LOS ANGELES Los Angeles Police Department internal affairs detectives suspect Officers Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols targeted at least four women whom they had arrested previously or who worked for them as informants, according to court records.
The officers repeatedly used the threat of jail to get women into their car and drove them to secluded areas where one of the officers demanded sex while the other kept watch, records allege.
Valenzuela and Nichols worked together until recently as narcotics officers. Investigators have identified four women who encountered the officers and made similar independent accusations against them.
The warrant cites sexually explicit text messages that one alleged victim claims she exchanged with the officers after their encounters. Last month, investigators obtained the womans cellphone and computers in hopes of finding the messages the officers are alleged to have written. The department has yet to examine the devices, a police official said.
Investigators had planned to confront the officers in a surprise operation early next week, but were forced to accelerate those plans Thursday, when one of the women unexpectedly filed a lawsuit against the officers. Fearing that Valenzuela and Nichols might destroy evidence, investigators rushed to sequester the officers and seize their computers and phones, police confirmed.
Valenzuela, a 15-year veteran, and Nichols, a 12-year veteran, were expected to be assigned to their homes pending the outcome of the investigation, the head of the internal affairs group said. The officers could not be reached for comment.
The first woman to accuse Valenzuela and Nichols came forward in January 2010, when she told a supervisor in their narcotics unit that the officers had stopped her more than a year earlier, according to the warrant. The woman, who worked as a confidential informant for the narcotics unit and knew the men, said they were dressed in plain clothes and driving a Volkswagen Jetta. one officer threatened to take the woman to jail if she refused to get in the car, then got into the back seat with her and exposed himself, telling the woman to touch him, the warrant said.
An investigation into the womans claim went nowhere when the detective assigned to the case was unable to locate her, according to the warrant.
A year later, however, another woman demanded to speak to a supervisor after being arrested and taken to the LAPDs Hollywood station. Sometime in late 2009, according to the warrant, two officers ordered her into the backseat of a Jetta, and drove the car a short distance to a more secluded area. Why dont you cut out that tough girl crap, the woman recounted one officer saying as he forced her to perform a sex act on him, according to police records contained in the warrant.
The departments investigation made little progress for the next 18 months.
The case picked up steam again in July 2012, when a man left a phone message for the vice unit at the Northeast station, saying he was a member of the Echo Park neighborhood watch and had been told by a prostitute that patrol officers in the area were picking up prostitutes and letting them go in exchange for oral sex, the warrant said.