A top member of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of a federal investi- gation, authorities reported Thursday.
Capt. Raul DeLeon, 50, became the commander of the Operations Division at the Sheriff's Department in the summer of 2006, overseeing the patrol and investigations units, which are staffed by about 200 sworn officers, said deputy Royjindar Singh. He is one of three captains beneath the undersheriff, who reports to Sheriff Adam Christianson.
Christianson confirmed DeLeon's leave but said he could not comment and referred questions to the FBI's Sacramento office.
"This is an ongoing federal investigation," the sheriff said. "For me to discuss the details would be inappropriate. It would compromise the integrity of the investigation, so I'm not going to do it."
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Christianson did say he had known about the investigation and that the Sheriff's Department was cooperating with the FBI.
FBI agent Karen Ernst said she had been instructed by her superiors that "we're not going to be commenting" on DeLeon.
She declined to say whether DeLeon was under arrest, where he was Thursday night and, if he's in custody, when he might be released. She could not comment on whether he was being interviewed as a witness or a suspect.
No one answered the door at DeLeon's Modesto home or the phone when The Bee tried to reach his family Thursday.
Former Stanislaus County Assistant Sheriff Mark Puthuff, who became the police chief in Fort Bragg in October 2006, said he did not know about DeLeon and the investigation.
But, he said, during his time with the Sheriff's Department he was aware and had been actively involved in investigating some "possible threads of corruption" within the department and with other agencies in and out of the area. That investigation found links to criminal activity, with possible connections to drugs, he said.
The investigation during his tenure related to activities dating to 2003 or 2004, Puthuff said. As a result of the inquiry, "some employees" who were found to be involved with policy violations or corruption were disciplined and are no longer with the Sheriff's Department, he said.
"That may have nothing to do with (DeLeon)," Puthuff said.
Puthuff said DeLeon's leave was a matter of procedure and not punitive. A federal investigation, Puthuff said, would require the Sheriff's Department to do an internal investigation.
During DeLeon's leave, Capt. Tim David will be in command of Operations, "effective immediately," according to an e-mail Christianson sent his staff about 10:20 a.m. Thursday.
Career started in 1970s
DeLeon has a distinguished law enforcement career, which began in 1974 when he was an Explorer with the Sheriff's Department. After two years with the Ceres Police Department, he was hired as a full-time sheriff's deputy in 1980.
He has received numerous awards and special assignments to the SWAT team, the Underwater Recovery Team, the Hostage Negotiation Team and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, which he headed. He also served as the commander of detention facilities, overseeing the men's jail, the honor farm and the public safety center.
For several years beginning in 2000, DeLeon was the Modesto-area commander of a drug task force that was part of the nine-county Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
"He was always great with what we worked with him on," area director Bill Ruzzamenti said.
DeLeon has been involved for many years with the Hispanic Leadership Council of Stanislaus County, according to its president, Balvino Irizarry.
"(DeLeon) was active on the board and he was an excellent board member," Irizarry said. "He has always been very interested in our mission, working with the youth in our county. He's always been considered a good role model for our youth."
DeLeon helped raise money for youth scholarships and was involved with bringing speakers to council events. He continued to be involved with the council when he completed his term on the board but has not attended recent meetings, Irizarry said.
"He's always been a conscientious person and role model," Irizarry said. "We consider him an outstanding citizen."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached email@example.com or 578-2235.