Police Abuse

A DEA Agent Got a Drug Dealer to Buy a Truck So the Agent Could Seize it Through Asset Forfeiture

Former DEA special agent Chad Scott has been convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and falsifying government records.

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A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent was convicted Tuesday of lying and falsifying records to hide a long-running scheme to skim money and other property during drug busts. In one scheme, he convinced a confidential informant buy a truck so the agent could seize it through asset forfeiture.

A New Orleans jury found former DEA special agent Chad Scott guilty of seven counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and falsifying government records. The U.S. government's indictment alleged that from at least 2009 to 2016, Scott and two other members of a New Orleans drug task force conspired to steal money from suspects and from the DEA's evidence locker, and to falsify records to cover their tracks. 

Part of Scott's misconduct involved getting a Houston drug dealer to purchase a $43,000 Ford F-150 so that Scott could seize it through asset forfeiture laws and then use it as a work vehicle. Scott falsified seizure records to make it appear that he had taken the truck in Louisiana.

Federal prosecutors also accused Scott of convincing two drug traffickers to lie on the stand about about a third defendant's involvement in a drug case, in exchange for more lenient sentences. The third defendant's conviction was later overturned.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner isn't charged with a crime. Law enforcement organizations claim that civil forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by targeting illicit proceeds. Civil liberties groups say the practice creates a perverse profit incentive for police.

For example, in Illinois, former La Salle County state's attorney Brian Towne faced criminal charges for misconduct and misappropriating public funds after he allegedly spent asset forfeiture funds on an SUV, WiFi for his home, and local youth sports programs. Town created his own highway interdiction unit and asset forfeiture fund for his office, an unusual move that the Illinois Supreme Court later ruled was illegal. A judge dismissed the charges against Towne after finding his right to a speedy trial was violated.

The New Orleans Advocate reported in 2016 that Scott, who styled himself as "the white devil," was one of the most successful DEA agents in the region when it came to big drug busts and large cash hauls. The Advocate also reported that in 2004 a woman filed a complaint to the DEA and the Louisiana State Police claiming she saw Scott take drugs from a house following an arrest. Because of Scott's status as a case-maker, numerous complaints against him and other red flags were ignored

That changed after Scott was indicted in 2017 as part of a wide-ranging FBI probe into the DEA's troubled New Orleans field division. During Scott's case, federal prosecutors attempted to enter other past misconduct issues going back to 1999 into evidence.

That year, two employees of Houston's Rap-a-Lot Records, which was under DEA investigation, said they were pulled over by Scott and several other law enforcement officers. According to a motion filed by prosecutors, Scott's group "proceeded to remove the occupants from the vehicle, place them in handcuffs, and stand them against a wall. Evidence indicates that [Scott] struck Mr. Simon and took a necklace from him," which he then kept in his evidence locker for several months before returning.

A subsequent investigation by the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) found that, while Scott admitted to knowingly violating the DEA's evidence handling policies, there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of civil rights abuses. Prosecutors wrote that "evidence indicates that in connection with this incident, [Scott] mishandled evidence" and "made false statements to investigators."

In sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee in 2000 regarding the Rap-a-Lot investigation, the then-head of the DEA's Houston field office, Ernest Howard, said the OPR cleared Scott and his partner, Jack Schumacher of any misconduct. The hearing was spurred by a letter from Rep. Maxine Waters (D–Calif.) to Attorney General Janet Reno asking for an investigation into claims by Rap-A-Lot's owner that he had been subjected to racial slurs, illegal searches, and frequent traffic stops by DEA agents.

The motion also revealed that in 2004 the DEA reprimanded Scott twice for mishandling confidential informants and violating agency policy.

And in 2005, Scott arrested a man named Julius Cerdes, who claimed that Scott asked him to fabricate a story about another criminal defendant. Specifically, Scott "wanted Mr. Cerdes to say that Mr. Cerdes sold cocaine to the criminal defendant, when in fact this had not occurred," federal prosecutors wrote. "In exchange, Mr. Cerdes was to receive a more favorable disposition of his criminal case. In a subsequent proffer session, Mr. Cerdes lied as instructed, telling the false story."

Yet Scott still had plenty of defenders.

"I knew Chad Scott, and still know him, to be a fine, upstanding public servant whose dedication has been an overwhelming asset to this community," Matt Coman, a former federal prosecutor who worked closely with Scott, told the Advocate in 2016. "His work has gone a long way toward continuing to eradicate the scourge of illegal drugs in this community. He's a fantastic person, a fantastic agent—a credit to that agency."

In a Justice Department press release announcing Scott's conviction, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Anthony T. Riedlinger said the conviction "reinforces the message that no one is above the law. Scott's actions were selfish and placed an unnecessary stain on an otherwise stellar agency." 

Scott faces another federal trial in October on a different set of charges.

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  1. I don’t think it’s fair to condemn the whole program because of a single, highly incentivized slip-up.

    1. You mean drug dealing, right?

  2. “I knew Chad Scott, and still know him, to be a fine, upstanding public servant whose dedication has been an overwhelming asset to this community…”

    “And we must seize that asset so that it can’t be used for criminal deeds, and we must use that seized asset ourselves instead for our own personal errands and… wait, sorry, what were we talking about?”

  3. I never realized The Shield was documentary television.

    1. Lol. My first thought.

  4. “convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and falsifying government records.”

    Just following procedures – – – –

  5. “A judge dismissed the charges against Towne after finding his right to a speedy trial was violated.”

    HA! wonder how often the judge gave that to non government agents

  6. Crime would be reduced if the government didn’t help out criminals in order to capture people who probably wouldn’t have done anything without the governments help in the first place

  7. What’s the big deal? He’s just “moonlighting” to drum up a few more “in-kind” donations to his pension fund.

  8. Now, my inner cynic says that this guy got in trouble, not for seizing property from suspects, but for keeping part of the cut for himself instead of handing it over to the government.

    1. I was thinking that it was more that he had stolen from the department. Everyone can take their cut, but when you try to double dip…. ooooh you goofed son

  9. “His work has gone a long way toward continuing to eradicate the scourge of illegal drugs in this community.”

    My last trip to New Orleans says otherwise.

    1. his work has also gone a long ways toward increasing non-drug crimes, especially amongst government operators. Just think.. if NONE of these coppers were out to “stop” the drug trade, how many would be in position to do things like this creep has done? Not many.

      Glad this dirtbag got caught and convicted… but I can’t help but think his deeds were known, at least within his own team/unit. And if HE was doing all that, who ELSE was doing similar things?
      SO the “War on Drugs”, meant to reduce what is falsely labelled “crime”, simply provides opportunity, means, and breeds intent, for non-drug crimes… like stealing a fancy pickup (anyone wanna bet it was the Ford Raptor?) just for the team leader to drive about in… SOME of his fellow officers HAD to know what he was up to.. and if they’re dirty enough to stay mum about his crimes, what are the oddes those other guys are doing the same stuff on their own?

      END the “war on (some) drugs”, fire all these wanna be hee rows milking the system, and the public for everything they think they can get off with. HOW many folks are behind bars because DirtBag Pickup Driver convinced paid informants to lie on the stand, like the ONE mentioned here? Every conviction tainted with this guy’s involvement ought to be overturned automatically.

    2. One more perjury and two more falsyfing records and the illegal drug scourge would have totally been over.
      Who knows how much malfeasance these heroes will have to do to get there now

  10. “there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of civil rights abuses.”

    ‘The New Orleans Advocate reported in 2016 that Scott, who styled himself as “the white devil,”‘

    Because “white devil” doesn’t have any historical racial context or anything

    1. White devil explains Scott’s self-professed sense of white privilege with a badge.

    2. Because “white devil” doesn’t have any historical racial context or anything

      You mean as a racist insult by Chinese directed towards Europeans?

  11. “A DEA Agent Got a Drug Dealer to Buy a Truck So the Agent Could Seize it Through Asset Forfeiture.

    Sounds like a plan.
    How come I didn’t think of that?
    Maybe next time.

  12. Not even a smart way to steal stuff. Take the guy’s cash, and not only can you buy your own truck, but you don’t have to report all the money you stole. This dumbass deserves to have gotten caught.

  13. “Scott’s actions were selfish and placed an unnecessary stain on an otherwise stellar agency.”

    So, does “otherwise stellar” mean that there is a lesser or greater need to send a message at sentencing to rogue inclined agents since there are apparently no other publicly indicted agents or any under investigation with which to dispute that assertion?

    And, does “unnecessary stain” mean that the DEA scumbag could have still accomplished his JBT-ishness without leaving a stain?

    Disappointing to not see the biggest question answered. Will Scott’s unnecessary stain disqualify his pension eligibility? If not, it must be a drug show loophole oversight best left as is so as not to harm the morale of all those stellar agents at the DEA. Closing that loophole could cause the agents to get more criminally aggressive in order to fund their own retirement plan.

    1. It’s always the 90% who give the rest a bad name.

  14. “plenty of defenders.”

  15. There are enough of these kinds of cases to produce a long-running Investigative Discovery-type show about law enforcement personnel breaking laws and either being convicted or getting away with it.

    1. Instead we get shows glorifying cops. You’d think someone would recognize the opportunity.

  16. “I knew Chad Scott, and still know him, to be a fine, upstanding public servant whose dedication has been an overwhelming asset to this community,” Matt Coman, a former federal prosecutor who worked closely with Scott, told the Advocate in 2016. “His work has gone a long way toward continuing to eradicate the scourge of illegal drugs in this community. He’s a fantastic person, a fantastic agent—a credit to that agency.”

    /face palm.

    1. Coman the barbarian.

  17. And still wondering why most people think the feds are corrupt?

  18. Thanks to prosecutor Coman, we can see that even the upstanding and good cops are corrupt af.

  19. Drug and prostitution law enforcers have a unique job. They are tempted to taste the goodies and keep the cash. There are few cops or humans who can resist the lure of corruption. But the redline of murder or rape should never be crossed.

  20. This is why we need private prosecutions of government employees, with loser pays to prevent false claims, and bounties for successful prosecution of criminal and civil claims.

    We do this with the False Claims Act already, so it’s not like we don’t know how to do the coordination.

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