Crime & Justice

2 former LA deputies accused of planting guns to justify medical marijuana dispensary arrests (updated)

File: Marijuana plants for sale at Studio City's Perennial Holistic Wellness Center.
File: Marijuana plants for sale at Studio City's Perennial Holistic Wellness Center.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

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Two former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies face criminal conspiracy, perjury and other charges for allegedly planting guns inside a South L.A. medical marijuana dispensary and arresting two people.

The L.A. County District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday that felony charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and altering evidence were filed April 16 against Julio Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32.

Martinez faces additional counts of perjury and filing a false report.

The two former deputies are accused of planting guns inside a medical marijuana shop located on West 84th Street in South L.A. on August 24, 2011.

According to the criminal complaint (which can be read below), Martinez and Paez wrote in a police report that they witnessed a drug deal go down while on patrol and saw one of the suspects reach for a gun in the front pocket of his shorts.

The report states Martinez followed one of the suspects inside the marijuana shop. That’s where Martinez says he found a gun thrown away near a trash can and another on top of a desk next to some ecstasy pills, according to prosecutors.

But about a year later, an internal investigation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department discovered a video recording from inside the marijuana shop. The contents of the video was inconsistent with what the deputies said happened in their report.

According to the complaint: “Martinez kicked at a wall outlet, shutting off the electricity inside a room” the same day.

Afterward, “Paez opened a drawer and retrieved a handgun and placed it on a chair,” the complaint stated.

The document further states: “Paez crawled under the desk in the shop and disabled the video surveillance camera system of the location.”

The two suspects were arrested and charged based on the false reports, according to the district attorney's office. 

Johnny Yang was arrested for possession of ecstasy pills in the presence of a firearm and pleaded no contest before the sheriff's department internal investigation concluded, according to the district attorney's office. Yang was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

“Our office is contacting his defense attorney,” said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

The other suspect, Antonio Rhodes, was arrested for possession of an unregistered firearm, but the charges were later dismissed.

The sheriff's department said that it undertook an administrative investigation – where the appropriate administrative action was taken – and Martinez and Paez were "seperated" from the sheriff’s department on February 27, 2013. 

Martinez was a 15-year veteran, while Paez was a 7-year veteran. 

Both were booked into county jail on April 18 and released on $50,000 bail each. Arraignment is scheduled for June 17.

Criminal complaint against former L.A. County Sheriff's DeputiesJulio Cesar Martinez and Anthony Manuel Paez