A former Arkansas State Police investigator and lieutenant with the Greene County sheriff's office pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky in federal court to one count of theft of government property.
Allen Scott Pillow, 56, was arrested Nov. 5, 2019, after an FBI sting operation during which Pillow pocketed $30,400 in cash that he believed was part of $76,000 in illegal drug proceeds he had recovered from a planted rental vehicle. The money was recovered the next day after a search of Pillow and his home.
Pillow faces up to 10 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release.
"The vast majority of law enforcement officers are honorable men and women who put their lives on the line every day to preserve our liberty and safety," said Cody Hiland, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, in a news release Monday. "On the very rare occasion that we encounter corruption within law enforcement, we will take every action necessary to root it out. Our office will hold accountable any officer who violates the public trust so that we may uphold the integrity of a profession that deserves our gratitude and respect."
According to the complaint, FBI agents contacted Pillow on Nov. 4, 2019, to request that he search a vehicle parked on the Lowe's parking lot in Paragould. Agents told Pillow they were Tennessee law enforcement officers who had tracked the vehicle from Tennessee but lacked authority to do anything more than keep the vehicle under surveillance outside of the state.
The complaint said the vehicle had been left in the parking lot, unattended, with a glass pipe and a partially opened red backpack in plain view from outside the vehicle. The backpack contained $76,000 in cash in 10 bundles of $7,600, each with the serial numbers recorded.
Pillow searched the vehicle and confiscated the backpack and the pipe, then headed to the Greene County sheriff's office after telling investigators he would let them know how much money was in the backpack once he had counted it, according to court records. Later that day, Pillow called one of the undercover officers and told him he had recovered $45,600 from the backpack.
The next morning, FBI investigators executed a search warrant on Pillow's home, his department-issued vehicle, and the narcotics office and evidence storage area of the Greene County sheriff's office, according to court documents. Pillow was found to have $2,300 in cash in his pants pocket that matched to the missing money. Another $23,820 was discovered in a safe hidden inside a cooler in the attic of a detached garage at Pillow's home. The remaining $280 was not recovered.
Investigators found documentation at Pillow's office indicating that he had filed an initial report that said $45,600 in cash that was recovered from the backpack was placed into evidence.
The former police officer sat motionless next to his attorney at the defendant's table during Monday's hearing, clenching and unclenching his hands in front of him as Rudofsky questioned Pillow about his understanding of the proceedings and explained sentencing guidelines to him.
"I want you to understand that a plea of guilty in open court is the strongest proof known to the law," Rudofsky said. "If I accept your plea, you will be found guilty on your guilty plea and there won't be any more proceedings to determine if you are guilty or not. Do you understand that?"
"Yes sir, I do," Pillow said.
As Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin O'Leary began to relate the events that led to his arrest, Pillow closed his eyes and rested his forehead against his right hand, occasionally rubbing his eyes, but did not look up until O'Leary was finished. He appeared composed as the judge asked for his plea.
"As to the sole count in the indictment, how do you plead?" Rudofsky asked.
"I plead guilty, your honor," Pillow replied.
"And that is because you are, in fact, guilty?" Rudofsky asked.
"That is correct," Pillow said.
Pillow will remain free until he is sentenced sometime next year after a pre-sentencing investigation and report.