Chad Scott, a federal narcotics agent who made a name for himself with a series of major drug busts along the Interstate 12 corridor, pleaded not guilty Monday to a raft of federal charges, including perjury and stealing thousands of dollars in drug money.

Scott's arrest late Sunday came more than a year and a half into a secretive investigation into a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force that Scott led for years — a team of lawmen who investigated drug dealing across southeastern Louisiana. 

Wearing glasses, shackled at the wrists and ankles and clad in an orange jumpsuit, Scott scanned a New Orleans courtroom full of former colleagues during a brief court appearance Monday, thumbing slowly through a copy of a 13-count indictment. He was represented by his defense lawyer, Matt Coman, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted many of Scott's drug investigations. 

Asked to enter a plea, Scott spoke loudly and clearly, telling U.S. Magistrate Janis van Meerveld he was not guilty of the charges. The judge scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. Tuesday to determine whether Scott will be eligible for bail. In the meantime, he is being held in the St. Charles Parish jail. 

Coman issued a statement saying that he and his client were "saddened by the actions of the Washington, D.C., Justice Department." As a veteran DEA agent, Coman added, Scott "routinely exposed himself to violent retribution from dangerous drug dealers, gang members and murderers."   

"For those heroic efforts, Special Agent Scott now faces the prospect of losing his career and freedom as a result of baseless allegations," Coman said. "Special Agent Scott looks forward to being fully vindicated of any wrongdoing and to the restoration of his stellar reputation." 

The indictment also included charges against Rodney P. Gemar, a longtime Hammond police officer who had been assigned to Scott's DEA task force. Gemar, who faces six counts including conspiracy and theft of evidence, turned himself into authorities Sunday and was booked into the Plaquemines Parish jail.   

The arrest marked a stunning fall from grace for Scott, a productive agent who was loathed and feared by drug dealers along the Interstate 12 corridor. Scott has been credited with some of the DEA's biggest busts between Houston and Atlanta, and he was considered a wunderkind by an agency that also overlooked a number of red flags that surfaced early in Scott's career.

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. But 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.

The fallout has been considerable. Two members of Scott's team have pleaded guilty to misconduct charges, and their cooperation appears to have been a key factor in Scott's arrest, which had been expected for months.

The Justice Department has thrown out or reduced charges in several cases involving Scott's task force, and a special team of prosecutors has been brought in from out of state to determine which of the drug cases can stand without the testimony of the tainted task force members.

The charges will likely mean the end of Scott's law enforcement career and could also result in a lengthy federal prison sentence. He faces 10 counts in all, including conspiracy, falsifying government records, three counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury.

Among other charges, Scott is accused of receiving a $10,000 "illegal gratuity" to lobby federal prosecutors to reduce the sentence of a convicted drug dealer, Jabar Kareen Watson. Watson got a shorter sentence, according to the indictment. 

The Justice Department inquiry has focused heavily on law enforcement activity in Tangipahoa Parish, where Scott and several other local DEA agents previously worked as deputies. The two task force members who pleaded guilty, Johnny Domingue and Karl E. Newman, were both deputies in Tangipahoa Parish at the time of their arrests.

The indictment came less than a year after the FBI raided the offices of Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards and the Hammond Police Department — a search in which agents interviewed local officials and collected evidence for nearly 24 hours. The bureau seized a large volume of records in those raids and also took Gemar's department-issued pistol.

Gemar's defense attorney, Bradley Egenberg, said Monday that "it's no secret" the indictment "relies on the testimony of two filthy — not just dirty, I mean utterly filthy — ex-cops." 

"Karl Newman and Johnny Domingue now sing at the top of their lungs for a reduction in their own sentence, to save their own skin," Egenberg said.

Gemar was released on $50,000 bail Monday and ordered not to travel outside southeastern Louisiana without permission of federal officials. 

Five of the counts against Scott stem from testimony he gave in January 2016 in a case against Jorge Perralta, who was accused of trafficking heroin and cocaine. A key part of the government's case was Scott's testimony that another suspect, Frederick Brown, said Perralta was present when Brown bought drugs from a third man.

Scott testified in a hearing that Brown mentioned Perralta unprompted and then identified him from a photo. The indictment alleges that Scott was lying and Brown actually never implicated Perralta. Scott is charged with three counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury in connection with the case.

A jury convicted Perralta, but the government recently dismissed the case against him before he could be sentenced. 

The indictment also accuses Scott, Gemar and Newman of conspiring for years to "take money and personal property" belonging to suspects arrested by Scott's task force, which was known as Group 10.

It says the officers routinely failed to file paperwork that accurately reflected drug seizures, and that they stored seized property in "unsanctioned locations." They would then "unlawfully convert the property, including United States currency, for their own unlawful use and enrichment" after the conclusion of cases. 

The document doesn't offer an inventory of how much was supposedly taken.

The investigation has led to changes in the way the DEA's New Orleans field division transfers evidence to other agencies, rewriting lax policies that members of the task force had been exploiting in order to steal drugs.

After Domingue's arrest last year, the DEA circulated a memo requiring that local agencies acknowledge receipt of evidence before the DEA can close a case that will not be prosecuted federally.

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