Tuesday afternoon there was a development in a federal case lots of politically-attuned folks in Louisiana have been watching – that being the saga of Chad Scott, a DEA agent and ex-Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s deputy formerly in charge of a New Orleans-based task force which by appearances went horribly off-mission. Scott is accused of lots of things, the meat of which being that he directed his task force to run essentially a steal-and-deal scheme whereby drugs would disappear from Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Department evidence lockers and end up on the streets.
That particular accusation hasn’t quite been litigated yet, though the feds clearly took it seriously when they staged the largest federal raid in Louisiana history on the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Department offices in Hammond in December of 2016. That day, the FBI walked off with a laptop computer belonging to Tangipahoa sheriff Daniel Edwards, whose brother is Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in an evidence bag. It turns out that Daniel Edwards and Chad Scott are old drinking buddies with a long-standing connection, which means that if Scott was rifling through the evidence room in Hammond and walking out with narcotics the optics for Daniel Edwards are…questionable.
For a long time the Scott case moved at a glacial pace, but earlier this year it finally produced some action. Scott was brought up on charges peripheral to the main accusation, which resulted in a mistrial in the first attempt. That changed Tuesday; in a retrial he was convicted on seven counts of corruption-related charges.
The Louisiana GOP, in a press release Wednesday, picked up the story…
Yesterday, a jury in New Orleans took less than two hours before returning guilty verdicts on all seven counts against longtime Edwards family friend and disgraced former DEA Agent Chad Scott. The convictions included perjury, obstruction of justice and falsification of government records, all stemming from his actions leading a drug task force covering Edwards family-controlled Tangipahoa Parish.
Records obtained by The Advocate show the DEA and FBI received complaints beginning more than a decade ago that Scott routinely misused confidential sources and disregarded DEA policies. Unfortunately, he was not stripped of his badge until early last year, when the U.S. Justice Department launched a sprawling inquiry into the New Orleans-based task force, which has been accused of shaking down suspects, dealing drugs and pocketing cash during drug raids.
While the Edwards family has played down their connections to the DEA task force, text messages and emails obtained by The Advocate show that Sheriff Daniel Edwards has had a close relationship with Scott, an agent of 17 years who remains at the center of the misconduct investigation.
Their friendship began even before Edwards was elected sheriff in 2003, when Edwards was an assistant district attorney who prosecuted many drug cases which Scott investigated. But the pair had drawn even closer in recent years, swapping emails and text messages and sharing meals.
Among other allegations, the whistleblower reported to the DEA in late 2003 that Scott had maintained a “stash room” at a hotel in Hammond that he used to store illegal drugs and cash, and that Scott had sold ecstasy in college, the law enforcement officials said.
The agent also expressed concern in 2004 that DEA management regularly allowed Scott to circumvent policy because of the volume of drug cases he generated, and that the DEA had been turning a blind eye to corrupt law enforcement in Tangipahoa Parish, according to internal documents reviewed by the newspaper.
That same year, one of Scott’s longtime informants told the DEA he had been provided 100 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine by another former DEA task force member and a Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy, according to DEA records.
“It was well known that Scott led what many considered to be local investigations, all with the blessing and approval of the sheriff,” said a law enforcement official who has known both men for more than a decade. “Nobody’s going to dispute that.”
Edwards and Scott became even closer following Edwards’ election as sheriff, exchanging frequent emails and text messages and sharing meals. On several occasions, Edwards sent drafts of press releases to Scott and asked him to review them and offer feedback.
Many members of the task force, including Scott, Johnny Domingue and Karl E. Newman, began their careers with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Scott had a close working relationship with Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards.
According to NOLA.com, the investigation also has placed Governor John Bel Edwards in an unenviable position, though by no means an unprecedented one for a high Louisiana officeholder. Shortly after John Bel Edwards moved into the Governor’s Mansion, the FBI raided his brother Daniel’s Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Department. “We are conducting multiple court authorized actions. The investigations are ongoing. We have no further comment at this time,” said Craig Betbeze, public information officer for the FBI New Orleans’ office.
The materials taken by federal agents included a computer from the office of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards.
“It’s very unusual for the FBI to raid the office of a sitting governor’s brother, irrespective of whether he’s sheriff,” one senior law enforcement official said.
Three years ago, John Bel Edwards told reporters, “Without any fear of contradiction or ever being proven wrong, I will tell you now, he did not engage in anything improper, much less illegal. I have all the confidence in the world in that, and I think that time will bear that out.”
With these convictions, the pressure on Chad Scott to flip on the Edwards family is higher than it has ever been, and the Edwards brothers should be feeling a little less confident today.
Of course, this isn’t unusual for the Edwards family. Their father, Frank Edwards Jr., was the subject of a federal investigation while running for reelection. A Special Agent was assigned to an investigation of alleged violations of a combination of federal gun, liquor and gambling laws in Tangipahoa Parish pursuant to orders from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Federal investigations are just one of the Edwards “Family Traditions” conveniently left out of the TV commercial.
It’s unlikely that much in the way of indictments would touch the Edwards family before the Oct. 12 primary elections or the November runoffs, as the wheels of justice in the federal system tend to move very slowly in public corruption cases.
That said, our sources have described the overall Scott-Edwards-Tangipahoa case as hinging on what the feds have always believed was the inevitability of Chad Scott rolling over on Daniel Edwards. Once that happens, the federal case could literally resemble a dam breaking, and indictments for all kinds of malfeasance, or worse, could follow.
Scott was, after all, a sheriff’s deputy in Tangipahoa for years and a friend of the sheriff. There is very little he wouldn’t know about which takes place in a parish which is notorious as one of the most corrupt and, for people mixed up in the criminal justice system there, dangerous, in all of Louisiana.
To date, as we understand it, efforts to make Scott cooperate with the feds and giving up the goods on Daniel Edwards have gone nowhere – Scott’s position was that they had nothing on him and they could pound sand. As of Tuesday that’s no longer true – he’s looking at several years in a federal pen, and that’s before the main allegations even go to trial. It suddenly becomes very much in Scott’s interest to at least explore avenues of cooperation in order to keep him from spending most of the rest of his life in jail – which is what happens if he gets convicted on the meat of the steal-and-deal case.
So paydirt for the feds could be in the offing, on a number of issues surrounding fairly egregious corruption in Tangipahoa Parish.
For example, one question which would inevitably follow in the event the steal-and-deal allegations were to make it to the light of judicial day would be: how?
How does a federal agent move large quantities of drugs stolen from evidence lockers and drug dealers? To do that would require a distribution channel, and in all likelihood one either protected or at least purposefully neglected by local law enforcement.
There are rumors galore as to what that distribution channel might have been – rumors that it could include brick-and-mortar establishments of long standing within Tangipahoa Parish.
It isn’t likely much proof of anything will surface before the election, which could well be a shame. Louisiana’s voters deserve to know exactly what the state’s First Family has been up to back home, and the conviction of the governor’s brother’s pal on seven counts of corruption which implicate involvement from others in Tangipahoa brings that question front and center.