Paul Tanaka is a certified public accountant, the former No. 2 guy in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the longtime beloved mayor of the pleasant suburban bedroom community of Gardena.
He is also now one of two high-ranking former department figures accused of conspiracy and obstruction of justice after a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed Thursday naming him and now-retired Captain William “Tom” Carey.
“Tanaka had a large role in institutionalizing the illegal activities in the Sheriff’s Department,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in announcing the indictment. Seven deputies were convicted last year of obstructing an FBI probe of the county jail system.
The activities in question in the indictment occurred between August and December 2011. At one point, deputies moved FBI informant Anthony Brown from jail to jail in 2011, dodging the bureau while trying to find out what the feds’ sting operation had on them.
Meanwhile, deputies showed up at an FBI agent’s home and falsely told her they were getting a warrant for her arrest to leverage information from her. They are appealing their convictions, but the allegations form the core of charges against Tanaka and Carey, who are accused of directing the effort.
Tanaka resigned from the department on August 1, 2013, amid the ongoing federal probe. He receives an annual pension of $199,748 and took close to $600,000 in accrued vacation and sick pay on his way out the door.
Two weeks later, he announced he would run for election as sheriff in 2014 against embattled incumbant Lee Baca. Baca resigned abruptly in January 2014. Tanaka finished second in the primary but lost badly to Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell in the runoff, 74.8% to 25.2%.
Baca is “not charged at this time,” Yonekura said.
The indictment details ongoing civil rights abuses in the jails, contraband smuggling by deputies in exchange for bribes and corruption of the internal sheriff’s unit that investigated bad behavior by officers.
Carey headed the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB) and reported directly to Tanaka. The indictment quotes Tanaka saying to colleagues that he wanted to to reduce the number of investigators in the bureau from 45 to one.
The former undersheriff faces a maximum sentence of 15 years if convicted and Carey faces 25 years. Tanaka is taking a leave of absence from the parttime job of Gardena mayor.