A longtime undercover operative for the Los Angeles Police Department has filed a claim against the city of Los Angeles, alleging he was stiffed by LAPD on his payment for the 2016 bust of a Skid Row drug kingpin that brought in almost $2 million and made headlines around the world.
The informant, who contends he helped make it happen, said he still hasn’t been paid by the LAPD. On May 7 he filed a claim for damages — the first step toward filing a lawsuit. He claims LAPD is refusing to pay him the $180,000 — or 10 percent of the cash recovery plus the amount of money for the drug and weapon seizures — to which he’s entitled.
In the early-morning hours of April 26, 2016, a Drug Enforcement Agency and LAPD joint raid in Cerritos netted a reported $1.8 million in cash, including $600,000 in dollar bills, as well as five firearms, 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 13 pounds of cocaine and 20 pounds of heroin. Nineteen people were arrested.
The following day, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck were all smiles for the media as they showed off photographs of what was seized, including stacks of cash and bags of heroin and cocaine. Derrick Turner, 49, who police say was a top player in a Skid Row drug-dealing operation that preyed on the homeless, eventually was sentenced to 11 years in prison along with several others.
The informant, who wants to be identified as John Doe, said he was the one who brought the drug ring to the attention of law enforcement and put his life on the line in order for LAPD to make the bust.
“Not only Garcetti but a few high-ranking officials were there, and they know that I’m the one who started that case in the beginning. I feel like I’ve been discredited and not paid for something that I did,” Doe told L.A. Weekly last week. “Everyone says the same thing. Every detective — they’re even uncomfortable to see that I never got paid.”
But in a Feb. 21, 2018, letter, Police Chief Beck dismissed Doe’s allegations, which were initially made in a complaint on May 4, 2016 — about a week after the drug bust.
“Your allegation that an employee failed to compensate an informant for information that led to the seizure of assets has been classified as Unfounded, which means the investigation determined that the action did not occur in the manner you described,” Beck wrote in the letter, obtained by the L.A. Weekly.
In response, Doe filed his claim, asking for damages in the amount of $180,000 plus the cash value of the weapons and drugs seized, valued at $30,000.
“My LAPD commanding officer approved payment for my services shortly after the bust because they acknowledged I brought the leads to the LAPD,” Doe stated in the claim. “When payment did not arrive immediately, I was instructed by my own LAPD commanding officers to pursue the matter through LAPD internal affairs. I completed this process and still have not been paid.”
Doe’s attorney, Gustavo Lamanna, said, “Mr. Doe basically delivered the services for the LAPD in connection with assisting and facilitating the bust. The arrests were made. The drugs were seized. The guns were seized. The cash was seized and he has tried every effort, since the bust at that time to now, to obtain payment and has been unsuccessful.”
Doe said the LAPD usually pays him in cash, and this is the first time in 20 years of working with the department that he hasn’t been paid for a job.
“They buy and bust — they pay right there,” he said. “Those minor cases, they pay right there. When it’s a big case, it takes time. And when I say time, it can take years. Not only LAPD but when the federal agencies take two or three years to get paid.”
Doe said his work with LAPD and other agencies is based on mutual trust and understanding. “If I say this guy has 10 kilos, they have to believe my word. My word with law enforcement is everything in these cases because I am the eyes. They have to believe what I say and I believe what they tell me.”
Doe, 56, said he came to the United States in 1980 during the height of America’s war on drugs. He began working with a local law enforcement agency in 1993, and since then has been a part of more than 3,000 cases working with numerous local, state and federal levels of law enforcement agencies, he said.
Even though he has aided law enforcement in taking down drug dealers and gangs for more than 20 years, it wasn’t enough to earn him permanent residency in America, he said. He didn’t become a permanent resident until 2017, and it came with no help from any of the agencies he works with, he said.
“I’m not working off a beef,” Doe said. “I’m not on probation or parole. This is just what I do. It’s my job and I’m good at it. It’s how I take care of my family. When the LAPD refuses to pay me the money I rightfully earned, they are literally taking food out of my mouth and those I take care of. Chief Beck took all the credit for my work. He should pay me what I am owed.”
A native of Los Angeles, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a nationally known writer and commentator on political, race and social issues.