(AP) Internal affairs detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating allegations that two officers lured at least four women into unmarked cars and forced them to have sex in a scheme that spanned five years, according to court records detailed in a report Thursday.
Officers Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols, who until recently worked together as narcotics officers in the department's Hollywood Division, would threaten women with jail to get them into a car and drive them to a secluded area where one of the officers would demand sex with them while the other stood watch, according to a search warrant obtained by the detectives.
Investigators had planned to surprise the officers with an operation next week, but one of the women filed a lawsuit and the probe had to be accelerated, police officials said. The officers' computers and phones were being seized on Thursday.
Police Chief Charlie Beck emphasized that the matter was still under investigation, but said he was "saddened by the allegations."
"If they are true, it would be horrific," the chief told the Los Angeles Times.
Investigators have identified four different women who the men had arrested or used as informants that subsequently came forward with the allegations independently.
The first woman, who had been an informant for the officers, came forward in January 2010, telling a narcotics division supervisor that the pair had appeared in a Volkswagen Jetta wearing plain clothes, telling her they'd take her to jail unless she got in the car. She said one of the officers got into the back seat, exposed himself and told her to touch him, the warrant said.
The detective assigned to the case could not find the woman and the case was dropped until a year later when another woman came forward with a similar story after being arrested.
The officers could not be reached for comment by the Times or The Associated Press.
Police officials told the Times that Valenzuela, a 15-year department veteran, and James Nichols, a 12-year veteran, were expected to be assigned to their homes pending the investigation's outcome.