Veteran LA Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Conspiracy Charge

August 13, 2018 - 4:30 pm

(CNS) -- A veteran Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty today to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from a three-year scheme to oversee the delivery of narcotics and other contraband in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Kenneth Collins was arrested by FBI agents on Jan. 16, along with two others, after they arrived in Pasadena to provide a "security" escort for the transport of nearly 45 pounds of cocaine and more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine to Las Vegas. The 50-year-old Chino resident is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19 in Los Angeles federal court.

The felony charge of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana to which Collins pleaded carries a federal prison sentence of 10 years to life behind bars, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Greer Dotson of the Justice Department's Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.

Prosecutors agreed not to recommend more than about 20 years in prison in exchange for Collins' guilty plea, court papers show.

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II told the defendant that he should speak up when given the chance to make a statement at his sentencing hearing.

"I need to hear from you, and I need sincerity," Wright said from the bench. "Don't bring your B.S."

During the FBI's undercover investigation, Collins agreed that he and his team would accompany the narcotics and take steps to prevent legitimate law enforcement from intercepting the drugs -- in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.

David Easter, 51, of the Hyde Park district of Los Angeles, and Grant Valencia, 34, of Pomona, were also named in the three-count indictment filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The three provided security in November for the transport of what they thought was 13 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes, according to the indictment.

In justifying the high fees for his services, Collins -- a 15-year veteran of the sheriff's department -- told an undercover FBI agent "we're cops" and "all of our transports make it through," according to the indictment.

After Collins' arrest, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued a statement noting that it brought the allegations of criminal misconduct against Collins to the attention of federal investigators several months earlier, and since then, had "been directly cooperating" with the Department of Justice and the FBI "during all aspects of the investigation." He was placed on administrative leave, according to the sheriff's department.

Collins, who remains in federal custody, was most recently assigned to the County Services Bureau.

Dotson said the FBI began investigating Collins in relation to a scheme to accept cash payments in exchange for providing security for illegal marijuana grow facilities, as well as assisting in the distribution of controlled substances.

An undercover FBI agent "who was posing as a family member of a wealthy investor looking to finance an illegal marijuana grow house" first met with Collins a year ago, according to court documents.