A Greene County sheriff's office lieutenant, Allen Scott Pillow, was arrested Tuesday in an FBI "sting" operation in which he was caught stealing $30,000 that he believed represented the proceeds of an illegal narcotics sale in Tennessee, according to court documents.
The money had actually been planted in a rental vehicle in a Lowe's parking lot in Paragould by FBI agents who were conducting a public corruption investigation involving the 55-year-old lawman who oversees the sheriff's office narcotics unit, according to an FBI agent's affidavit.
The affidavit said that on Monday, an FBI task force officer placed a glass pipe, similar to what narcotics are smoked in, and a partially opened red backpack containing $76,000 -- in 10 bundles of $7,600 each -- in plain view in an unattended rental car. Then other task force agents called Pillow on his cellphone, saying they were Tennessee officers who needed help with a narcotics investigation.
They said they had followed what they believed to be a narcotics-proceeds pickup from Tennessee into Missouri and then into Arkansas. They said the vehicle they were following was abandoned in the Lowe's parking lot, but they couldn't investigate further because, even though they could see the pipe and some cash sticking out of the backpack, the vehicle was parked outside their jurisdiction.
The officers asked Pillow for assistance, and he soon arrived and searched the rental car, recovering the backpack and the pipe, the affidavit states. The officers, who had apparently met Pillow outside the vehicle, asked him before they left to let them know how much money was in the backpack once he counted it, according to the affidavit.
The FBI then monitored Pillow through ground and air surveillance while he placed the backpack in his work truck and left the parking lot, drove to the sheriff's office in Paragould and then went into the narcotics office and evidence storage area, the affidavit said.
Hours later, the affidavit said, Pillow called the officers and said the money from the backpack had been counted and amounted to $45,600.
"Agents believe that Pillow took four bundles of $7,600 from the original $76,000 totaling $30,400 stolen from the FBI funds, leaving $45,600 behind in the red backpack," the affidavit states.
It said that later in the day, FBI agents saw Pillow drive his work truck to his home in Paragould, walk into a detached garage and then enter his home.
On Tuesday, the FBI and other law enforcement officers met at Pillow's home to execute a search warrant authorized Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tricia Harris. The affidavit said the officers saw Pillow in his truck checking his mailbox on the edge of the property, next to the road, and "boxed him in" with their unmarked cars.
Officer Joe Pickett of the Arkansas State Police, an FBI task force officer, identified himself and then patted down Pillow, feeling "a large bundle" in Pillow's right-side cargo pocket, according to the affidavit of Agent Stephen Cupp. It said the object turned out to be a stack of currency whose serial numbers matched the recorded serial numbers of the money the FBI had placed in the backpack the day before.
Pillow was arrested while officers searched the home, garage and Pillow's truck, finding a key ring in the truck that contained a key that unlocked a safe hidden inside a cooler in the attic of the garage, the affidavit states. Inside the safe, it said, were bills whose serial numbers matched the recorded serial numbers of the money the FBI had placed in the backpack.
A search of Pillow's office turned up his documentation that he had seized $45,600 from a vehicle in the Lowe's parking lot in Paragould and that the cash had been stored in the evidence locker, the affidavit said.
The complaint charges Pillow with theft of government property.
Greene County Sheriff Steve Franks issued a statement Wednesday saying Pillow has been placed on leave pending an internal investigation.
Court records show that Pillow made his first appearance Wednesday before Harris in her Little Rock courtroom.
He said he would hire an attorney and was released on conditions that include the surrender of his passport.
Metro on 11/07/2019
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