LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is facing a whistleblower complaint over alleged retaliation against Sergeant

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is facing another whistleblower lawsuit accusing him and the department of corruption and retaliation.

Sergeant Vanessa Chow, a 21-year veteran of the department, says her role as liaison between the sheriff and the board of supervisors put her in the crosshairs of Villanueva’s “war on the BOS.”

In her newly filed lawsuit, Chow says she was targeted in part because her husband, Detective Jefferson Chow, was the lead investigator in the LA County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the September 2018 attack by the deputy banditos at Kennedy Hall was in East Los Angeles.

The victims of this attack – who were younger, non-Bandito MPs – say they were beaten and strangled by the older Bandito MPs to the point they believed they might die. Three of the suspected Bandito MPs were later fired and one retired.

However, prosecutors declined to press charges in the case, citing “insufficient evidence”.

Detective Jefferson Chow testified at a special hearing against gang deputies two weeks ago that he was specifically ordered not to ask any questions about the Banditos in his investigation into the Banditos attack.

Chow’s transcript shows an entry dated November 27, 2018, which reads, “Interviews canceled regarding Captain/Chief Burson. He wanted to make sure I didn’t have to ask questions about subculture groups on the ELA ward.”

The now-retired LASD Chief Matthew Burson previously testified that Villanueva’s order came through then-sheriff’s chief of staff Larry Del Mese.

“Mr. Chow, did you find it odd that Captain or Chief Burson told you not to ask whether or not the people involved in this fight were members of a proxy clique or gang?” asked Sean Kennedy, member of the Civilian Oversight Commission the August hearing.

“Yes sir, I have,” replied Chow, who explained that LASD was a paramilitary organization and any resistance would be perceived as disobedience.

Sergeant Vanessa Chow’s lawsuit alleges that Villanueva defamed her husband when he said last month the Kennedy Hall gang attack was “just a drunken brawl” and that Detective Chow “altered the investigative protocol.”

“So they started this big conspiracy, a false conspiracy of course, and they let me tell Del Mese, who tells Burson, who tells Mr. Chow – who I think is a sergeant investigator – not to ask questions face,” Villanueva said in a Facebook video in July.

LASD declined to make Villanueva available for an interview or to respond to questions from ABC7, saying they could not comment “due to pending litigation.”

According to Chow’s lawsuit, her husband realized he was being followed by undercover surveillance units after testifying about gang surrogates two weeks ago. She says one of the vehicles sat idle in front of her home until she went outside with a video camera to record the incident.

The sergeant lists a number of other allegations in her retaliatory lawsuit, including LASD employees working in the public eye to help with Villanueva’s re-election campaign and widespread cheating on the department’s lieutenant exam.

“There were a lot of people getting suspiciously high scores,” says Chow’s attorney, Vincent Miller. “You have people working under Villanueva who have admitted to having the test questions and answers ahead of time.”

Chow claims her scores were rigged to fail – as a form of retaliation for speaking out about unlawful conduct. She says she was not allowed to appeal the test result, not see her test result, and when she reported it, the fraud was not investigated.

“He responds by punishing them, blocking their promotions, demoting them and constructively firing them,” says Miller.

The lawsuit also alleges that at various times Sgt. Chow’s “computer cables were cut” and files she kept in a locked closet were shredded.

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Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is facing a whistleblower complaint over alleged retaliation against Sergeant

Laura Coffey

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