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2 Former LA County Sherriff Officials Surrender To FBI

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2 Former LA County Sherriff Officials Surrender To FBI

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2 Former LA County Sherriff Officials Surrender To FBI

2 Former LA County Sherriff Officials Surrender To FBI

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Two former top officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department face federal charges that they obstructed a probe into inmate abuse and corruption inside the nation's largest jail system.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Federal investigators are reaching higher in their probe of Los Angeles jails. They're investigating corruption and the abuse of inmates, and they've now charged two former top officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. They were among those overseeing the nation's largest jail system, and they're accused of obstructing the investigation. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: The indictments handed down against retired Captain Tom Carey and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka mark the highest-ranking officials to be arrested to date. Seven former LA sheriff's deputies have already been found guilty in this scandal. Tanaka was once the number two in charge, and the allegations laid out against him in this 25-page indictment are scathing. According to the U.S. attorney, Tanaka presided over systemic corruption in this county's central jail, condoning things like the premeditated beatings of mentally ill prisoners by officers. On obstructing the federal investigation, the indictment accuses Tanaka of ordering his deputies to dress up as cellmates of an FBI informant who was a prisoner so they could learn what that prisoner was reporting to government investigators. Stephanie Yonekura is acting U.S. attorney for Los Angeles.

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STEPHANIE YONEKURA: This new case illustrates the fact that the leaders who foster and hide the corrupt culture of their organization will be held responsible just like their subordinates.

SIEGLER: Yonekura told reporters here that both Tanaka and Captain Tom Carey helped institutionalize the illegal activity going on in the sheriff's department.

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YONEKURA: Not only did they not investigate the allegations, they decided that they were going to thwart any federal investigation into those allegations.

SIEGLER: Both men were taken into custody without incident. Tanaka ran unsuccessfully for sheriff last year and is currently mayor of the Southern California city of Gardena. He's called the allegations baseless and pleaded not guilty to the charges yesterday. Now, one big unknown here is whether more indictments could be coming against more officers, including Tanaka's former boss, Sheriff Lee Baca. Baca retired abruptly early last year. Federal investigators have said only that their inquiry is ongoing. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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