case that wasn't
going to trial.
Sooner or later the coke would be destroyed, forever hiding evidence of his illegal substitution.
But today was different.
Maybe Perez had a premonition or it was paranoia.
But he ended up dumping the bags full of baking mix and the empty evidence box into a nearby
storm drain instead of trying to swap the fake drugs back into the property room.
But it was too late, his audacious theft was already another link in a chain of events
that would end in the exposure of the widespread police corruption in the LAPD's Rampart
Division anti-gang CRASH unit.
Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums or CRASH was started in the 1970's to combat
gangs in South Central LA.
In response to the drug fueled violence of the 1980's, the LAPD heavily funded CRASH
and established other divisions throughout the city for a total of 18 units.
The elite teams of officers worked out of their own substations, often wore plainclothes
and made undercover drug buys.
The unspoken rule at CRASH was that a prospective member needed to be invited to join by a sponsor
on the team.
CRASH divisions were tight knit families separate from other cops.
Their mission was to take out gangs through just about any means necessary.
The Rampart CRASH unit pushed this idea to the max and were known for being a law unto
themselves.
Rampart CRASH served Pico-Union, a dense poverty stricken neighborhood full of of immigrants--both
legal and undocumented, located just west of L.A.'s downtown skyscrapers.
Though Pico-Union is only about 8 square miles, during the late 1990's, the area had upwards
of 30 different gangs including 18th Street and MS-13.
Rampart CRASH had a reputation for being dirty, but after bad interactions with officers,
few residents dared to come forward.
Many were scared of the cops, spoke little to no English or were involved in illegal
activities themselves.
The complaints of the few residents that spoke out against the unit didn't go anywhere.
After the coke went missing, Internal Affairs [IA] investigated officer Joel Perez who had
allegedly checked out the drugs.
They quickly discounted him.
When IA went through property division records, the logs showed that Rampart CRASH officer
Ray Perez had previously checked out a large amount of coke.
Meanwhile, IA was already investigating Rampart CRASH for the brutal beating of a suspect
and a couple of bad shootings.
Also 3 months before Perez's theft of the coke, his close friend and former partner
David Mack had been arrested for a brazen bank heist of $722,000 in cash.
As of yet investigators hadn't been able to identify David's co-conspirators who
helped him rob the bank.
However, they suspected Perez and a third cop.
Curiously, in one way or another Perez was involved in or linked to all of these events.
Worried that they had a couple of rogue cops in Rampart, the LAPD created a task force
made up of detectives and prosecutors from the DA's Office.
They quickly put Perez under surveillance.
They tapped his phone, parked a van outside his house and on at least one occasion followed
his SUV via helicopter.
The task force discovered that Perez and his wife drove expensive vehicles and had an upper
middle class lifestyle that would be hard to achieve on policeman's pay.
Also Perez had called his girlfriend, a known sometimes cocaine dealer and informant twice
on the day of the coke theft, once before and once after.
In August of 1998, the LAPD arrested Perez for the coke theft.
In December of 1998, he went to trial.
Perez was a charismatic storyteller who managed to enthrall several members of the jury.
His case ended 8-4, in a hung jury.
Perez remained in custody.
The police task force went back to work to try to build a stronger case against him.
Their research turned up the fact that drugs had gone missing from evidence before.
There were 11 transfers with suspicious paperwork.
6 of the drug evidence packages had already been destroyed, but they tested the remaining
5.
All were Bisquick.
Perez had been stealing from the evidence room off and on for years.
The newly discovered thefts bumped the charge against Perez up to a felony.
Rather than go to trial again, Perez had his attorney reach out to Richard Rosenthal, a
deputy district attorney, who was on the task force and overseeing prosecution.
Perez was willing to confess to a crime: the shooting of an unarmed suspect, and the planting
of a gun on him if he was granted immunity on that charge and a reduced five-year term
on the drug charges.
In exchange Perez would spill the beans on dirty cops in the Rampart division CRASH.
The deal was approved.
Perez was secretly transported from jail to an office in the headquarters of the county
transit system to meet with the task force.
Worried about threats to Perez's life, the authorities didn't want to meet in a police
building.
What Perez said stunned the room.
He had been dirty since his very first drug bust as a CRASH officer in 1995.
He regularly kept some of the money he seized during busts.
Then Perez told the LAPD of the time he shot Javier Ovando.
On the night of October 13, 1996, Perez and his partner Nino Durden went to a boarded-up
apartment building for a surveillance stakeout.
They found two homeless guys crashing in one of the apartments, Nene and 19 year old Javier
Ovando, a member of the notorious 18th Street Gang.
Durden and Perez were especially unhappy to see Ovando, they had thrown him out of the
building the night before.
They handcuffed the two men and hustled them to unit 407, their stakeout apartment.
Perez unshackled Nene, telling the men that he was sending them out one at a time.
Nene left immediately.
However, Perez and Durden didn't let Ovando leave, they started interrogating him.
When he protested, refusing to offer up any information, Perez suddenly pulled out his
Beretta and shot him in the chest at close range.
Durden quickly did the same.
Then, Perez lifted Ovando off the floor by the front of his shirt, and fired a round
into the side of his head.
Perez called for assistance using Rampart CRASH's secret radio code for a dirty shooting.
The code was a demand for other CRASH officers in the know to keep outside supervisors away.
By the time anyone else arrived at the scene, Perez and Durden had positioned a loaded,
chopped-down Tech .22 semi automatic by Ovando's body.
Durden had previously filed the serial number off of the gun.
Once the sergeant arrived, unaware that they had planted the gun, he listened to Perez's
story of the shooting and helped them clean up any loose ends in the tale.
According to Perez, Ovando busted into the apartment, brandishing his gun with intent
to kill.
They shot him out of self defense.
Miraculously, Ovando survived the shooting, although he was left paralyzed and wheelchair-bound
for the rest of his life.
When he was somewhat recovered, he stood trial.
Based on Perez's and Durden's false testimony Ovando was found guilty of 2 counts of assaulting
a police officer with a semiautomatic rifle and one count of brandishing it in the presence
of a police officer.
He received the maximum sentence—23 years in state prison.
Perez's confession about Ovando's shooting was just the beginning.
He claimed that 90% of all CRASH officers, not just Rampart CRASH, falsified information.
He also talked about dirty busts.
Perez's revelations sent the LAPD reeling.
How many people were sitting in jail for crimes they didn't commit or their investigation
was handled by corrupt cops?
Perez's first debriefing session was 3 hours and there was the promise of more secrets
to be divulged.
On behalf of the DA's office the horrified Rosenthal took the unusual step for prosecution
and filed writ of habeas corpus overturning Ovando's conviction.
Within a week of Perez's confession, Ovando was freed from prison.
He had served 2 and 1/2 years in jail.
Over the course of 52 secret interrogations lasting 9 months, Perez laid bare the corrupt
culture and transgressions of the Rampart CRASH division.
He discussed how the majority of CRASH officers were unscrupulous.
They knowingly framed civilians, sometimes with 'drop guns' like the one he and Durden
planted on Ovando, perjured themselves on the witness stand and were purposefully slow
in calling for medical attention, allowing injured suspects to suffer longer.
Some officers drank or took drugs on the job.
They also awarded each other plaques for shooting people, with extra honors if the person killed
was a suspect.
Pérez told the task force the unofficial CRASH motto: "We intimidate those who intimidate
others."
Early on, Perez had asked the task force if he could see the CRASH “recap books”—logs
of all activities undertaken by the unit to refresh his memories.
Perez reviewed 1,509 arrest reports and identified 91 arrests involving 160 suspects with alleged
police misconduct.
Of those 91 dirty arrests, Perez was involved in 63 of which 44 involved Perez and his partner
Durden.
Perez also provided details on a cop on cop shooting, and a brutality incident where Rampart
CRASH officer Brian Hewitt brought Ismael Jimenez, a member of the 18th Street Gang
into the station for questioning.
During interrogation Hewitt severely beat the handcuffed Jiminez.
However Perez refused to provide information on David Mack, whom by now had been convicted
and was serving a fourteen year sentence for his bank robbery.
Nor would Perez admit to being one of the robbers and he had no idea where the loot
from the bank robbery ended up.
As of 2020, the stolen money has never been recovered.
Allegedly, the money was intended to be used to pay off an assassin for carrying out the
murder of Biggie Smalls.
Reputedly, Perez and Mack were involved in the planning of the famed rapper's murder
too.
Meanwhile investigators scrambled to try to corroborate the information Perez had provided.
Detectives visited several prisons to talk to inmates and even made a trip to a village
in Central America to speak to a wronged party.
Ultimately, Perez pointed a finger at over 70 officers for misconduct.
Investigations found enough evidence to bring 58 of those officers before an internal administrative
board.
However, only 24 were actually found to have committed any wrongdoing.
12 cops were given suspensions, 7 were forced into resignation or retirement, and 5 were
fired.
Based on falsified evidence and police perjury inquiries, 106 prior criminal convictions
were overturned.
There were over 140 civil lawsuits against the city of Los Angeles, which cost the city
an estimated $125 million in settlements.
On November 21, 2000, Javier Ovando received a $15 million settlement, the largest police
misconduct settlement in Los Angeles history, and possibly US history.
Ray Perez and Nino Durden were the only cops who wound up doing any real prison time for
the Rampart Scandal.
In accordance with his immunity agreement, Pérez was sentenced to 5 years for stealing
cocaine from LAPD evidence.
He was paroled early.
However, 2 federal charges were brought against him: (1) conspiracy to violate Ovando's civil
rights; (2) Possessing a firearm with an eliminated serial number, the drop gun used to frame
Ovando.
He was sentenced to serve 2 years in federal prison.
Durden ended up being sentenced to 5 years in prison after being convicted on six counts,
including conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury, and filing false reports.
In the fall of 1999 LAPD chief Bernard Parks created a Board of Inquiry to review management
failure and probe the depth of the corruption scandal.
About 6 months later the Board released a report which mainly blamed a few bad apples
and mediocre departmental management for allowing misconduct within the Rampart Division to
occur.
The report also offered recommendations for improvement in several areas including police
training and supervisory oversight.
The LAPD experienced a great deal of inner turmoil.
Many cops felt like chief Parks closed down the investigation too quickly.
He quashed lines of inquiry into corrupt cops tied to the Bloods and other criminal enterprises.
Also he refused to grant immunity to officers who'd witnessed and failed to report misconduct.
That choice quelled any impulses of low level officers to come forward about wrongdoing
they might have seen with upper management.
Lastly, Park limited the probe to Rampart CRASH instead of instituting a wider investigation
of all CRASH units even though during interrogation Perez and later Durden brought up misconduct
happening in the 77 Street CRASH division.
Other cops felt like Ray Perez played the LAPD for fools, feeding them exaggerated tales
of police wrongdoing with a little truth mixed in.
CRASH was disbanded in 2000, and replaced by the LAPD Gang and Narcotics Division.
Several crimes involving Rampart CRASH officers remain unsolved.
The full truth may never be known about what is probably the worst corruption scandal in
the LAPD's 151 year history.
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The Rampart Scandal - Horrible Crimes Committed by Police

42 Folder Collection
Summer published on August 10, 2020
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