LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice plead not guilty Monday in a wide-ranging federal probe of alleged abuses inside county jails.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports the officials are among 18 total defendants named in a series of indictments unsealed last week alleging various acts of corruption.

Lt. Gregory Thompson, Deputy Gerard Smith, Sgt. Scott Craig and Sgt. Maricella Long all entered not-guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Craig and Long are also facing single counts of making a false statement to authorities.

A fifth defendant named in the indictment, Deputy James Sexton, was expected to enter a plea later Monday afternoon.

According to the indictment, an inmate identified only as “AB” was working as an informant for the FBI in connection with the federal probe.

On Aug. 25, 2011, a federal judge ordered the inmate — who was identified earlier by the Los Angeles Times as Anthony Brown — to appear before a grand jury as part of the investigation, according to the indictment.

After learning of the federal probe, the defendants “knowingly conspired to corruptly influence, obstruct and impede, and endeavor to influence, obstruct and impede, the due administration of justice,” the indictment alleges.

According to the indictment, Leavins, Craig and Long allegedly tried to dissuade potential witnesses from cooperating with the federal probe, unsuccessfully sought a court order to compel the FBI to provide explicit details of the jail probe and tried to intimidate an FBI agent by going to her home and threatening to arrest her.

After Sexton appears this afternoon, all 18 defendants will have been freed on bond, according to U.S. Attorneys spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Another defendant who was not arrested last week, Eric Gonzalez, has been arraigned, according to Mrozek. He made his initial court appearance and pleaded not guilty this past Friday afternoon, Mrozek said.

Sheriff Lee Baca said last week that the defendants who are still with the department would be suspended without pay.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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