COMPTON (CBSLA) — Compton city officials Wednesday announced their plan to sue the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Officials allege LASD cheated the city out of more than $22 million by fraudulently billing for time deputies were supposed to be spending keeping Compton safe. (CBSLA)

“We are here to demand that Sheriff Villanueva get a handle on his department and address the widespread fraud and malfeasance running rampant in Compton station,” Mayor Aja Brown said.

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Officials allege LASD cheated the city out of more than $22 million by fraudulently billing for time deputies were supposed to be spending keeping Compton safe.

“We believe that a theft of historic proportions has taken place resulting in damages which potentially amount to millions in taxpayer dollars,” Damon Brown, Compton City Attorney, said.

Attorneys for the city have filed a claim for damages against the sheriff’s department, alleging fraud and breach of contract among other things. According to attorneys, the city agreed to pay more than $22 million in exchange for 700,800 minutes of crime suppression and 858,720 minutes of special assignment crime suppression.

However, the attorneys allege the sheriff’s department committed “minutes fraud” by using city-funded minutes for non-crime suppression duties.

“What that means is that we have deputies that are saying they’re at locations that they’re not at,” attorney Jamon Hicks said. “We have deputies that are saying they are patrolling the streets of the residents when they are not.”

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“The result is major understaffing at Compton station, lack of responsiveness for calls for service, and increased crime and danger to our community,” Brown said.

But, Sheriff Alex Villanueva disputed the allegations.

“To call it a fraud, that might be a little bit of a stretch,” he said.

Villanueva said that during the pandemic, when the court system was closed down, the department flooded all of the patrol stations with extra personnel. In addition, he said he never got a single complain that they were not complying with the contract.

“We have, I think, about 45 contracts, and we measure the minutes and there’s a rate we have to get close to the 100%, either slightly above or slightly below,” he said. “If we’re missing that target, I don’t think it’s going to be the grand conspiracy that the outgoing mayor of Compton wants it to be, but we’ll definitely take the allegations seriously.”

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Villanueva said the department was in the process of conducting an audit and would take action on the findings of the audit.