LOS ANGELES (CN) – Three Southern California men conspired with a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officer to steal cash and 1,200 pounds of marijuana in a sham warehouse raid staged to look like a police operation, federal authorities said Thursday.
Police arrested Matthew James Perez a.k.a. “Neer,” 42, of Ontario, Daniel Aguilera, 31, of East Los Angeles, and Jay Colby Sanford a.k.a. “Monte Jay,” 41, of Pomona, on Thursday without incident. The men were scheduled to appear in Los Angeles federal court later in the day.
Authorities say the men – dressed in LASD uniforms and carrying holstered pistols – conspired with officer Marc Antrim, 41, of South El Monte to steal more than $645,000 in cash and money orders from a marijuana distribution warehouse on the morning of Oct. 29, 2018.
Perez, Antrim and a third man arrived at a downtown Los Angeles warehouse at 3 a.m. in an unmarked Ford Explorer registered to the department’s station in Temple City, where Antrim worked, according to unsealed criminal complaint which also said the heist was meant to appear as a police raid.
Once inside, Antrim – who was off-duty at the time – detained the warehouse’s three security guards inside the squad car after displaying a false search warrant.
Aguilera then put the marijuana and two cash-filled safes into a rental truck and drove it out of the warehouse parking lot while Sanford served as a lookout, scouting for police activity and staying in touch with the men via phone and walkie-talkie radios, authorities say.
While the two-hour robbery was in progress, Los Angeles Police Department officers responded to what they believed was a legitimate emergency at the warehouse. Perez and Aguilera then discarded their jackets, which said “Sheriff” on the back, and fled through a back door when the real officers arrived, according to investigators.
Antrim remained at the warehouse, showing Los Angeles Police Department officers his badge and falsely claiming that he was conducting a legitimate search. He also handed his phone to an officer claiming that his sergeant was on the other line, the criminal complaint says.
But the person on the phone was not Antrim’s sergeant and he had no legitimate search warrant for the warehouse since he wasn’t assigned to the narcotics division of the department. And his actions prompted LAPD officers to leave the warehouse and allowed his co-conspirators to complete their heist, authorities said.
For their work, Perez received $30,000, Sanford $10,000, and Aguilera $5,000, investigators say.
The men face charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, which carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.
Two other men who participated in the sham raid – Eric Rodriguez a.k.a. “Rooster,” 32, of Adelanto, and Kevin McBride, 43, of Glendora – were arrested along with Antrim this past November. They have since signed agreements admitting to drug trafficking and gun charges. They are expected to enter guilty pleas in the coming weeks.
U.S Attorney Nick Hanna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The LA Sheriff’s Department on Thursday reiterated a statement made following Antrim’s arrest: “When allegations of criminal activity involve law enforcement, we have systems in place to root out misconduct within the organization, as well as any department member who chooses to violate the law and public trust. This case indicates that these systems are working as intended.”