Sheriff Robert Luna backs out and says the fraud case has been turned over to the FBI

Sheriff Robert Luna backs out and says the fraud case has been turned over to the FBI

  • US News
  • March 17, 2023
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?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times 2022 los angeles sheriff 62046 News For Everyone Zoohouse News

Days after Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed that an investigation into alleged gun fraud had been turned over to prosecutors, the department retracted that statement on Thursday, saying the matter had instead been turned over to federal authorities.

During an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Monday, Luna said it would have been a “conflict of interest” for the sheriff’s department to handle the case and that once he took office he would arrange for the matter to be escalated elsewhere , just as he had suggested during the campaign.

“When I got here, we handed it over to the Attorney General’s Office,” he said during an interview at the Justice Hall. “That had no place in this building.”

After The Times published an article on the case on Thursday morning, Jason Skeen – Luna’s chief of staff – came forward and said the sheriff misspoke and that in fact the matter had not been escalated to the prosecutor’s office.

“Investigators met with the FBI,” Skeen said. “That was at the end of January.”

An FBI spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny the meeting or the investigation. But after initially contacting local authorities, a spokesman for the California attorney general confirmed Thursday that the sheriff’s department had not referred the case to that office.

News of the investigation first broke last year when two lawmakers were fired from office and a gun store in Monterey Park was raided. The actions were part of an investigation officials said stemmed from the discovery of “irregularities” in the process for issuing concealed weapons licenses, also known as CCW permits.

Then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva assigned his often-criticized Public Corruption Unit to the investigation, which he said had begun in late 2021.

In a September press release, the department said detectives had served warrants in “multiple locations for gun law violations” and in the process seized evidence involving “individuals who appear to be involved in a possible long-term plan to defraud Los Angeles County citizens.” .”

The publication contained only a few details on the specific allegations. A few weeks later, however, The Times published an investigation into the department’s handling of concealed carry permits. The Times noted that among the thousands who received such approvals were dozens of Villanueva donors and others associated with him. Some gave questionable reasons for having to be armed, received their permits faster than average, or were assisted by two MPs working directly for Villanueva.

Those deputies — Gisel Del Real and Carrie Robles — were each released from duty in September, and detectives showed up at Del Real’s house to question her and seize evidence.

Three months later, Del Real and Robles filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging sexual harassment at work back in 2020 and only being prosecuted in retaliation for reporting the harassment.

During the campaign, Luna criticized Villanueva’s handling of the case, saying, “The sheriff should not and cannot investigate himself.”

In emails this week, Villanueva said that was never the case and that he was “deliberately shielded from any involvement and decision-making” regarding the Public Corruption Unit’s investigation.

That unit, he said, “requested assistance from both state and federal law enforcement agencies” before the department’s Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau took over the case.

Then, in January, after Luna took office, sheriff’s investigators began speaking to the FBI. According to Skeen, those discussions eventually led to a meeting, and the sheriff’s department assigned the case.

After this week’s interview, when the sheriff erroneously said the matter had been escalated to the attorney general, Skeen said he and the sheriff briefly discussed the case on Wednesday and decided to review its facts internally.

The two later found that it had indeed been turned over to the FBI.

The US Attorney’s office initially did not comment on whether federal prosecutors were involved.

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