A Drug Sting in Louisiana Went Terribly Wrong

Informant wore a microphone, but law enforcement wasn't monitoring in real time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 14, 2022 9:13 AM CDT
A Drug Sting in Louisiana Went Terribly Wrong
This photo taken Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, shows the house in Alexandria, La., where a female informant on an undercover drug operation was raped as her law enforcement handlers left her on her own in January 2021.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A woman outfitted with a tiny microphone and hidden camera walked up to a dilapidated drug house on a chilly afternoon last year looking to buy meth from a dealer known on the streets as "Mississippi." But as the informant disappeared inside with the career criminal, her law enforcement handlers left her undercover on her own—unprotected and unmonitored in real time. And the devices she carried passively recorded a crime far more horrific than any drug buy. Under threat of violence, the dealer forced the woman to perform oral sex on him—twice—in an attack so brazen he paused at one point to conduct a separate drug deal, according to interviews and confidential law enforcement records obtained by the AP.

"It was one of the worst depictions of sexual abuse I have ever seen," said a local official who viewed the footage and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the ongoing case. "Just the audio from it is enough to turn your stomach," the official said. "It’s a female being sexually brutalized while she’s crying and whimpering." As the woman cried and her assailant threatened to put her "in the hospital," narcotics deputies remained down the block in the blighted neighborhood, unaware of what was going on. That’s because, as authorities told the AP, they never considered such an attack might happen and the devices the woman carried didn’t have the ability to transmit the operation to law enforcement in real time.

Deputies surveilling the home after the woman went inside assumed she “must be OK” because someone else entered after her to buy drugs, said Lt. Mark Parker, the ranking officer in the operation. Rapides Parish Sheriff Mark Wood blamed the January 2021 incident on his inexperience from only being in the top job six months at that time. "There are always things you learn that you can do better." Records show it wasn’t until the woman left the area on her own and contacted her handlers that deputies searched the single-family home and arrested Antonio D. Jones, 48, on charges of second-degree rape, false imprisonment, and distribution of meth after recovering 5 grams of the substance in the sting.

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The case in this central Louisiana city of 47,000 underscores the perils that confidential informants face seeking to "work off" criminal charges in loosely regulated and often secretive arrangements with law enforcement. And while it’s not clear what kind of deal the woman struck with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, her cooperation as an informant didn’t seem to make much difference in clearing her own criminal record. Just three weeks after her recorded assault, court records show, the woman was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia stemming from an arrest that happened about a month before the sting. None of the deputies who arranged the undercover buy in Louisiana were disciplined. (The AP has much more here.)

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