The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched a probe into multiple gangs hidden within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The Banditos, Spartans, Regulators, and Reapers are literal gangs that exist within the roughly 10,000 members of the Los Angeles law enforcement agency. The investigation was triggered by allegations of abuse by the Banditos in March.
Each member of the Banditos is tattooed with a skeleton wearing a sombrero, bandolier, and pistol. Allegations against them include using gang tactics to recruit young Latino deputies, and punishing those who reject their advances.
An unidentified source told the Los Angeles Times that FBI agents “have been trying to determine whether leaders of the Banditos require or encourage aspiring members to commit criminal acts, such as planting evidence or writing false incident reports, to secure membership in the group.”
Deputies David Silverio, Gregory Rodriguez and Rafael Munoz, and Sergeant Mike Hernandez were put on paid leave following the aforementioned allegations, but Sheriff Alex Villanueva has repeatedly minimized the danger. He labeled the gangs a mere “cultural norm,” and believes the problem has already been solved by past investigations.
This is far from the first time violent corruption has spilled out of the cracks in the department. Accusations over the last decade alone have included covering up police brutality, even breaking the bones of suspects in their custody in order to “earn their ink.” Villanueva has chalked that fault up to previous leadership, saying the gangs “ran roughshod” over past sheriffs.
Of course, both Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the FBI have refused to comment on the current investigation.