How Democratic congressional staffers disguised themselves as FBI agents and became fugitives

Last year, a young congressional staffer for Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) was quietly fired after posing as an FBI agent and leading a police hunt in the capital, leading to a weeks-long nationwide campaign search.

It took four different law enforcement agencies three months to finally catch up with the crew 500 miles away. Authorities were only able to arrest him after a Secret Service agent managed to track down an online store selling the staffer’s mock “Federal Agent” gear and the fake license plate of his fake police car, complete with sirens and flashing lights.

The congressional staffer in question, Sterling Devon Carter, pleaded guilty to openly illegally carrying a firearm in court. Federal prosecutors dropped law enforcement impersonation charges and he narrowly avoided jail time. (When Carter pleaded guilty at age 24, he barely reached the age limit to participate in a local D.C. prison transfer program for young first-time offenders, according to his attorney.)

Defense attorney Robert Lee Jenkins Jr. admitted to the Daily Beast that Carter lost his job for posing as an officer in the District of Columbia and openly carrying a weapon. Jenkins said his clients would not talk about it.

Carter’s unfortunate incident, which has not been reported until now, began on Saturday, November 14, 2020.

Two plainclothes officers from the Secret Service are busy Dealing with angry post-election MAGA protests In Washington, they found a license plate that looked like a police car strange; the font looked taller and thicker than it should have been. But the rest of it looks real. To the untrained eye, the blue Ford Taurus could easily be seen as an unmarked police car.according to District of Columbia Court DocumentsCarter deceived with blue emergency lights, a laptop mounted on the front dash, a spotlight near the driver’s side mirror, and even a barrier separating the front and rear halves — ready to transport detainees — Originally boring sedan.

Sterling Devion Carter posed as an FBI agent and forged signatures to increase his salary while serving as a congressional staffer.

Image courtesy of Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Facebook

Carter was standing near his parked car, wearing a black T-shirt with “Federal Agent” written on it, a police belt, a Glock, spare ammunition, handcuffs, a radio and a receiver. That was enough to convince passersby, who kept thanking him for his service, according to court records.

But there also seemed to be something wrong with Carter.On the one hand, he keeps his pistol magazine in the clipped bag behind His gun, it’s nearly impossible to reload the pistol with his free hand in a firefight. According to a person familiar with the investigation, it was a rookie mistake that people who had actually trained to shoot with a pistol would have noticed.

The person recalled that the closer the real federal agents got to him, the closer Carter got to the city police who were already on the scene. When agents checked the license plate of the suspicious car, it came up empty.

Shortly after noon, agents contacted the Secret Service Joint Operations Center and asked uniformed personnel to confront the mystery man. When approached by five Secret Service bicycle cops, Carter simply said he was “the FBI,” according to the police report. His baseball cap and face shield made it difficult to identify his face, the police report said. When they asked him for papers, he said he had no papers on him, turned on his emergency lights, and sped away. An agent rode an electric bike through several DC streets as hard as possible, but gave up after a few blocks for “official safety reasons,” the report said.

The ensuing investigation was carried out by Capitol Police, the FBI, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the Secret Service. But what actually tracks Carter is a long shot of an investigator, Secret Service Agent A. Pascual.

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

Based on surveillance photos of yet-to-be-identified fake police officer Pascual and business owner Christopher Lewis, they together discovered that it might be a small-to-medium shirt. They knew the shirt was relatively new because it had a 13FA logo on the sleeve — something the company started doing just over a year ago.

According to the affidavit, Lewis provided Secret Service agents with a list of everyone who had purchased the shirt over the past three years, and Pascual narrowed down the 399 customers to 21 who lived near the capital. Pascual and an unnamed investigative analyst with the Secret Service then surveyed all 21 people through a law enforcement database and narrowed it down “based on photos, race and other demographic information.” Only one person, a man named Sterling Carter, seemed to match the description of the officer who met him that day: black, about 150 pounds, 25-30 years old.

The enforcement affidavit filed in the local District of Columbia court said Pascual also obtained Carter’s identity in a second way: by contacting a website that makes custom license plates.

According to the affidavit, Pascual somehow discovered that the mysterious fake police officer had purchased his fake license plate on The customer service rep handed over an invoice when Pascual gave them the copied DC label number. Again, it’s Stirling Carter.

But it wasn’t until three weeks after the police chase that the Secret Service discovered that Carter was a congressional staffer who was actively certified to safely enter the Capitol and a wanted fugitive.

His neighbors told federal agents they had seen Carter before dressed like a law enforcement officer and openly carrying his gun — which is illegal in the District of Columbia for anyone other than the police — and they remembered Carter calling his fake police car a For his “work” vehicle. “

On New Year’s Day 2021, Secret Service agents with a search warrant broke into Carter’s home, where they found his Glock 19 pistol, extra magazines, ammunition and even receipts for police car sirens, an affidavit said.

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

In the face of questions from the Daily Beast this week, Rep. Schneider’s office did not explain why the incident was not publicly mentioned at the time.

When the congressman’s office learned that Carter was posing as an official, it gave Carter the option of resigning or being fired, according to an official’s sworn statement. According to police records, Carter, who was still on the run in Georgia, called Schneider’s office from his personal cell phone and chose to resign — but he still kept the number the government sent him.

However, the initial investigation opened a can of worms that were eventually revealed. Schneider’s office found that Carter, who oversees compensation for congressional staff as an operations manager, had given himself an $80,000 raise.

Beginning in November 2019, just three months after his new job on the Hill, Carter had been routinely filling out payroll authorization forms and forging the signature of Chief Schneider’s staff to boost his monthly salary, according to a media outlet. FBI affidavit.

When Carter was criminally charged in February 2022, Schneider’s office said the staffer had been fired and that “the office is determined to bring justice to the American taxpayer, repay the U.S. Treasury Department, and be rectified by the U.S. Congress. ” he plead guilty also committed that sin.

Last week, U.S. 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 and start serving his sentence, according to his defense attorney.

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

“The defendant did not take this responsibility seriously and used it selfishly to illegally enrich himself, including using his ill-gotten gains to further his crimes, including through the purchase of vehicles and federal firearm licenses,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gardner said in a statement. Stone and Nicole Lockhart wrote.

Carter could not be reached for comment for this story, and he appears to have been hacked online. He made his last public Facebook post during the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Friends who know he works in Congress wish him well and ask him to stay safe. Carter, who was still on the run at the time, thanked the law enforcement agencies that tried 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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