Press "Enter" to skip to content

Buena Park man sues for $30 million, claiming OC sheriff’s investigators planted drugs

A Buena Park man who claims two sheriff’s detectives planted drug evidence against him and stole $4,000 of his money is seeking $30 million in damages from Orange County.

In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, May 2, Ace Kuumealoha Kelly accused Detectives Matthew LeFlore and Arthur Tiscareno of violating his civil rights by trying to frame him on charges of possession of drugs for sale.

Prosecutors dropped the charges after allegations that LeFlore and Tiscareno had the drug evidence switched over to Kelly’s case from other busts.

LeFlore and Tiscareno were previously caught up in an internal sheriff’s audit that found they and other deputies were booking evidence late, if at all. LeFlore is further accused of illegally eavesdropping on attorney-client phone calls from the county jail.

Despite the accusations, LeFlore and Tiscareno were promoted to the rank of sergeant.

“What is amazing about this case is that after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department booking audits showed Matthew LeFlore and Arthur Tiscareno to have engaged in core criminal conduct, such as evidence tampering, evidence planting, framing innocents, seizing evidence like illegal drugs and not booking them into evidence at all, and in falsifying their police reports … they were then promoted,” said Kelly’s attorney, Jerry Steering.

LeFlore has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 15, 2023. The Sheriff’s Department is prohibited from revealing the conditions of his leave by state law regarding police officer privacy. Tiscareno remains on active duty.

The Sheriff’s Department declined comment on the lawsuit.

Previous court documents and resulting news stories misspelled Kelly’s name, Steering said.

In Kelly’s lawsuit, he alleged that LeFlore and Tiscareno moved large amounts of methamphetamine, fentanyl and black tar heroin from an unrelated case into Kelly’s case.

Kelly was on probation in October 2020, giving LeFlore and Tiscareno the ability to unilaterally search his room at a Buena Park motel. The lawsuit said Kelly had a small amount of methamphetamine and $5,000 in the room.

Sheriff’s investigators also raided the adjacent motel room in an unrelated case involving suspect Royal Baker and found more than 52 grams of heroin, nearly 180 grams of methamphetamine and other drugs.

Baker eventually pleaded guilty to possession for sale but received no jail time, records show.

The lawsuit said LeFlore and Tiscareno transferred part of the drugs found in Baker’s room and in other busts to Kelly’s case, going so far as to changing the labeling on the evidence envelopes and having the drugs switched over in crime lab records, the suit said. A worker at the crime lab also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The sheriff’s detectives pocketed $4,000 of the seized money and booked the rest into evidence, the suit alleges.

LeFlore reported that he seized the drugs and booked the evidence himself, although the department’s computerized evidence booking system showed it was Tiscareno who actually booked the evidence.

During the criminal case against Kelly, his defense attorney alleged that LeFlore and Tiscareno conspired to cover up the drug switch by failing to file a supplemental report to document the change. They also allegedly manipulated the sheriff’s evidence tracking system to make it appear as if the drugs were properly booked into the Kelly case.

It wasn’t the first time LeFlore has been accused of mishandling evidence.

A sheriff’s audit in 2018 showed LeFlore failed to book evidence in a timely manner in 18 cases, although he wrote in some of his reports that he had properly stored the items.

In one case, according to the audit, LeFlore took custody of two full boxes of bullets, 11 grams of methamphetamine and a drug pipe stuffed into a pair of boots. He never booked the property and, two weeks later, placed the boots on a shelf in a sheriff’s substation, with a sign saying “Free.”

Tiscareno also was found by the audit to have not filed evidence in a timely manner.

LeFlore was among a group of deputies referred by the Sheriff’s Department to local prosecutors for allegedly mishandling evidence, but no charges were filed against him.

In another, unrelated court case, LeFlore was accused by a defense attorney of illegally listening to confidential phone calls mistakenly recorded by the jail’s telephone vendor between one inmate and his lawyer.

During the recordings, the lawyer can be heard warning LeFlore at least twice — once by name — not to listen to the conversations, but notes kept by LeFlore indicate that he did not stop listening, said defense documents in that case.

Source: Orange County Register

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *