New court records allege an Orange County Sheriff investigator illegally listened to calls between an inmate at the county jail and their attorney – until he was warned by name on one of the calls not to.
The alleged eavesdropping happened in 2017, when Taylor Camuferguson was incarcerated at the Theo Lacy county jail and was regularly speaking with his lawyer Jon Andersen, according to a suit filed by Scott Sanders, a public defender for the county.
According to the suit, sheriff records show that OC Sheriffs’ investigator Matt LeFlore accessed multiple confidential recordings of calls between the two men that were identified as such.
After hearing the two men insult LeFlore, Sanders claims that LeFlore retaliated by restarting investigations into Camuferguson that led to a felony conviction.
“What should have been private and protected words traveled from Camuferguson’s mouth to an officer-playing-God’s ears,” Sanders wrote. “LeFlore rapidly began working to build another case … he then presented this investigation to the prosecutor–never revealing that his illegal listening spurred his efforts.”
He was responsible for putting Camuferguson in jail under a probation violation, after which Camuferguson pled guilty to five misdemeanor charges of identity theft.
LeFlore has not been suspended, according to sheriff’s spokesperson Carrie Braun, who released a short statement on the allegations.
“The Department takes any allegation of misconduct seriously,” Braun said. “We are reviewing the motion and are committed to investigating, if discovered, any instances of misconduct.”
It’s another controversial chapter for the OC Sheriff’s Department, which in recent years was embroiled in an illegal jailhouse informant program – along with the District Attorney’s office.
[Read: Federal Investigators Call Out ‘Systematic’ Rights Violations in OC Jailhouse Informant Scandal]
Sanders’ motion is not connected to Camufergson’s case, but argues at length it’s a reason for the sheriff’s department to turn over LeFlore’s personnel records to see if he committed other acts of misconduct that could affect other investigations he worked on.
During portions of the calls reviewed by Voice of OC, Andersen and Camuferguson repeatedly discussed the details of the case.
On one call Andersen had a message for anyone listening in:
“Let me put something on this recording. To all of you little bastard sheriffs who are listening in on this conversation, this is a conversation between an attorney and a client,” Andersen said. “Any attempt to listen to it or monitor it, you’re committing a felony and I will prosecute your ass.”
But LeFlore continued listening to calls according to sheriff’s records attached to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit displays LeFlore’s notes about the conversations, yet he doesn’t mention being warned to stop listening in – or that the calls were confidential – until a later call.
In the fifth call, Andersen even warned LeFlore by name to stop listening in if he was.
“This is a telephone call between attorney/clients, attorney Jon Andersen … and his client,” Andersen said in the final recording. “Anyone attempts to listen to this, especially that five foot tall, deceitful, lying Orange County Sheriff named LeFlore, we’ll seek prosecution, guaranteed. So don’t listen in.”
That call was the first time LeFlore noted that Camuferguson was speaking to his attorney, and marked that no one else should listen to that specific call.
While speaking to Andersen, Camuferguson said he was worried about LeFlore listening in and potentially digging up other cases on him after he signed a plea agreement for identity theft.
“I’m hoping he doesn’t try to pull some shit though where like I sign and then he drops some bomb on me,” Camuferguson said in a phone recording.
“Who knows what that guy’s going to pull,” Andersen said. “Fortunately, the DA and everybody knows he’s a piece of shit.”
But that’s exactly what happened.
On the day Camuferguson was set to be released from jail, the suit claims LeFlore brought in a new charge against him of first degree burglary, a felony that Camuferguson eventually pleaded guilty to.
“LeFlore tailored his revenge so it would be responsive to a fear Camuferguson specifically articulated,” Sanders wrote.
In his motion, Sanders is arguing that LeFlore continued listening even after he knew that the conversations were privileged, saying the sheriff’s system would’ve flagged Andersen’s number since it was registered as an attorney’s contact info.
“They have a system that lets them immediately identify who’s calling, there’s no way (LeFlore) didn’t know,” Sanders said in an interview with Voice of OC. “There’s zero chance.”
In his testimony at the preliminary hearing for the case Sanders is handling, LeFlore said he had no recollection of the calls, which Sanders argues is completely impossible.
“If, on the other hand, LeFlore suffers from memory loss at the level required for his testimony to have been truthful, he would be mentally unfit to serve as an officer,” Sanders wrote in his court motion.
LeFlore also said while his access to the recordings of privileged calls came up in a 2019 internal department audit and the 2021 lawsuit People v. Ryan Franks, he was never investigated.
He was also caught up in the sheriffs’ evidence booking scandal, starting out as one of the investigators before he was removed after sheriffs learned he had mishandled evidence and lied about it according to another motion from Sanders.
If LeFlore is found guilty of any crimes, it could throw out convictions stemming from his past work and current investigations into question, according to Sanders.
“This level of moral turpitude is so high that there’s reason to look back at his old cases,” Sanders said in a phone interview.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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