Pubdate: Wed, 04 Oct 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-7679
Author: Scott Glover, Matt Lait, Times Staff Writers


Federal investigators are preparing to search a garbage-strewn hillside 
near downtown Tijuana for the graves of three people who an informant 
claims were buried there by former Los Angeles Police Department officers 
Rafael Perez and David Mack, law enforcement sources confirmed Tuesday.

The search, expected to occur within days, is part of an ongoing federal 
investigation aimed at corroborating the allegations of 23-year-old Sonia 
Flores, Perez's former lover. Investigators have so far been unable to 
confirm or disprove her allegations.

Perez, now in jail, is providing authorities with information on alleged 
police corruption in return for a lesser sentence for stealing cocaine; 
Mack is serving a prison sentence for bank robbery.

"We don't know if she's credible or not," one law enforcement source said 
of Perez's ex-lover.

Flores said she has been cooperating secretly with authorities since late 
last year, but the full scope of her allegations against Mack and 
Perez--two of the LAPD's most notorious former officers--have not been 
previously disclosed.

In an interview with The Times on Monday, Flores said she watched as Mack 
and Perez killed a young man and an older woman during a botched drug deal 
in an apartment near downtown Los Angeles.

She said those two bodies and that of another person allegedly killed by 
Mack were driven across the border and buried in the middle of the night in 
what is essentially a garbage dump in the hills overlooking Tijuana. Flores 
alleges that she traveled to Tijuana with Perez and Mack when they disposed 
of the third body.

Despite what some sources said were "doubts" about Flores' allegations, 
authorities have taken several concrete steps based on her information. The 
FBI has conducted forensic tests on the Bellevue Avenue apartment where 
Flores alleges the killings of a young cocaine dealer and his mother 
occurred. Investigators also obtained a search warrant and seized a 1986 
black BMW belonging to another LAPD officer, which Flores says was used to 
dispose of the bodies. And late last week the young woman provided 
investigators with a hand-drawn map to the alleged Tijuana grave sites. 
Federal authorities confirm that they are making arrangements to have the 
area excavated.

One source familiar with the investigation said some of Flores' claims have 
been corroborated. "She said she had sex with Perez. Well, she had sex with 
Perez. She said that one officer had a black BMW and that was true too. 
We're taking it one step at a time," the source said.

Flores said the U.S. attorney has offered her an immunity agreement that 
would protect her from prosecution for any crimes in which she implicates 
herself. Federal authorities declined comment on that claim. Winston Kevin 
McKesson, Perez's lawyer, called Flores' allegations "a desperate plea for 

"At this point, I have not seen any facts that would lead me to believe 
that my client has not been totally forthright and honest throughout this 
investigation," McKesson said.

Mack is serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison. His attorney, Donald 
M. Re, did not return a call seeking comment.

Flores approached The Times this week, in part, she said, because she is 
tired of investigators' challenging the veracity of her allegations. She 
said she has been repeatedly threatened that if she is lying, she will be 
criminally charged.

"What reason do I have to lie. . . . What good can I get out of this?" 
asked Flores, who contends that she has offered to take a polygraph 

Investigators "came to me," she said. "I didn't come to them."

Flores alleges that she had a years-long affair with Perez that began when 
she was a teenager. Perez has acknowledged having had sex with her, but 
said it was a one-time occurrence.

During the course of their alleged relationship, Flores alleges, she 
witnessed a variety of crimes, from drug dealing to murder.

According to Flores, she accompanied Perez and Mack on a drug deal in late 
1994 or early 1995 that ended in the alleged double homicide.

Flores said she was with Perez and Mack at a "crash pad" apartment near the 
Rampart station when the officers, clad in black clothing, donned 
bulletproof vests. They said they were going to take care of some business, 
which she took to mean a drug deal. She said she got into a black BMW with 
the two officers, thinking little of it at the time because she had served 
as a courier in cocaine transactions for Perez on many occasions while they 
were dating.

On this night, Flores said, they drove to a nearby apartment on Bellevue to 
see an alleged drug dealer she knew as "Chino." She said that after they 
went inside the second story apartment where the man lived with a woman 
Flores believes was his mother, an argument ensued. She said Perez, 
speaking in Spanish, began threatening the young man and his mother, saying 
that if they did not turn over money that the son owed to Perez and Mack, 
they would be killed.

Seconds later, she said, Perez pushed the man to the floor and shot him in 
the shoulder. As the man's mother knelt down to console her wounded son, 
the two officers continued to demand their money, she said. When no money 
was offered, Flores alleges, Perez stood over the man and fatally shot him 
in the head. She said Mack, who was armed with a handgun fitted with a 
silencer, then shot the sobbing mother in the head. Flores said she was 
sitting on a couch just a few feet from where the two were shot and was 
splattered with blood. Mack, she said, ordered her to go to the kitchen and 
retrieve a plastic shopping bag, which he used to cover the woman's head, 
which was bleeding profusely.

Perez and Mack then wrapped the bodies in carpet, securing it with duct 
tape, and carried them to the BMW and an LAPD patrol car that was outside, 
Flores said.

The patrol car was driven to the scene after the officers spoke via 
walkie-talkie "in code" to its driver, who was a friend of Mack and 
Perez's, Flores said.

The current residents of the apartment confirmed to The Times that 
investigators recently removed carpet from their home and conducted tests 
for more than seven hours as they waited outside. Flores said she 
accompanied investigators to the scene and was able to provide them with a 
detailed layout of the apartment before they entered it to conduct their 

After the shooting, Flores said, she was driven back to the crash pad and 
told to stay there and keep quiet. Perez and Mack made her remove her 
bloodstained clothing, she said. The next morning, she said, the officers 
threatened her and her family if she talked to anyone about the killings.

"I was sort of read my rights," Flores said. "I had the right not to talk 
or I would be killed."

She said Perez called her from jail to reiterate that threat shortly after 
he agreed to a plea bargain last September, in which he agreed to testify 
against allegedly corrupt officers in exchange for the lighter sentence for 
stealing cocaine from LAPD facilities.

Two months after the alleged killings, Flores said, she accompanied Mack 
and Perez on what she thought was a spur-of-the-moment road trip to 
Tijuana. Part way there, she claims, she learned that a woman's body was 
hidden in the back of Perez's Ford Explorer. She said the alleged victim 
was a girlfriend of Mack's. Flores said they told her that they were going 
to dump the body in the same place where they had disposed of the other two.

Flores alleges that the officers had "a contact" within the Tijuana police 
force who helped them dispose of the bodies. She alleges that the pair 
believed that the Latino bodies wouldn't be noticed south of the border, 
where the bodies of those killed in Tijuana's drug violence turn up on 
nearly a daily basis. Flores said that the officers made her wait at a 
nearby beauty salon while they buried the woman's body. Later that day, she 
said, Perez showed her the mounds of dirt where the victims were buried.

Flores' allegations further complicate prosecutors' efforts to bring 
charges against Perez's former colleagues in the Rampart Division. Defense 
attorneys representing the four officers who are supposed to stand trial on 
corruption-related charges thisweek only recently learned some of Flores' 
accusations. Her allegations, the attorneys contend, could further 
undermine Perez's credibility.

Looking back, Flores said, she is surprised that she was allowed to live to 
tell her story years later.

"Mack and Perez are smart people," she said. "The only stupid thing they 
did was having me around when they did this stuff."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens