If you or I bribed a driver to steal his employer’s truck & haul marijuana in it, we’d find ourselves in jail.
Apparently the crooks in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration think that’s a perfectly fine way to conduct business, and to date they have neither admitted involvement in the operation nor compensated the truck’s owner for the repairs.
Houston Chronicle: Texan demands DEA pay for damage from drug sting (July 29 2012)
The owner of a North Texas trucking company has demanded compensation from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, saying its use of one of his drivers as an undercover agent ultimately led to the employee’s death and damage to his truck.
Truck company owner Craig Patty said he didn’t know Lawrence Chapa was a DEA informant until he got a call saying the driver had been shot eight times in the truck’s cab. Patty’s company hauls sand for the oil and gas industry’s hydraulic fracturing operations, but he said Chapa used his truck to bring marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation.
The DEA has not confirmed Chapa worked for the agency, but the Houston Chronicle reported that comments prosecutors made in court confirm the agency had been paying Chapa as an undercover agent.
Patty has demanded the DEA pay him more than $130,000 for truck repairs that his insurance company refused to cover because it said the vehicle was used by the federal government. He’s also seeking an additional $1.3 million in damages.
“When you start a new business, there are obvious pitfalls and you go through a learning curve,” Patty told the Chronicle. “But who would ever be ready to deal with this?”
Houston Chronicle: Truck owner wants DEA to pay up after botched sting (July 29 2012)
The phone rang before sunrise. It woke Craig Patty, owner of a tiny North Texas trucking company, to vexing news about Truck 793 – a big red semi supposedly getting repairs in Houston.
“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”
“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”
The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.
Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty’s knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.
At least 17 hours before that early morning phone call, Chapa was shot dead in front of more than a dozen law enforcement officers – all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.
My San Antonio: Blown DEA sting riles truck owner (July 30 2012)
But eight months later, Patty still can’t get recompense from the U.S. government’s decision to use his truck and employee without his permission.
His company, which hauls sand as part of hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and gas companies, was pushed near failure after the attack because the truck was knocked out of commission, he said.
Patty had only one other truck in operation.
In documents shared with the Houston Chronicle, he is demanding that the DEA pay $133,532 in repairs and lost wages over the bullet-sprayed truck, and $1.3 million more for the damage to himself and his family, who fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting.
“How am I — a small businessman, father of three, American Joe from Texas — supposed to make a claim against a federal agency that has conveniently shrouded itself behind a red, white and blue cloak of confidentiality and secrecy?”
LEX 18: Texan Demands DEA Pay For Damage From Drug Sting (July 30 2012)
Patty said after the incident, his company – which operates two trucks – was on the brink of collapse because one vehicle could not be used for 100 days. Patty said he drew from his retirement fund to pay for the repairs.
“I was not part of this,” Patty said. “I had absolutely no knowledge of any of it until after it happened.”
GPS information from the truck revealed the vehicle made an unauthorized 1,000-mile trip to the Rio Grande Valley in the days before Chapa was killed. Most disturbing to Patty is that his family now lives in constant fear that drug cartels may recognize the truck and be able to find them.
KRIS TV: Texan Demands DEA Payout For Botched Drug Sting (July 30 2012)