Font size: +

OC sheriff’s sergeant switched drug evidence between cases, defense attorney alleges

A deputy public defender called out 'officers who will plant evidence and write false reports'

May 12, 2023

An embattled Orange County sheriff's sergeant has been accused in defense documents with taking drugs seized in one case and booking them as evidence in another, unrelated case.

Sgt. Matthew LeFlore, already facing allegations of illegally eavesdropping on attorney-client phone calls, is now further accused of moving nearly 18 grams of methamphetamine from one case to another he was investigating. Also implicated in the alleged evidence swap is Sgt. Arthur Tiscareno, according to a court motion filed Wednesday, May 10, by Orange County Deputy Public Defender Tammy Nguyen.

"This is the nightmare of every member of our community. But the reality is there are officers who will plant evidence and write false reports," Nguyen said in a prepared statement. "There are officers who are absolutely convinced they are above the law."

Nguyen's motion seeks all records related to the case against defendant Ace Kelley, including records from the Sheriff's Department's evidence tracking system, called Remedy.

Carrie Braun, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Department, said the agency is reviewing the motion and will comply with all court orders.

The allegations by Nguyen cast a new light on the 2019 evidence scandal in which sheriff's deputies were booking evidence late and sometimes not at all, a problem that department officials have said was corrected.

In the latest development, LeFlore wrote in a police report dated Oct. 20, 2020, that he collected and booked methamphetamine that he said was seized from the Buena Park motel room of defendant Kelley, who is charged with possession for sale. LeFlore and Tiscareno had the room under surveillance and conducted a probation search.

In his official report, LeFlore claimed to have found methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl.

However, according to the court motion, the methamphetamine was actually seized that same day from a neighboring room at the Coral Motel, unrelated to Kelley. Staying in that room was defendant Royal Baker. In Baker's room, deputies from the department's South Narcotics Detail served a search warrant and allegedly found more than 52 grams of heroin, nearly 180 grams of methamphetamine and other drugs, according to the motion.

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

Two weeks after the search, 17.8 grams of methamphetamine was taken from the Baker case and placed into evidence for the Kelley case, Nguyen said.

Documents from the Orange County Crime Lab, obtained by Nguyen, appeared to confirm the methamphetamine was switched from one case to the other about Nov. 4, 2020.

The sheriff's internal evidence tracking system shows no signs of the switch, only that the methamphetamine was booked on Oct. 19, 2020, into the Kelley case by Tiscareno, not LeFlore, said the motion.

Nguyen, in her motion, alleged LeFlore lied when he said he had collected 17.8 grams of methamphetamine from Kelley's room and lied again when he wrote in his report that he booked the drugs into the system.

Nguyen also alleged LeFlore and Tiscareno conspired to cover up the switch by failing to file a supplemental report to document the change and manipulated the evidence tracking system to make it appear the drugs were properly booked into the Kelley case.

LeFlore has had previous problems with handling evidence. A sheriff's audit that ended 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, LeFlore took custody of two full boxes of bullets, 11 grams of methamphetamine and a pipe stuffed inside 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."

Court documents previously show LeFlore on five occasions wrote in his official reports that he had placed evidence — typically documents and photos — in a sheriff's locker when, in fact, he had not. The evidence was booked more than 20 days late on three occasions.

LeFlore was among a group of deputies referred by the department to the Orange County District Attorney's Office for potential prosecution for mishandling evidence, but no charges were filed against him.

He later was promoted to sergeant.

Tiscareno also had problems handling evidence. A sheriff's department audit showed that he claimed in 40 reports that he booked evidence when he had not yet done so, the motion states.

In recent weeks, LeFlore also was accused in court papers filed by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders of illegally listening to confidential phone calls mistakenly recorded by the jail's telephone vendor between one inmate and his attorney.

The attorney at least twice warned LeFlore — once by name — not to listen to the conversations, but notes kept by LeFlore indicate that he did not stop listening, Sanders said.

A sheriff's official said a month ago the department is reviewing the eavesdropping motion to determine whether a full investigation is warranted into the allegations.

Overhaul of evidence room nearly complete
Former Lancaster County Drug Task Force leader sen...
Comment for this post has been locked by admin.


Search IAPE

Blotter - Latest News

This login form is for IAPE Staff ONLY!