Leonel Lazaro


An Atascadero State Hospital police officer from Santa Maria pleaded no contest last month to a charge of illegally providing or buying a firearm for another person, often known as a strawman purchase.

Leonel Lazaro, 37, entered his plea Nov. 18 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court following a deal with prosecutors, according to Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore. 

Lazaro is out of custody on bail but is facing 120 days in jail and two years of felony probation, Whitmore said.

Ilan Funke-Bilu, Lazaro’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

Lazaro was arrested near the intersection of College Drive and Park Avenue in Santa Maria on Oct. 19, 2020, on suspicion of illegally transferring a gun and ammunition, possession of a firearm while addicted to drugs, conspiracy and embezzlement following an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Bureau, according to spokeswoman Raquel Zick.

Charges filed on Dec. 21 included the illegal firearm transfer, possession of a firearm by a felon and embezzlement, including that Lazaro allegedly took a police radio, records show. The charges were reduced to the sole firearm charge, according to an amended complaint filed Dec. 23. He pleaded not guilty on Jan. 6. 

It’s unclear if Lazaro is still employed at the state hospital. A spokesman was not able to provide an answer before deadline Friday.

Lazaro's sentencing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 6 in Department 6 of Superior Court in Santa Maria.