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Derrel Thomas arrested in drug bust

By DANIELA WILD

LOS ANGELES -- Former major-league outfielder outfielder Derrel Thomas and a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy were arrested after allegedly buying 22 pounds of cocaine from undercover officers, authorities said Saturday.

San Fernando police officers working with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized the $140,000 in cash and the 22 pounds of the drug in the arrest in South Los Angeles. The undercover operation culminated a four-month investigation into allegations of cocaine trafficking, San Fernando police Sgt. Michael Harvey said.

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Also arrested was former sheriff's deputy Rickey Ross. The investigation began in January when police received a tip that Thomas was trafficking in cocaine, Harvey said.

'We received information from a confidential source that they were in the market to buy 10 kilos of cocaine and we facilitated the sale,' Harvey said. 'They approached the confidential informant and the confidential informant introduced them to the officers.'

Undercover officers followed the men for nine hours Friday before they ended up in the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant about 10:15 p.m.

'The undercover officers then consumated the deal and they were arrested,' Harvey said.

The $140,000 was found in a Cadillac rented by Ross. No weapons were seized.

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A third man, whose name was not immediately released, also was arrested but had not yet been booked pending further investigation, Harvey said.

Thomas and Ross were booked at the San Fernando jail on suspicion of possession of cocaine for sale, trafficking in cocaine and criminal conspiracy. Bail was set at $1 million each.

Thomas, 41, of Redondo Beach, Calif., is the baseball coach at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. He was aboard a school bus in March when 17- year-old baseball player Wilfred L. Wright III died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Thomas spent 15 years in the major leagues, compiling a .249 batting average with 43 home runs, 585 runs scored and 140 stolen bases. Primarily a middle infielder, Thomas was versatile enough that he played every position on the field in his career except pitcher.

He played for six clubs over his career, but his best years came in the late 1970s with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. He reached career bests in 1975 with a .276 average, 99 runs scored, 48 RBI and 28 steals for the Giants.

Thomas was a member of the Dodgers' 1981 World Series championship team, going hitless in seven at-bats during the series. He also played sparingly in two National League Championship Series with the Dodgers in 1981 and 1983, recording five hits in 10 at-bats.

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In 1985, Thomas' name was brought up in the Pittsburgh drug- trafficking trial of Curtis Strong, a caterer with close ties to several players.

Though never charged with any crime in that case, Thomas was among 21 players punished by then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth for their implication in the trial. Thomas was ordered to submit to random drug testing for the remainder of his career, but he was released during spring training and never returned to the majors.

Ross, 43, of Rialto, was charged in February 1989 with killing three prostitutes in a case that was later dropped. The sheriff's department fired him in May 1989, citing use of alcohol and drugs and misappropriation of narcotics evidence.

Ross was a narcotics investigator for 18 years before he was arrested in the company of a prostitute in South Central Los Angeles and held in the killings. The charges were dropped when the original Los Angeles Police Department ballistics tests linking him to the slayings were proven wrong.

The former narcotics officer later filed suit against the Los Angeles Police Department, asking for more than $100 million in damages for civil rights violations.

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