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Official at sheriff's youth charity involved in pot shop probe

January 10, 2013 |  2:22 pm

Marijuana

The development director for the charity run by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been caught up in an investigation by federal authorities over her connection to a marijuana dispensary, a spokesman said Thursday.

Dawn Zamudio’s employment at the nonprofit -- the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation -- ended Wednesday night, though a sheriff's spokesman would not say whether she was fired. 

Spokesman Steve Whitmore called the discovery of the longtime employee's ties to the pot dispensary shocking given Baca's vocal criticism of such businesses.

"This is shocking to the sheriff and the entire department because she was such an outstanding employee.... This is something that was withheld from the department and the sheriff,” Whitmore said.  “We are cooperating fully with this investigation.”

The Times began making inquiries about the Zamudios last month. Public records connect her husband to a marijuana dispensary in Marina del Rey. Court records also show that he had been arrested and charged with two felonies for transportation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, but the case was dismissed in 2009.

Dawn Zamudio had been working for the nonprofit organization, which raises money for youth programs across the county, for the last decade.

Whitmore described Dawn Zamudio as an assistant at the organization. But a 2011 filing listed her as the development director, making $103,700 that year and working 60 hours a week.

“She basically assisted a sergeant,” Whitmore said.

Sarah Pullen, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, said search warrants were served in connection with the probe Wednesday, but that no arrests have been made.

She said agents would study what was seized at several locations to determine what charges, if any, should be filed. One of the dispensaries searched was Ironworks Collective, the Marina del Rey operation. Ramiro Zamudio’s name is listed on business records for that address. Federal records also describe him as running the operation.

Pullen said DEA agents seized guns at two  other dispensaries, and ammunition and gun magazines at a San Gabriel residence. Federal authorities allege that the residence is connected to the Zamudios.

Pullen would not say whether the Zamudios are suspects in the probe. Federal documents name both but suggest Ramiro Zamudio is a main focus of the investigation.

The Times was not able to reach the Zamudios.

Baca has been a vocal critic of pot dispensaries, saying some have become hubs for crime and have been abused by customers who don’t have a medical need for the drug. Whitmore said Baca did not know until this week that Zamudio and her husband, Ramiro, were connected to the marijuana trade.

Baca said in 2010 that marijuana dispensaries had been hijacked by criminals who see them as an easy way to make money and get drugs.

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-- Robert Faturechi and Martha Groves

Photo credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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