It’s not hard to picture. At the tail end of the retirement party for DEA Special Agent Jones, who went seven years beyond his 20 and out, a dweeby guy he never met before walks up to him and asks if he can have a word. They walk to a quiet corner of the room, and the dweeby guy tells Jones that his pension is gone. Poof, gone. The government needed some cash to make a big buy in a sting operation, and it used the money that was supposed to go to fund his pension.
Unfortunately, the sting went bad, and the target got away with the money. It’s gone.
Jones listens. When the dweeby guy stops talking, Jones says,
Are you out of your mind? That’s my money. My pension. I earned it. It wasn’t yours to lose. Screw (actually, he uses a harsh expletive, but this is a family-safe blawg, so I’ve toned down Jones’ language) this.Jones pulls out the Glock he’s supposed to turn in at the end of the day and puts it to the dweeby guy’s temple and says, “Either that money is back in my pension or this bullet is in your (expletive deleted) head.”
See? That’s not too hard to picture. And yet, this is what the DEA did to Craig Patty. From the Houston Chron :
Patty thought his truck was in the shop. It wasn’t.
“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?”
In the process of shooting up Chapa, the hijackers shot up Craig’s truck. Now, it finally went to the shop. Patty’s insurance wouldn’t pay for the repairs because they exclude coverage of things like getting shot up while being used in covert sting operations by the government. It was a small trucking business, two trucks in total, and half of his business died in the hail of bullets. So Craig Patty was screwed on both ends, his business being half unable to operate and his truck being in need of costly repair.
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.
It’s unclear how poor, dead Lawrence Chapa got mixed up with the Feds, but it appears he was paid for his troubles. It’s unlikely he was paid anywhere near enough. But it never occurred to anyone to ask Craig Patty, the man who ran a small, legit, trucking company, whether he wanted to sacrifice for the greater good. It was like waking up to find out you’re unwittingly in the middle of the Bourne Identity, without any of the cool training, and no one will explain what happened.
Nor, apparently, does it fall within the DEA’s official policy to compensate a regular guy whose property it used without his knowledge or permission to load up with marijuana and become embroiled in a sting operation.
For its part, the DEA has not admitted that it was using Chapa as a spy because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant.
Patty has sought recompense from the government, after cashing in all his chips and arriving at the precipice of financial ruin.
The government, using official press release number 7, says it is “investigating,” as if there is some aspect of what happened to Chapa and Patty’s truck that isn’t already documented on forms in triplicate. Whenever the government says it is investigating, it holds out hope that there will be a resolution any day now. Any day now. And someone in the government will give this an iota of thought and realize that they owe Patty bigtime for what they did to him, plus some for doing it without his permission. Any day now.
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.
“When you start a new business, there are obvious pitfalls you go through, a learning curve,” said Patty, who before buying his two trucks worked in the pharmaceutical industry. “But who would ever be ready to deal with this?
“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?”
It’s the “any day now” element that ties a fellow up, since the next move is to go to court, involving all the aspect of the system that makes Americans want to cry. The cost. The delay. The reflexive refusal to do the right thing on the part of the government once it’s been challenged.
Worst of all, the likelihood that it will hide behind immunity and secrecy, which will make some federal judge shrug and sign off on the dismissal because, well, you can’t expect the government to give up its covert law enforcement actions after 9/11, now that everything has changed. So what if this is just about drugs and routine law enforcement abuse of an American citizen’s property without his knowledge of permission. There’s a war on drugs going on, and it’s our patriotic duty to support our government.
On the bright side, Patty has a lawyer helping him out. The lawyer happens to be the Texas Tornado, Mark Bennett, who isn’t naturally inclined to give a damn about what his client can do to make the government’s life easier. Unfortunately, what he can’t do is what came naturally to DEA Special Agent Jones, had this happened to him.