Second DEA task force member booked in widening probe into officers suspected of stealing raid-seized drugs, cash

Louisiana State Police have arrested a second investigator assigned to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force, expanding a probe into officers suspected of stealing drugs and cash seized in raids.

Karl E. Newman, a longtime deputy with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, was booked Thursday on counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and abuse of office, said Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman. Newman, 49, of Kentwood, was being held without bail in the St. Tammany Parish Jail.

The arrest came a month after State Police booked Johnny Domingue, another Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy who had been assigned to the DEA task force.

Law enforcement officials say authorities are scrutinizing cases made by the task force where drugs and cash disappeared or were never recorded as evidence. One source familiar with the probe said that, in some instances, “not all of (the narcotics) were making it to the evidence room.”

“There’s been a lot of activity and a lot of work being done on the case at State Police headquarters,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “These boys didn’t do this one time and get caught.”

Newman worked closely with Chad Scott, a DEA special agent who also formerly served as a Tangipahoa sheriff’s deputy. Several sources said Scott has recently been reassigned to the agency’s New Jersey division.

The DEA this month also recalled Keith Brown, who headed the New Orleans field division for two years. The agency has refused to discuss the reasons for Brown’s transfer to Washington, D.C.

Newman’s arrest adds new depth to the unfolding scandal, as he has been involved in far more cases, both local and federal, than Domingue, who was assigned to the DEA task force only in June.

“I can’t imagine the nightmare that the Eastern District of Louisiana U.S. Attorney’s Office is going to have examining a lot of (these) convictions,” a law enforcement source said, referring to the raft of possibly tainted cases handled by the two officers. “There’s going to be a lot of people wanting a new trial.”

Before joining the DEA task force, Domingue, 27, had been considered an outstanding deputy in Tangipahoa Parish. He received high marks from his superiors, twice being named employee of the month, and had a letter commending him for professional conduct from a major in the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to personnel records.

Domingue also previously worked with the so-called Tri-Parish Task Force, which is composed of investigators from Tangipahoa, St. Helena and Livingston parishes.

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, the brother of Gov. John Bel Edwards, has not returned calls seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite declined to comment Thursday.

A third suspect, Rose P. Graham, of Loranger, has been accused of distributing more than 5 pounds of marijuana. She and Domingue were booked last month on counts of conspiracy and drug distribution. Graham is not a law enforcement official, and her alleged role in the scheme remains unclear.

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

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