Drug enforcement agents used private citizens property without his knowledge and consent
Houston, TX – Today, Texas resident Craig Patty filed suit against the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the head of the Houston DEA office, Javier Peña, Harris County, and other federal and state agents for commandeering his commercial work truck without his consent in an undercover drug sting gone wrong.
Plaintiff Craig Patty is the owner of Craig Thomas Expeditors. In September 2011, Patty hired Lawrence Chapa to drive one of his 18-wheel commercial trucks. Patty performed a criminal background check before hiring Chapa, and it was clean and conviction free. However, unbeknownst to Patty, Chapa not only had an extensive criminal history but was also working as a confidential informant for the DEA. Without Patty’s consent or knowledge, Chapa began actively using Patty’s truck to perform undercover and informant duties on behalf of the DEA. This unauthorized use included a trip to South Texas to meet with drug dealers and pick up and transport illegal drugs. This activity was occurring without Patty’s knowledge.
Unfortunately, on November 21, 2011, Chapa and several federal agents working with the DEA and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department setup an undercover drug sting with the Mexican Zeta drug cartel using Patty’s truck. Patty was told that Chapa was taking his truck to be serviced. All the while, at the behest of the DEA, Chapa actually took the truck to Rio Grande City, TX, loaded it with illegal drugs and contraband and drove it to Houston. The federal agents and task force planned to make arrests upon the trucks arrival in Houston. However, while the truck was traveling through Northwest Houston, three SUV’s filled with drug cartel hit men intercepted the truck. DEA and Sheriff’s department officers interceded and a lengthy shootout commenced just off of Hwy 290 and Hollister. The truck was riddled with bullet holes, Chapa was shot eight times and killed, and at least one undercover officer was shot by another undercover officer. It was an epically violent conclusion to an ill planned operation. It was also a wrongful use of Craig Patty’s business property.
Instead of being apologetic for commandeering an innocent citizen’s property for a government sting operation or otherwise offering to repair the damage done to the truck, neither the Sheriff’s Department nor the DEA did anything to repair Patty’s property or apologize for its unlicensed use. In fact, stunningly, Patty was informed that if he did not remove the damaged truck from government property, he would incur storage charges. To further add insult to injury, the government agents demanded and coerced under threat of duress that Patty authorize a search warrant of his home and business in an effort to gather further information on their drug sting gone wrong. Given the immense pressure and threats placed upon him by law enforcement officials, patty consented. Additionally, he has lived in constant fear that the drug cartels would, in some way, believe that he authorized or otherwise knew about the use of his truck in this sting gone wrong. He not only did NOT authorize the use of his truck for government use, but the government has now destroyed his property, caused him immense business and personal losses in the furtherance of its own operations, and left Patty to pick up the pieces on his own.
The Vickery Law Firm believes that the Government has overstepped its authority and has wrongfully treated an innocent civilian. To that end, today, on behalf of Patty, it sued all the federal and state agencies who were involved in the wrongful use of Patty’s business property as well as those Government employees who authorized such appalling behavior. Patty’s suit for Justice has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
The Vickery Law Firm is a group of Houston-based trial lawyers representing people and businesses across the country. For more information about The Vickery Law Firm, visit www.justiceseekers.com or call 713-526-1100.