Interstate 12 twists through 85 miles of eastern Louisiana, stringing Baton Rouge to Slidell on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The bayou roadway and the rural parishes off its exit ramps were, until almost a year and a half ago, Chad Scott’s turf.
A swaggering drug cop with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Scott and the task force he ran played hardball with the dealers running product through the region, earning big busts and kudos from superiors.
Blond and tan, a champion waterskier, he cultivated the street image as a self-professed “white devil.” One dealer reportedly put out a $15,000 contract on his life, the Advocate reported. Houston rapper Scarface derisively name-checked Scott in a 2000 song. Scott boasted to dealers and informants he was the “baddest” guy to be found on the I-12 corridor.
Today, federal prosecutors concur.
Over the weekend, the 49-year-old Scott was arrested on 10 charges, the culmination of a large-scale federal probe into activity by Scott’s team, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Scott pleaded not guilty at his initial court appearance this week.
“Special Agent Scott is a dedicated and award-winning law enforcement professional who has given his entire adult life to combating crime,” Scott’s lawyer, Matthew Coman, said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “For those heroic efforts, Special Agent Scott now faces the prospect of losing his career and freedom as a result of baseless allegations.”
Last year, two officers from Scott’s team pleaded guilty to federal charges, prompting Scott to lose his badge and gun and be suspended. A third member, Rodney Gemar, was indicted along with Scott.
According to court documents, prosecutors say Scott lied on the witness stand, falsified witness testimony to secure a conviction, and pocketed money from criminals.
The team’s implosion threatens more than the careers of the officers. Authorities have already overturned convictions resulting from the corruption, and more cases are under review.
The arrests also have put the DEA in the awkward position of explaining why Scott was seemingly allowed to run wild along Interstate 12 when, as the Advocate has reported, red flags had already been raised about the agent.
The agent’s law enforcement career began and then boomeranged back to the Interstate 12 corridor. Scott started as a sheriff’s deputy in the early 1990s in Tangipahoa Parish. In 1997, he signed on with the DEA, working a stint later in the same decade in Houston investigating drug ties to the local hip-hop scene (hence the Scarface shout-out). By the early 2000s, he was back running the task force in eastern Louisiana.
Early last year, federal investigators began taking a hard look at the task force, starting with a raid on local police stations in the region, NOLA.com reported.
According to court documents, in early 2016, two former Tangipahoa deputies who worked on Scott’s team — Johnny Domingue and Karl Newman — were indicted for stealing cash, pain pills, methamphetamine and marijuana from dealers and out of law enforcement evidence rooms. On the day he was arrested, a search of Domingue’s home turned up 300 grams of cocaine, oxycodone, methadone and Xanax, among other drugs.
Both former task force members pleaded guilty and agreed to work with prosecutors as they built a case. At a recent court hearing, investigators testified they learned Scott’s team had illegally seized money, jewelry and wallets from dealers and suspects, saving the items in a filing cabinet in the task force’s office. They also told the court that after Domingue’s arrest, Scott and another agent, Rodney Gemar, shredded evidence and dumped the remains in a swamp.
The recently filed indictment against Scott includes charges of falsification of government records, obstruction of justice, perjury and illegal gratuity. Court records accuse the agent of knowingly lying in court about an informant identifying a suspected heroin dealer. The indictment says Scott in fact coerced the informant to make the identification.
The indictment also accuses the law enforcement agent of taking $10,000 in exchange for recommending to prosecutors a lighter sentence for a drug defendant. This “resulted in the filing of papers in federal court and the ultimate release of” the defendant “from incarceration before he otherwise would have been released.”
On Tuesday, Scott was released on $300,000 bail. He will be back in court next month.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Scott was a wind surfer. He is a champion waterskier. This version is correct.
More from Morning Mix: