An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after the county Public Defender’s office accused him multiple times of mishandling evidence and illegally eavesdropping on prisoners in the county jail.
Sheriff’s department spokesperson Carrie Braun declined to say why the department suspended Sgt. Matt LeFlore, but said he was placed on paid leave Aug. 15.
“We are restricted by POBRA (Peace Officers Bill of Rights) from discussing the conditions of administrative leave,” Braun said in a statement.
But assistant public defender Scott Sanders says LeFlore is under “internal criminal investigation,” and that he “may have already sustained a serious policy violation,” in a statement to Voice of OC.
LeFlore’s tenure at the sheriff’s department has regularly moved into the public spotlight over the last three years, starting when it came out that he was appointed to serve as an investigator during the sheriff’s evidence mishandling crisis.
He was later removed from that team after it came out he too had mishandled evidence, a fact the sheriff’s department was aware of when they appointed him to investigate the problem, according to a court motion filed by Sanders.
LeFlore was one of 17 deputies referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for prosecution after a review of the evidence booking issue, but was never charged.
Earlier this year, the public defender’s office filed a motion in court alleging that LeFlore illegally eavesdropped on an inmate named Taylor Camuferguson at the county jail in 2017.
After overhearing insults against him through listening to a jail phone call, LeFlore reopened a case on Camufergson that led to a felony conviction.
In one of the first recordings, Jon Andersen, Camuferguson’s lawyer, had a clear message for any sheriff’s employees 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.”
According to the records presented by the public defenders’ office, LeFlore continued listening.
LeFlore was also called out by name by Andersen during one of the recorded conversations he eavesdropped on.
“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.”
In another case, LeFlore and deputy Arthur Tiscareno were accused by the public defender’s office of using the same evidence to try and convict two different men in different cases.
Both Ace Kelley and Royal Baker were arrested by the sheriff’s department at the Coral Motel in Buena Park, where officers found nearly 18 grams of meth in Baker’s room.
But after using the meth in Baker’s case, the evidence was improperly rebooked under Kelley’s, without ever disclosing it was meth that was found in Baker’s room – a move that was done intentionally by LeFlore and Tiscareno, according to the public defender.
The case against Kelley was dropped by the DA’s office without explanation after the public defender’s office asked for more records from the sheriff’s department to confirm their concerns over the evidence being moved improperly.
DA spokesperson Kimberly Edds did not respond to requests for comment.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly claimed LeFlore eavesdropped on Ace Kelley. LeFlore was accused of eavesdropping on inmate Taylor Camuferguson. We regret the error.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
Since you’ve made it this far,
You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford, but it’s not free to produce. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.