LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was sentenced today to 17 years and six months in prison for his role in a scheme to oversee the delivery of narcotics and other contraband in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
Kenneth Collins was arrested by FBI agents Jan. 16, along with two others, after they arrived in Pasadena to provide a ``security'' escort for the transport of nearly 45 pounds of cocaine and more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine to Las Vegas. Collins, 51, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. Prosecutors agreed not to recommend more than about 20 years in prison in exchange for Collins' guilty plea, court papers show.
During the FBI's undercover investigation, Collins agreed that he and his team would accompany the narcotics and take steps to prevent legitimate law enforcement from intercepting the drugs -- in exchange for payments as high as $250,000, prosecutors said. Collins and two co-defendants -- both of whom have also pleaded guilty in the case -- provided security in November for the transport of what they thought was 13 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as marijuana and counterfeit cigarettes, according to the indictment.
In justifying the high fees for his services, Collins, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff's department, told an undercover FBI agent ``we're cops'' and ``all of our transports make it through,'' according to the indictment. After Collins' arrest, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department issued a statement noting that it brought the allegations of criminal misconduct against Collins to the attention of federal investigators several months earlier, and since then, had ``been directly cooperating'' with the Department of Justice and the FBI ``during all aspects of the investigation.'' He was placed on administrative leave, according to the sheriff's department.
Collins was most recently assigned to the County Services Bureau. Prosecutors said the FBI began investigating Collins in relation to a scheme to accept cash payments in exchange for providing security for illegal marijuana grow facilities, as well as assisting in the distribution of controlled substances.
An undercover FBI agent ``who was posing as a family member of a wealthy investor looking to finance an illegal marijuana grow house'' first met with Collins more than a year ago, according to court documents.