A drug enforcement task force operating along the Gulf of Mexico became a rip-and-run criminal enterprise over a seven-year period, federal prosecutors revealed this week.
When jurors convicted the ringleader of the alleged scheme on Wednesday, they also vindicated some longstanding claims leveled by Houston’s hip-hop royalty.
Drug Enforcement Agency special agent Chad Scott — who now faces years in prison after a jury found him guilty of seven charges — had for years been accused of corrupt conduct toward Geto Boys legend Scarface and the Rap-A-Lot Records label.
Court documents in Scott’s case suggest his badge-bearing scammers grew bolder and greedier after early successes stealing from drug dealers.
Scott eventually decided he’d like to have a free Ford F-150. So he had a Houston-based drug dealer who’d been suborned by the crooked police cell buy one, then seized it as part of an asset forfeiture. Rather than hand it over to the task force, court documents say he falsified paperwork about the seizure to say he’d picked it up in Louisiana rather than Texas.
The change allowed Scott to start driving the $43,000 brand-new truck as his work vehicle — rendering it, in effect, his personal chariot whether on duty or off.
Scott was convicted Wednesday of multiple counts of perjury and related crimes of falsification related to the truck swindle and other rip-and-run scams. His co-conspirators — including multiple deputies from sheriff’s departments around the New Orleans area who’d scored plum assignments to the federal task force alongside him — will face trial on related charges later this year, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
An indictment alleges the corruption ran from at least 2009 to 2016. But some Houstonians have had their eyes on Scott and his pals for much longer.
Scott and another DEA agent named Jack Schumacher led a probe of J. Prince’s Rap-A-Lot Records starting in the 1990s. Though the label’s main prodigies are most famous for their hit “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster” (it was featured in the movie Office Space), Scarface and other artists on the label have enjoyed prolific and rich careers outside of that hit.
Scott and Schumacher, however, were convinced Rap-A-Lot was a front for a major trafficking network, and used their probe to build cases against numerous people associated with the label.
Neither J. Prince nor Scarface were charged in the sweep. But Schumacher and Scott sought to portray Prince as the button-man behind a murder that was successfully prosecuted around that same time. The man jailed for that crime — Lamar Burks — has maintained his innocence in the killing, which occurred during a dice game in the city’s 5th Ward.
The rap moguls weren’t shy about telling the public that they saw in Scott and Schumacher a dirty operation — years before the current federal investigation says was the beginning of the corrupt activity. Scarface even named Scott and Schumacher directly in two songs from his 2000 release “The Last of a Dying Breed.”
Nineteen years later, court documents in Scott’s case substantiate much of what the Houston rap scene had been saying about the local DEA.
The patterns of illegal behavior described in the papers will be all too familiar to longtime residents of major cities where police have made similar heel-turns. Similar cop gangs have brought down once-prestigious drug war divisions in the Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles police departments, to name just a few. Distinct from the legal abuse of asset forfeiture rules to goose department budgets, these cartel-like police cells put confiscated cash in their own pockets, charge drug dealers a protection “tax,” and commit home-invasion robberies targeting traffickers they know are unlikely to report them to internal affairs.
As in those other cases, the kingpin of this latest crooks-with-badges microcartel had garnered a flashy reputation in the local press before prosecutors took him in.
“Star DEA agent finds himself at center of sprawling probe as drug task force comes under scrutiny,” read the headline in the New Orleans Advocate when the federal probe first broke three years ago. Scott was described in the story as a “legend [that] extended to the world of drug traffickers, where Scott styled himself the ‘white devil,’ a ruthless cop who strong-armed informants and boasted to suspects that he was ‘the baddest (mother)’ along the Interstate 12 corridor.”
Scott’s two convictions for falsifying records and the three for obstructing justice carry maximum sentences of 20 years each. The two convictions for perjury confer statutory maximum penalties of five years in prison.
He will almost certainly not face the theoretical maximum of 110 years served consecutively that those statutory limits imply, however. U.S. District Judge Jane Milazzo will determine how to apply federal sentencing guidelines to the specific facts of Scott’s case and announce his final sentence at a hearing on December 4.
That means Scott will learn his fate almost 19 years to the day since the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform held public hearings to review Scott and Schumacher’s disastrous crusade against Rap-A-Lot.