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Sheriff's deputy busted for smuggling contraband into jail

January 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A former Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy will plead guilty in a jail corruption case. He is accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for smuggling cellphones, cigarettes and other items into Men's Central Jail downtown.

The former deputy has agreed to plead guilty to charges of accepting an inmate's bribe. He is the first deputy to admit guilt in an ongoing probe of the sheriff's department.

According to court documents, former deputy Gilbert Michel took $20,000 to deliver contraband inside the jail, including a cellphone.

U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte says the investigation, which the prosecutors and the FBI began six months ago, will continue. It started after Michel now admits he smuggled a cellphone, cigarettes and a note into the jail. Michel has since resigned.

Michel is the first person charged and facing prison time in a jail-corruption probe that involves more deputies and some supervisors.

The sheriff's department discovered the cellphone, but didn't know about the FBI investigation.

When he found out about the FBI investigation, Sheriff Lee Baca reacted angrily because he said he had not been told of the probe. It became public as stories came out of the jail regarding allegations of deputy brutality and other incidents.

Michel faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"It's an ongoing investigation so I can't speak about the specifics of it but I can tell you that we are going to continue to cooperate fully, and if there is any other criminal acts going on, they will be ferreted out and they will be brought to justice," said L.A. County Sheriff's Spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Michel has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating corruption at the jail. That means he will most likely testify against his former colleagues if charges are filed.

Michel will appear in court for a formal plea Tuesday.