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LAPD detective is charged with embezzling $30,000 intended to protect 3 witnesses to South L.A. crimes

May 14, 2010 |  6:31 pm

A veteran Los Angeles Police Department detective has been charged with embezzling more than $30,000 in city funds that were supposed to be used to protect and relocate three witnesses to crimes in South Los Angeles, authorities said Friday.

Det. Leonard Avalos, 44, is expected to be arraigned next week on one felony count of embezzlement by an officer and six felony counts of grand theft.

Avalos was taken into custody without incident Thursday by LAPD detectives while he was off duty in Placentia, said Det. Gus Villanueva.

LAPD investigators discovered the alleged theft in fall 2008 when they questioned some of the detective’s accounting of the witness protection funds he had requested from the department, officials said.

At the time, Avalos was investigating assaults, including shootings, police said. In such cases, victims often fear for their safety and are willing to testify only if they are given money to move away from the location of the crime. 

Avalos, a 17-year department veteran, could not produce receipts to verify that he had given the money to the witnesses, prosecutors said.

Authorities said police questioned the three witnesses and learned that one had received $100 and another $500 while the third had not received any city funds at all.

--Richard Winton