By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Many other allegations are found in investigative files that were unsealed in the two years since Torres was indicted, in June 2007. But some of the most damning information never saw the cold light of a public trial in Judge Wilson’s courtroom. Wilson excluded evidence that suggested Torres not only befriended drug dealers who committed crimes for him, but got high with them as well. Wilson also excluded evidence that Torres had purchased a Mac-10 gun for a drug-dealer associate who Torres then allegedly instructed to kill on his behalf, until Torres allegedly had that associate killed for stealing from him. (Torres was acquitted of having the associate, Ignacio Meza, killed. Meza’s body has never been found.)
Yet the jury heard enough to reach a speedy decision: Torres was convicted on almost every count, including his attempt to bribe former L.A. City planning commissioners Steven Carmona and George Luk to secure a zoning permit.
Still, the question remains, how many other public officials were influenced by Torres’ money? How many other L.A.P.D. officers got close enough to Torres to arouse suspicion? The indictment states that an L.A. City Councilman appeared to be waiting in the wings to receive bag money from Torres, via Carmona and Luk.
Who could that have been? Is that person still in office?
Downey Police Sergeant Gilbert Toledo is a veteran drug task force detective who pursued Torres for years, believing him to be a drug kingpin. (Other law enforcers maintain that if Torres ever dealt drugs, he stopped after a close call in the 1990s.) Toledo wasn’t involved in the recent investigation, but he has a strong sense of what kind of man he was chasing. In Toledo’s mind, Torres is “out there,”: as brash as he is dangerous and manipulative.
But Toledo also sees Torres as an example of a larger problem that exists right under the noses of citizens and elected leaders. “The majority of the crime we see is ultimately related to drugs,” Toledo says, noting that massive amounts of drug proceeds circulating in Southern California’s economy are a corrupting influence. “There’s so much money coming into this area. Money is power, and it controls people.”
In that sense, some might see little distinction between Torres the convicted racketeer and Torres the suspected drug trafficker. It’s just that one case could be proven, while the other could not. But that doesn’t mean the government should not be doing more to follow drug money as it ends up in legitimate businesses or the coffers of corrupt police and politicians. Corruption probes are above Toledo’s pay grade, though. He stays focused on the streets.
“George is a real piece of work,” says Toledo. “But there are other Georges out there, and they’re being looked at.”
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