Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka surrendered this week to federal authorities in Englewood, Colo., to begin serving a five-year prison term for his conviction on obstruction of justice charges.
Tanaka’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, confirmed that Tanaka was at a “minimum security camp.”
A federal appellate court in December denied Tanaka’s bid to remain free while his appeal is pending. Tanaka was convicted of conspiracy and obstructing an FBI investigation into abuses by deputies in county jails.
Prosecutors presented evidence that he oversaw a scheme in which deputies threatened an FBI agent with arrest, concealed a jail inmate who was working as a federal informant and pressured underlings not to cooperate with the investigation.
Tanaka, 58, of Gardena, was the ninth sheriff’s official convicted of criminal conduct based on the circumstances surrounding the hiding of inmate- informer Anthony Brown, a scheme that also involved witness tampering and the threatened arrest of and FBI agent.
His 60-month prison sentence is the longest stretch of any defendant in the Brown case.
Seven former sheriff’s lieutenants, sergeants and deputies convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice received prison sentences ranging from 18 to 41 months.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Tanaka directed co-conspirators in a scheme to derail the 2011 investigation into allegations of excessive force within the jail system. Tanaka maintained that his then-boss, former Sheriff Lee Baca, was actually giving the orders and the undersheriff
didn’t know what was taking place.
Baca’s trial ended with a hung jury and a mistrial, but federal prosecutors plan to try him again. The trial is expected to begin next month.