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LA County Probation Dept. plagued with employee arrests

September 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An investigation into the Los Angeles County Probation Department has led to multiple arrests, including a former state assemblyman suspected of fraud, and another employee suspected of attempted murder.

The chief of the department says L.A. County has the largest probation department in the U.S., with 6,100 employees. In a series of investigations, several dozen workers have been accused of committing felonies while off-duty.

A surprise was waiting at the Los Angeles County Probation Department as a high-level director reported to work Monday morning, FBI agents were waiting.

Carl Washington, an executive manager and former state assemblyman, is accused of bank fraud. And he is not the only one arrested in a crackdown.

"In the nine months since I became the Chief Probation Officer of this department, 39 individuals from this department have been arrested for various criminal charges," said Jerry Powers, Chief Probation Officer, Los Angeles County Probation Department.

They include the case of 53-year-old Michael Sanchez, arrested on suspicion of shooting a man during a bar fight in Covina last month. Police used a picture from a security camera to catch him.

Then there's 36-year-old Rochelle Williams, who was charged with 27 felonies in early September. She allegedly filed nine fraudulent on-the-job injury claims and forged county documents to support her claims for workers compensation.

Powers says all of the alleged crimes by probation department employees were committed separately by the individuals, all while off-duty.

There were 20 DUI arrests. Seven arrests were for theft or fraud. Five arrests were for violent conduct, ranging from spousal abuse to attempted murder. Three arrests were for drugs.

"Maybe our practices weren't as tight as they should have been, and as we ask questions and as we uncover or remove the wrapping on some of these issues, we find more things," said Powers.

Powers says he is asking for 11 additional investigators and attorneys to conduct further probes; hiring standards will be raised and polygraphs will be implemented.

Most shocking, he says, were the alleged offenses by Washington, a member of the upper management team. The FBI alleges that he would obtain credit cards from banks, run up a bill, then filed a police report saying the charges were not his, claiming he was a victim of identity theft.

Additional arrests are expected.

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