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Deputy allegedly smuggled drugs in a burrito into courthouse jail

January 11, 2012 |  4:57 pm

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged in connection with allegations that he smuggled heroin stuffed inside a burrito into a courthouse jail, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Henry Marin, 27, surrendered to fellow deputies Wednesday morning at the sheriff’s South Los Angeles station. He pleaded not guilty to charges of bringing drugs into a jail and conspiracy to commit a crime.

"We take this very seriously," said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. "This kind of behavior is absolutely inexcusable for anybody, especially a law enforcement representative."

According to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, Marin was relieved of duty without pay from his post within the sheriff’s court services division.

Marin’s case is the latest in a string of prosecutions and internal affairs investigations that have targeted corrupt sheriff’s deputies and other department staff for delivering contraband to inmates and helping fuel a lucrative drug trade behind bars.

Three sheriff's guards have been convicted and a fourth fired in recent years for smuggling or attempting to smuggle narcotics into jail for inmates.

The porous nature of the jails was highlighted last year when The Times revealed that FBI agents conducted an undercover sting in which a deputy was accused of taking $1,500 to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate working as a federal informant. Federal authorities are investigating reports of brutality and other misconduct by deputies.

The department has seen a significant increase in drug seizures across county lockups over the last few years, but it's impossible to know how much of that involves smuggling by jail staff.

In a sign of how serious officials consider the smuggling problem to be, the Sheriff's Department recently recorded a former deputy, now in state prison, as he explained what led him to help inmates sneak in heroin, meth and marijuana.

In the video, Peter Felix tearfully recounts from behind bars how his fall from grace started with taking a burrito to an inmate. The video is meant to serve as a cautionary tale, and sheriff's officials plan to show it to all of the department's more than 9,000 deputies.

Felix is serving a four-year prison sentence. He told sheriff's investigators after his arrest that he was paid $600 or $700 for his first delivery of marijuana and that he smuggled drugs into the jails on three other occasions, according to a probation report in his case. He was paid $2,000 to bring one package, and another job brought him $4,000 until he was eventually caught, the probation report said.


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-- Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard