Yesterday’s development in the DEA Task Force case originating in Tangipahoa Parish, which blew up into a full-on threat to the employment (or worse) of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ brother Daniel, the sheriff in Tangipahoa in December, augurs poorly for people at the end of the thread the Justice Department is pulling.
A veteran lawman assigned to a New Orleans-based federal drug task force pleaded guilty Thursday to pocketing thousands of dollars seized during drug raids, admitting to significantly reduced charges in a clear indication that he is cooperating with a secretive U.S. Justice Department probe into law enforcement misconduct.
Karl E. Newman, a longtime former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy, was a federally deputized member of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force that has been accused of shaking down informants and stealing and distributing drugs seized during federal narcotics investigations.
Newman for years worked alongside Chad Scott, a longtime DEA agent who was suspended and stripped of his security clearance last year. Scott has not been charged.
A grand jury indicted Newman last year on a host of federal counts, including robbery, falsifying DEA records, obstruction of justice and conspiring to distribute cocaine and oxycodone. But the Justice Department this week dropped seven of the nine counts against him, apparently a reflection of his cooperation with the FBI after months of refusing to assist in the investigation.
The long and short of this is Newman has agreed to roll over and rat on his confederates participating in the steal-and-deal scheme.
We’ll go back through all of this for those of our readers who didn’t follow all of it when it first got hot just before Christmas last year.
Chad Scott is a prime target of this probe, though perhaps not the main target. Scott ran this drug task force based out of the New Orleans DEA office which has been accused, essentially, of raiding the evidence locker at the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office of all the drugs stashed there and then putting them back out on the street for sale.
Here’s where it gets interesting, and more than a little uncomfortable for Daniel Edwards, the sheriff in Tangipahoa and the governor’s brother.
Chad Scott and Daniel Edwards are old friends. Chad Scott is a former Tangipahoa sheriff’s deputy. Most of his task force, to include Newman and Johnny Domingue, another member who turned informant for the Justice Department more than a year ago, were plucked from the TPSO. And in December, what looked a lot like the whole federal government showed up at the sheriff’s office in Hammond, guns in hand and SWAT gear in tow, to conduct a raid on the place. They put Daniel Edwards’ laptop computer in an evidence bag and told the press they were treating the entire place as a “crime scene.”
This is not what you would expect to see in a case that wasn’t going anywhere.
John Bel Edwards immediately took to the microphone to declare his brother guiltless of “anything improper, much less illegal,” but if that was the case, what were the FBI and several other federal law enforcement agencies doing strapped outside Daniel’s office?
The implication here is Daniel Edwards was cool with those drugs walking out of his evidence locker and back out into the streets, as he was cool with his pal Chad Scott hiring up a bunch of his deputies for a DEA task force which operated more or less as a drug cartel.
One of our sources with a good ear to the ground on the FBI’s activities in this part of the world speculated to us yesterday that if Chad Scott was the kingpin the government was trying to bring down they would have indicted him long ago. This would seem to validate that speculation…
Domingue has told the authorities that misconduct on Scott’s task force “was a practice that was already in place when (Domingue) came on board, and he inserted himself sort of in that circle,” a federal agent testified last year.
That would indicate they’ve got enough to indict Scott, and they had it even before Newman turned state’s evidence.
But Scott doesn’t appear to be the big fish where this investigation is concerned; this thing has been moving very deliberately because it’s a classic squeeze operation in which the people at the bottom get turned against the higher-ups, and Scott is on something like the middle rung of this ladder. That he hasn’t been indicted yet is an indication they’re pushing him to flip on whoever is at the top.
Who’s at the top? We don’t know, though our theory is probably the same as yours. All we know is that raid in Hammond in December was pretty shocking stuff, and the government now has at least two witnesses who’ve ratted on people above them on the totem pole. We’d love to be a fly on the wall during whatever conversations might be going on between the feds and Mr. Scott’s lawyer, we can surely say that.