Tuesday, January 15, 2002
Prosecutors Tentatively Agree to Drop Charges Against Sheriff’s Deputy in Credit Card Scam if He Retires
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Prosecutors have tentatively agreed to drop charges against a sheriff’s deputy accused in a credit card scandal involving workers at the Twin Towers jail, the deputy’s attorney said yesterday
Deputy Jesse Zuniga, three civilian jail workers and three others were indicted last March by the Los Angeles County grand jury on conspiracy to commit grand theft among other charges. Zuniga was also indicted on attempted receiving stolen property charges.
In exchange for the dismissed charges, Zuniga will retire from the Sheriff’s Department, the deputy’s attorney, Leonard Levine, said.
“Basically I don’t think that he wants to be part of a department that has treated him the way he’s been treated by them,” Levine said.
The deal is expected to be finalized Feb. 25, Levine said.
Levine called the resignation requirement reasonable.
“He was thinking retirement anyway,” Levine said of the 58-year-old deputy.
Zuniga was relieved of duty by the Sheriff’s Department without pay after the March indictment, a department spokesman said.
Zuniga’s resignation was mutually agreed upon by both sides, Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Munisoglu said, but added that any agreement won’t be final until it’s agreed upon in court.
“A deal is not a deal until its done,” Munisoglu said. Munisoglu declined to comment further on the details of the agreement.
The credit card scam allegedly involved a collaboration of inmates and department employees who conspired to use stolen credit cards to withdraw cash from automated teller machines. It was revealed after an undercover sting operation by the Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Lee Baca last year said the department had uncovered a vast conspiracy in the Sheriff’s Department involving fraudulent use of credit cards. Critics have said he blew the scandal out of proportion.
“I think in the case of [Zuniga] the charges were not supported by sufficient evidence,” Levine said.
Jeffrey Lowe, attorney for civilian jail worker Meko Goodley, said he expects more defendants to reaching plea bargains as the March 8 trial date approaches.
But Lowe said his client rejected a “no fine, no time” deal from the prosecution that would reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and will proceed to trial.
Tiffany Williams, who was indicted on attempted receiving stolen property, is due back in court Jan. 28 for a possible disposition, but the remaining defendants, jail workers Goodley, Tirrell Thomas and Christopher Coleman, and Marcus Coleman and Andrea Kizzee are due back in court March 8.
Christopher Coleman was indicted on 15 charges of grand theft with access cards and attempted receiving stolen property, while Goodley, Marcus Coleman and Kizzee were indicted on attempted receiving stolen property.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company