Former Tangipahoa sheriff’s deputy admits role in wide-ranging scheme to seize cash, sell drugs

Former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Johnny Domingue pleaded guilty in a Covington courtroom Friday to three drug conspiracy charges and one count of abuse of office, admitting his role in a wide-ranging scheme to swipe narcotics and cash from “shaken-down” suspects and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration evidence lockers.

Domingue was a member of a federal anti-drug task force led by the DEA that has come under close scrutiny.

In offering his plea, Domingue admitted his role in a conspiracy to use his position as a Sheriff’s Office narcotics agent and his assignment to the federal task force to acquire drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription pills and marijuana.

Also implicated in a summary of the case signed by Domingue were another former Tangipahoa deputy, Karl Newman, who worked with Domingue on the DEA task force, and Rose Graham, who was not a law enforcement officer. Newman faces similar drug counts in both St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.

The summary of the case, called a factual basis, also references another, unnamed law enforcement officer.

Domingue, who was shackled and wearing a black-and-white jail jumpsuit Friday, entered his plea before 22nd Judicial District Judge Scott Gardner. His sentencing was delayed at the request of prosecutors.

Friday’s plea deal could herald a widening of the probe, which so far has netted the two former deputies and Graham but which appears to be zeroing in on DEA Special Agent Chad Scott, himself a former Tangipahoa deputy, and more recently a leader of the task force.

Scott is a decorated agent known for making cases, but he has come under fire for what some have called improper methods.

Domingue’s attorney, Sherman Mack, said his client was cooperating with investigators. “My client has told the truth, and he is going to continue to tell the truth,” Mack said after the hearing.

According to a law enforcement source, Domingue appears to have exploited a DEA policy that allowed evidence to be transferred to local agencies with minimal oversight. That policy was changed in a memo earlier this week requiring the local agency to acknowledge receipt of the evidence before the DEA can close a case that will not be prosecuted federally.

In August 2015, Domingue and Newman served a search warrant at Graham’s home in Hammond. During the search, the two found prescription pills, $3,025 in cash, morphine and two stolen handguns.

Domingue and Newman split some of the pills between themselves, and each took about $1,500 in cash for their personal use, according to the document. The drugs were logged into evidence under an unrelated case name, according to the factual basis.

Later, the two seized methamphetamine and cash from a person who was subsequently arrested. Newman kept some of the drug for himself, and he and Domingue again split the cash seized in the raid, the signed document says.

Domingue also admitted to driving a car while Newman used methamphetamine, and a March 1 search of Newman’s Sheriff’s Office vehicle uncovered meth in the tool box. The meth was not packaged in official law enforcement packaging, the documents say.

According to the documents, Newman sold roxicodone pills to Domingue “on approximately 10 separate occasions.” Domingue “accessed evidence storage locations at the Tri-Parish Narcotics office” in Robert, the documents say, “for the purpose of stealing approximately 20 pounds of marijuana and a variety of prescription pills.”

Domingue acknowledged that the drugs had been stolen “with the dual purpose of ingesting them and selling them for profit.” He also admitted selling cocaine to Graham that had been stored in evidence bags at the DEA’s office in Metairie.

In January, an undercover agent working for the State Police met with Graham at a restaurant in Madisonville to buy more than 5 pounds of marijuana for $1,750. Those drugs had been “made available for sale” by Domingue, the court documents say.

On Jan. 25, the undercover agent planned to meet Graham to buy 10 pounds of marijuana. According to the court documents, Newman, at the request of Domingue, “had a DEA analyst run” the cellphone number of the buyer through a DEA database to determine the buyer’s identity before the drug deal. Domingue also got the license plate number of the undercover agent’s vehicle and had it run by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office radio room.

As a result, “Domingue became concerned that Graham was selling drugs to a police officer and advised her not to sell additional drugs” to the agent, the documents say. “Graham sold the remaining 10 pounds of marijuana to another customer as a result of Domingue’s advice.”

On Jan. 26, the day Domingue was taken into custody, state troopers searched his home in Maurepas and found evidence bags that Newman had signed over to Domingue.

The troopers found 300 grams of cocaine hydrochloride, oxycodone pills, methadone, Xanax and “a voluminous number of manila envelopes that contained additional prescription medications,” the documents say.

The pills in the envelopes “were obtained by Domingue from another law enforcement officer who obtained these pills through a prescription drug take-back program.”

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian. Follow Faimon A. Roberts III, @faimon.

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