California Bar Journal
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Ex-gang prosecutor suspended for drug conspiracy conviction
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A former Orange County gang prosecutor was placed on interim suspension by the State Bar after pleading guilty to charges stemming from an elaborate coast-to-coast drug trafficking operation authorities said pulled in $1 million a week. BRYAN RAY KAZARIAN [#152804], 36, of Santa Ana was one of about a dozen defendants charged in 1999 with fostering the operation of the drug ring which federal law enforcement said resulted in the distribution of hundred of pounds of methamphetamine and “ice,” a pure form of the drug.

Kazarian pleaded guilty in October 1999 to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. His interim suspension began Nov. 16, 2000.

Authorities said Kazarian’s role in the drug ring, which stretched from Hawaii to New Jersey, was to funnel information to the group’s ringleader about law enforcement investigations. Officials said he also advised the ringleader about how to avoid getting caught with drug money. Kazarian was not named as a participant in drug and money laundering activities.

His arrest sent shockwaves through the district attorney’s office; Kazarian was the first Orange County prosecutor to be charged with a felony in almost 30 years. He had won praise from county jurists for his courtroom skills and professionalism, and was described as a role model by one judge.

According to a 166-page federal indictment, the drug ring allegedly was run by John David Ward, an Orange County T-shirt entrepreneur.

The operation allegedly involved converting ephedrine stolen in New Jersey into “ice,” which was then packed in Harley Davidson motorcycles and crates to be shipped to Hawaii.

One of the defendants in the case was the founder and president of the Orange County chapter of the Hell’s Angels.

Authorities said telephone taps showed Ward and Kazarian disguised conversations about the drug trafficking operation as exchanges about the stock exchange.

In one of the wiretaps, officials allegedly overheard Ward describing Kazarian as “one of the biggest prosecutors in our county” and “our own in-house counsel.”

They charged that Kazarian used his position to obtain information about an investigation of another defendant, which he then passed on to Ward.

Kazarian received his law degree from Western State Law School in Fullerton, passed the bar in 1991 and joined the district attorney’s juvenile division. He advanced steadily in the office, eventually joining the target gang unit, based in the Costa Mesa police department.

Shortly before his arrest, Kazarian prosecuted four gang members for a string of jewelry store robberies, winning long prison terms for the defendants.

He also had helped to create a county task force which targeted white supremacist gangs, lectured students about gangs, taught proper investigation techniques to police officers and served on a board which helped distribute city and state funds to police departments.

In addition, Kazarian suggested revisions to the law involving the use of particular weapons in the commission of violent crimes. The revisions, which enabled prosecutors to win more cases, were included in a bill that was passed by the legislature.