How a Democratic Congressional Staffer Faked Being an FBI Agent and Became a Fugitive

A young congressional staffer for Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) was quietly fired last year after he masqueraded as an FBI agent and led police in a chase across the capital. , leading to a week-long nationwide manhunt.

It took four different law enforcement agencies three months to catch up with personnel 500 miles away. And just after a Secret Service agent discovered online stores selling the employee’s fake “federal agent” device and a fake number plate for his fake police car — equipped with a horn. alarm and flashing lights — the new authorities were able to arrest him.

The congressional staffer in question, Sterling Devion Carter, admitted in court to having openly carried a firearm illegally. Federal prosecutors dropped the charge of impersonating law enforcement, and he nearly went to jail. (When Carter pleaded guilty at age 24, he had virtually no age limit to join a local District of Columbia prison diversion program for young people who commit first crimes, according to his attorney. .)

That defense attorney, Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., admitted to The Daily Beast that Carter lost his job for posing as an officer and openly carrying a weapon in the District of Columbia. Jenkins said his client won’t talk about the issue.

Carter’s failure, never reported to date, began on Saturday, November 14, 2020.

Two plainclothes officers with Secret Service are busy dealing with the MAGA protests after the election anger in Washington when they discovered what looked like a police car with a strange number plate; The font seems taller and bolder than it should be. But the rest of it looks authentic. To the untrained eye, the blue Ford Taurus will pass as easily as an unmarked police cruiser. Based on DC court documentsCarter managed to trick another boring sedan with blue emergency lights, a laptop mount on the front panel, lights near the driver’s rearview mirror, and even a fence separating the front half. with the second half — ready to transport detainees.

Sterling Devion Carter pretended to be an FBI agent and forged signatures to increase his salary as a congressional staffer.

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Getty / Facebook

Carter, who was standing near his parked car, was wearing a black T-shirt that said “federal agent”, a police duty belt, a Glock pistol, additional ammo, handcuffs, radios and headphones. That was enough to convince passersby, who repeatedly thanked him for his service, according to court records.

But something also seemed amiss about Carter. For one, he puts his pistol magazines in shredded bags behind his gun, making reloading practically impossible in a hand-to-hand gunfight. It was a rookie mistake and someone with real handgun training would realize it, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The person recalls that the more federal agents actually approached him, the more Carter moved towards the city police already on the scene. When officers checked the license plate of the suspicious vehicle, the results returned empty.

Shortly after noon, agents contacted the Joint Secret Service Operations Center and asked uniformed officers to confront the mysterious man. When five bicyclists with the Secret Service approached him, Carter simply said he was “the FBI,” according to the police report. The police report said his baseball cap and mask made facial recognition difficult. When they asked him for credentials, he said he didn’t have them on, then turned on the emergency lights and sped off. One employee cycled as hard as he could on an e-bike through some DC streets, but gave up after a few blocks for “officer safety reasons,” the report said.

The investigation became a joint effort of the Capitol Police, the FBI, the DC Metropolitan Police, and the Secret Service. But it’s a lengthy shot of an investigator, Secret Service Agent A. Pascual, actually tracking Carter.

According to an affidavit from a Secret Service agent, Pascual deduced that the unidentified suspect may have been wearing a T-shirt made by a small Florida business, 13 Fifty Apparel.

When making an unidentified fake police surveillance photo, Pascual and the business owner, a Coconut Creek police officer named Christopher Lewis, figured together that it could be a shirt. medium or small lashes. And they knew that the shirt was relatively new, as it had the 13FA logo on the sleeves – something the company had only started doing a little over a year earlier.

Under that affidavit, Lewis provided Secret Service agents with lists of people who had purchased the shirt over the previous three years, and Pascual narrowed down 399 customers to 21 who lived near the nation’s capital. Pascual and an unnamed investigative analyst at the Secret Service then ran all 21 through a law enforcement database and narrowed it down “based on photo, race, and other demographic information.” “. Only one, a man named Sterling Carter, seemed to fit the description of the officers who met him that day: Black, about 150 pounds and 25-30 years old.

The law enforcement affidavit filed in a DC local court states that Pascual also got to Carter’s identity in a second way: by contacting a website that manufactures custom license plates.

According to the affidavit, Pascual somehow discovered that the mysterious fake cop had purchased his fake sign at When Pascual gave them the duplicate DC card number, a customer service representative turned over the bill. Again, it’s Sterling Carter.

But it wasn’t until three weeks after the police chase that the Secret Service discovered that Carter was an active certificated congressional employee with security access throughout the Capitol building – as well as a criminal. escape wanted.

His neighbors told federal agents they had seen Carter dressed as a former law enforcement officer, openly carrying his gun – this is illegal in the District of Columbia for any none other than the police – and they remember Carter referring to the fake police car as “his job transport.”

Secret Service agents with a search warrant broke into Carter’s home on New Year’s Day 2021, where an affidavit said they found his Glock 19 pistol, additional magazines, ammo pharmacy and even police car siren receipts.

He was arrested a few weeks later in Georgia, his parents’ home state. He then spent 81 days in prison across Georgia, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia.

Faced with questions from The Daily Beast this week, Representative Schneider’s office did not explain why it did not mention the incident publicly at the time.

When the congressman’s office learned of Carter’s impersonation of an officer, it gave Carter the choice to resign or be fired, according to an officer’s sworn statement. Carter, who is still on the run in Georgia, called Schneider’s office from his personal cell phone and decided to resign – but kept his government-issued phone, according to police records.

However, that initial investigation opened up a can of worms that were eventually made public. Schneider’s office found that Carter, the operations manager who oversaw the pay of congressional staff, had raised himself by $80,000.

Beginning in November 2019, just three months into his new job on the hill, Carter regularly filled out pay authorization forms and forged the signature of Schneider’s human resources director to increase his monthly salary, according to the report. one FBI Oath.

When Carter was charged with a criminal offence In February 2022, Schneider’s office said the employee had been fired and that “the office is determined to pursue justice for American taxpayers, repay the loss to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and implement powers of the United States Congress.” He pleaded guilty to that crime.

Last week, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols sentenced Carter to nine months in federal prison for theft of public funds. As of this week, Carter is still out and will soon turn himself in to begin his sentence, according to his defense attorney.

In a court memo, federal prosecutors criticized Carter for betraying the public’s trust.

“Instead of taking this responsibility seriously, the defendant has decided to use it selfishly to illegally enrich himself, including using his illicit profits to further perform His other crimes include through the purchase of a vehicle and a federal gun license,” wrote assistant U.S. attorneys Molly Gaston and Nicole Lockhart.

Carter, who could not be reached for comment on this story, appears to have gone dark online. He posted his last public Facebook post during the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Those of you who know him working in Congress have wished him well and asked. he keeps it safe. Carter, who was still on the run at the time, thanked the very law enforcement agencies that were present at the time to track him down.

“I want to thank the Capitol Police, Secret Service, MPD, and all other law enforcement agencies for keeping my colleagues safe!” he wrote. “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!”

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