FBI investigating rogue deputy group at East L.A. sheriff's station

EAST LOS ANGELES -- The FBI is investigating a rogue group of deputies at the sheriff's East Los Angeles station, a sheriff oversight committee said Thursday.

The group known as the Banditos has been accused of behavior that includes attacking junior deputies.

Seven junior deputies have alleged that they were attacked by the Banditos, described as an exclusive clique known by their tattoos of a skull wearing a sombrero.

Four alleged Bandito deputies are on paid administrative leave and the district attorney is now weighing potential criminal charges. The alleged victims are suing L.A. County.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commission said Thursday night that federal agents are investigating the group.

The disclosure was made at a packed town hall meeting in East Los Angeles to discuss the scandal-plagued station.

Recently, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva also said the department is undertaking measures at the East Los Angeles station to rebuild the leadership team and address rogue activity by the Banditos.

Between 34 and 38 deputies have transferred out or retired and the sheriff has appointed a new captain who is implementing a program to hold supervisors accountable for behavior that is out of policy.

The sheriff said that previous supervisors at the East L.A. station failed to rein in deputy power players.

"It became toxic - and they did not do their job as supervisors. They just kind of looked the other way," Villanueva said.

"To know that the FBI will be investigating gives me a little bit of hope because this is a completely different than the sheriff's department investigating themselves, so this gives us a little bit of hope," said Lisa Vargas, whose son was shot and killed by deputies. "Maybe, some answers will come out not just for me, but for every other mother."

Vargas attended Thursday's meeting, outraged over the death of her son Anthony last year who was shot 13 times by deputies who were responding to a robbery call.

"We truly believe that the people who killed my son were part of the Banditos gang," she said. "Because they have harassed that area before."
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