The federal probe follows allegations of beatings and harassment by members of the Banditos, a group of deputies assigned to the Sheriff’s East L.A. station who brand themselves with matching tattoos of a skeleton outfitted in a sombrero, bandolier and pistol. The clique’s members are accused by other deputies of using gang-like tactics to recruit young Latino deputies into their fold and retaliating against those who rebuff them.
In interviews with several deputies, FBI agents have asked about the inner workings of the Banditos and the group’s hierarchy, according to three people with close knowledge of the matter who spoke to The Times on the condition their names not be used because the investigation is ongoing.
In particular, according to The Times’ sources, agents have been trying to determine whether leaders of the Banditos require or encourage aspiring members to commit criminal acts, such as planting evidence or writing false incident reports, to secure membership in the group.
The agents also have inquired about other groups known to exist in the department, which has roughly 10,000 deputies and polices large swaths of the sprawling county. They have asked for information about the tattoos and practices of the Spartans and Regulators in the department’ Century Station, and the Reapers, who operate out of a station in South Los Angeles, according to the sources.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he could not comment when asked about the FBI probe Wednesday, The Times reported. An FBI spokeswoman also declined to provide any information.