LOS ANGELES – A former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy was sentenced today to 210 months in federal prison for participating in an interstate drug trafficking conspiracy in which the deputy agreed to use his role as a law enforcement officer to ensure that narcotics were successfully transported.
Kenneth Collins, 51, of Chino, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who also ordered the defendant to pay $38,000 in restitution.
In August, Collins pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. Collins, who separated from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in late February, admitted to conspiring with at least two other individuals to accept cash payments in exchange for distributing large amounts of controlled substances. Collins also admitted to actively preventing the legitimate efforts of state and local law enforcement in exchange for cash payments up to $250,000.
“For years, former deputy Collins abused the trust of the people of Los Angeles County as a corrupt law enforcement officer motivated by greed,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “In public, he was sworn to uphold the law, but in private he was a gun-for-hire willing to help drug smugglers in exchange for getting his cut of the dirty profits.”
“Today’s sentencing is a sober warning that those in a position of public trust will not be allowed to abuse their authority as a law enforcement officer,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Former deputy Collins betrayed the public’s trust by placing a higher priority on satisfying his personal greed rather than ensuring the safety of our communities he was sworn to protect.”
As part of an undercover operation, FBI special agents arrested Collins and his two co-defendants in January after they arrived in Pasadena to provide security to transport nearly 45 pounds of cocaine and more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine to Las Vegas. Previously, Collins had negotiated a cash payment of $250,000 for his escort services. What Collins didn’t know at the time was that he had entered into an agreement with an undercover FBI agent posing as the partner of a wealthy investor financing a drug trafficking operation.
Collins admitted that he and his co-defendants provided security in November 2017 for a Pasadena-to-Las Vegas shipment of what he believed was six kilograms methamphetamine, as well as marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes. Collins received $25,000 in cash for his team’s security services that day.
Collins justified the high fees for his services by telling the undercover agent “we’re cops” and “all of our transports make it through.” During one meeting with the undercover agent, Collins displayed his Sheriff’s Department badge and firearm as proof that he was a law enforcement officer, thereby rendering his services more valuable to drug traffickers.
The undercover agent bought two pounds of marijuana from Collins for $6,000 in October 2017 as a “test run.” If the “test run” sale went well, Collins offered to sell up to $4 million of marijuana every month to the undercover agent, claiming he had a “connection” through which he could secure up to one ton of marijuana every month, according to court documents.
In recorded negotiations with the undercover agent, Collins also offered to intimidate and physically assault people in exchange for cash, court documents said. “I fix problems,” Collins bragged. “I make a lot of things go away.” Collins even claimed to have recently set someone’s “$85,000 Cadillac truck on fire” for one of his other criminal “clients.”
When he pleaded guilty, Collins also admitted that, in an entirely separate encounter, where he again corruptly used his law enforcement position, he illegally seized approximately $160,000 in cash from a vehicle after conducting an unlawful traffic stop. Prior to the stop, Collins was aware there would be a large amount of cash in the vehicle and never reported the stop or the cash seizure to the LASD.
In his plea agreement, Collins further acknowledged that he used to be an instructor at the Emerging Leaders Academy, a life-skills class where LASD deputies were supposed to mentor adult ex-offenders to help them reintegrate into society. It was through the academy that Collins first met his co-defendant Grant Valencia, a student at the time.
Two co-defendants in this case – David Easter and Grant Valencia – each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Valencia has been sentenced. Easter’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 8.
The case against Collins and his co-defendants was investigated by the FBI, with cooperation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lindsey Greer Dotson of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.