LASD's Paul Tanaka, Tom Carey indicted for obstructing FBI investigation

ByLisa Bartley KABC logo
Thursday, May 14, 2015
LASD's Paul Tanaka, Tom Carey indicted for obstructing FBI investigation
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Capt. Tom Carey have been indicted on obstruction of justice charges in connection to the scandal that rocked the department in 2013.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Eyewitness News has learned that former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Capt. Tom Carey have been indicted on obstruction of justice charges in connection to the scandal that rocked the department in 2013.

Carey is expected to self-surrender Thursday morning. The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI have announced a news conference set for Thursday morning to detail the charges against them.

Tanaka and Carey are the eighth and ninth LASD officials to face criminal charges stemming from actions taken in the summer of 2011 when inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown was hidden from his FBI handlers.

In a complex scheme that became known as "Operation Pandora's Box," Brown was booked and re-booked under a series of false names, moved to multiple locations and eventually told by LASD officials that the FBI had abandoned him.

Seven now-former LASD deputies, sergeants and lieutenants were convicted last year for their roles in the operation. All seven argued they were only following orders from their superiors in what they believed to be a legitimate law enforcement investigation into how and why a contraband cell phone got into the jail.

Greg Thompson, Steve Leavins, Scott Craig, Maricela Long, Mickey Manzo, Gerard Smith and James Sexton were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 to 41 months behind bars. All seven are appealing the verdicts and remain free on bond.

Federal prosecutors convened a new grand jury in late 2014. Sources tell Eyewitness News that at least three of those convicted, Greg Thompson, Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo were ordered to testify before the panel.


Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, 56, was LASD's second-in-command until 2013, when Sheriff Leroy Baca forced him out after a string of department scandals. Tanaka then went after the top job himself, but got trounced at the polls by Jim McDonnell.

Tanaka is no stranger to scandal -- from a controversial shooting in 1988 to his membership in an infamous gang of deputies known as the "Vikings," and allegations of pay-to-play campaign donations connected to his election as mayor of Gardena.

The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence singled Tanaka out in a scathing report, citing his "troubling role" in failing to address reports of excessive force.

Tanaka testified for the defense in all three obstruction trials of LASD officials, telling jurors that Baca ordered the investigation that ultimately led to two sergeants threatening to arrest FBI Agent Leah Marx. Tanaka insisted that his only concern was keeping Brown safe from deputies or other inmates who might view him as a snitch.

Eyewitness News obtained a recorded interview Tanaka did with federal investigators in late 2012 in which he described Baca as "calling the shots of this investigation."

UNDERSHERIFF PAUL TANAKA: We did have to brief the Sheriff on all of this because we were marching to his tune. It was very uncomfortable.

Tanaka tried to distance himself from the actions deemed "obstructionist" by federal investigators, but evidence points to his deep involvement. Deputies who stood guard 24/7 on inmate Anthony Brown were told to invoke Tanaka's name if they were given a hard time. Sgt. Maricela Long told an FBI Supervisor to call Tanaka when he asked about the LASD's threat to arrest FBI Special Agent Leah Marx. Tanaka was also instrumental in changing the department's inmate visitation policy such that it would be more difficult for FBI Agents to access inmates for interviews.


William "Tom" Carey, 56, was relieved of duty in December 2014 in connection with this investigation. He retired in March after 35 years with the department.

As captain of the LASD's Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB), Carey was the supervisor of three of those already convicted: Lt. Steve Leavins, Sgt. Scott Craig and Sgt. Maricela Long.

Carey testified for the defense at all three trials of the convicted lieutenants, sergeants and deputies. He told jurors that LASD executives believed a "rogue" FBI agent must be to blame for the smuggling of that cell phone into Men's Central Jail and inmate-turned-FBI informant Anthony Brown.

Carey was among those called to a high-level Saturday meeting at which Baca gave orders for Carey's ICIB investigators to conduct a criminal inquiry into how the phone got into the jail. Baca also gave an order that no one could get into see inmate Brown without permission from Undersheriff Tanaka.

In February 2013, Carey gave a voluntary interview to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office at which he described that Saturday meeting.

FBI INTERVIEW OF CAPT. TOM CAREY: BACA led the meeting. BACA said he had one or two conversations with FBI's Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) [STEVE MARTINEZ] (MARTINEZ). According to CAREY, BACA told the group that BACA had asked MARTINEZ what was going on. MARTINEZ did not disclose any information and said, "Hey Leroy, just give me my phone back."

Carey repeatedly met with and reported to both Baca and Tanaka during the events of 2011 that have now led to his indictment. But, Carey and Lt. Steve Leavins both testified at trial that Leavins often bypassed Carey in the chain-of-command on this issue and reported directly to Tanaka and Baca.

On Aug. 23, 2011, Carey was called to Men's Central Jail after FBI agents managed to get into see Brown despite Sheriff Baca's orders to keep everyone away from the inmate, even fellow law enforcement agencies. The FBI Agents were "kicked out" by a LASD sergeant and left the facility before Carey arrived. Carey then took part in a recorded interview of Brown in which they discussed the FBI visit and their plans to move Brown to the San Dimas station jail - a facility Carey described as "Camp Snoopy."

Carey attended a meeting between the LASD and the U.S. Attorney's Office in late August which he described as a one-sided conversation with the Sheriff venting about the Feds.

FBI INTERVIEW OF CAPT. TOM CAREY: There was a lot of "finger pointing" by the LASD at the meeting. Baca stated the FBI was not competent to conduct investigations. BACA's mentality was one of, how dare the FBI smuggle a phone into the jail without telling "me." BACA was also of the belief that the FBI could not conduct investigations as well as "his" guys.

In FBI interviews of Baca obtained exclusively by Eyewitness News - Baca expressed his hurt and anger at being kept in the dark about the FBI investigation.

Baca also tried distance himself from the events that led to these indictments, telling U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox that Captain Carey was the "micro-manager" of the events following the discovery of the contraband cell phone.