Star DEA agent finds himself at center of sprawling probe as drug task force comes under scrutiny

Chad Scott

If prosecutors fail to convict Chad Scott, it will not be because his alleged misdeeds took them by surprise.

The feds received a tip that he was a crook thirteen years ago, although whether that panned out is unknown. What we do know is that Scott's supervisors at the DEA were disciplining him for at least the fourth time when yanking his gun and badge in March after drugs and cash turned up missing. A whiff of corruption has attended pretty much his entire career, and his indictment has now been greeted in some circles with a shrug.

Scott has his fans too, however, and Matt Coman calls him “a fine upstanding public servant.” That endorsement might have carried more weight if Coman were still a federal prosecutor himself, but he quit that line of work for private practice a couple of years ago. He is gushing now in his capacity as Scott's defense attorney.

Scott was long regarded as the star agent, making collars and seizing cash and drugs with such effect that he rated a line in a number composed by the Houston rapper Scarface. Scott's “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,” according to Coman.

In his regard for Scott, Coman defers only to Scott himself, who evidently liked to assure suspects that he was the “baddest” law enforcer along the I-10 corridor and burnished his macho image by nicknaming himself, “the white devil.”

Scott, 49, is also a winner on the Big Dawg tour, a major event in the water ski world, and has been described in the public prints as “tall, athletic and handsome.” It would be unnatural if he hadn't been wondering who would play him in the movie.

Perhaps he still is, but he is now more likely to be the villain than the hero in any scenario, for the grand jury does not share Coman's high opinion.

According to the indictment, Scott has framed suspects, lied on the witness stand, falsified public records and embezzled cash seized from drug dealers. He denies it all and is scheduled for trial next month, when he could be sentenced to 17 years.

It is obvious that the Department of Justice has no doubt he is guilty. Prosecutors are not waiting to dismiss charges in cases handled by Scott, closed or open. Last year two drug dealers, facing 10 years, had their convictions overturned because Scott had suborned witnesses. And, such is the distrust of Scott that a few months ago, charges were dropped after a defendant had pleaded guilty in a double murder, although that prosecution will be revived in state court.

Scott is hardly the first law enforcer to be accused of breaking the rules. It is no doubt extremely rare for detectives and prosecutors to traduce defendants they know to be innocent, but dirty tricks have seem justified to prevent a guilty suspect getting away with it. They never are, of course; a zeal to convict does not excuse the perjuries of which Scott is accused.

But his alleged crimes go beyond such standard tricks as hiding exculpatory evidence. Scott, according to the indictment, wasn't out just to win convictions, but, in cahoots with another member of a drug task force, to line his own pockets with cash lifted from the evidence room. A couple of other former agents have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify at Scott's trial.

More charges in cases handled by Scott will no doubt be dismissed as the Justice Department goes back decades in search of further evidence that he perverted the course of justice. Guilty parties will presumably be let off the hook, while innocents will turn out to have been wrongly convicted.

This just goes to show that a single agent can bring the entire system into disrepute if he is given free rein long enough. Scott has attracted suspicion from time to time since at least 2004, when an informant accused him of “supplying narcotics,” but always skated away from trouble, perhaps because he racked up enough busts to be the blue-eyed boy. But that left his bosses with an even bigger tangle of dubious convictions to re-examine when his antics got so out of hand that they finally had to act.

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