Feds: 3 men conspired with L.A. Sheriff's Deputy to steal 1,200 lbs of marijuana, $645K cash

Three men were arrested on Thursday morning on federal drug distribution charges alleging they conspired with a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy and others to steal more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana and $645,000 in cash and money orders during an armed robbery of a downtown Los Angeles warehouse that was staged to look like law enforcement was executing a search warrant, according to federal authorities.

Matthew James Perez, a.k.a. "Neer," 42, of Ontario; Daniel Aguilera, 31, of East Los Angeles; and Jay Colby Sanford, a.k.a. "Monte Jay," 41, of Pomona, were arrested Monday morning without incident.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, Perez, Aguilera, and Sanford conspired with LASD Deputy Marc Antrim, 41, of South El Monte, and others to commit the early morning armed robbery on October 29. The off-duty Antrim, Perez and a third man arrived at the warehouse at 3:00 a.m. in an unmarked Ford Explorer registered to LASD. All three men were dressed as LASD deputies, were carrying holstered firearms, and posed as legitimate law enforcement officers executing a search warrant of the warehouse, court documents state. Perez, a convicted felon, also allegedly brandished a rifle.

After Antrim detained the warehouse's three security guards inside the LASD Ford Explorer, Aguilera drove a large rental truck into the warehouse parking lot, which later was used to transport the stolen marijuana, two cash-filled safes and other items from the warehouse, according to court documents. During the robbery, Sanford allegedly served as a nearby look-out, scouting for potential law enforcement and remaining in contact with his co-conspirators via phone and walkie-talkie radios.

While the two-hour robbery was in progress, Los Angeles Police Department officers legitimately responded to a call for service at the warehouse, the complaint states. When LAPD officers arrived, Perez and the other man posing as a deputy discarded their LASD jackets and fled through a back door, along with Aguilera, according to court documents. Antrim allegedly remained at the warehouse, showed the LAPD officers his LASD badge, and falsely claimed that he was conducting a legitimate search.

Antrim then allegedly handed his phone to one of the LAPD officers so that the officer could speak to someone on the phone claiming to be Antrim's LASD sergeant. According to court documents, however, the individual on the phone was not Antrim's sergeant, and Antrim did not have a legitimate search warrant for the warehouse. Antrim's falsehoods ultimately prompted the LAPD officers to leave the warehouse, thereby allowing Antrim and his co-conspirators time to complete the heist, court documents state.

According to the complaint, text messages between Antrim and another conspirator suggest that, for their assistance the night of the robbery, Perez was going to be paid $30,000, Sanford $10,000, and Aguilera $5,000.

Perez, Aguilera, and Sanford are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. If convicted of this offense, each man would face a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.

Antrim and two other men who participated in the robbery were arrested in November. They since have signed plea agreements admitting to drug trafficking and gun charges related to the sham search, and are expected to enter guilty pleas in the coming weeks.