Lutcher police chief caught in sting
Published 12:00 am Monday, August 22, 2005
By JESSICA DAIGLE
LUTCHER — A St. James Parish police chief, who once said he would dedicate his time in office to combat drugs, has been arrested for allegedly selling illegal substances to a federal undercover officer.
Lutcher Chief of Police Corey Pittman, 29, was arrested and booked Wednesday with five counts of the illegal distribution of crack cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, and the prescription drug hydrocodone. According to William Renton Jr., DEA special agent in charge, there were five separate incidents where Pittman exchanged drugs for cash with an undercover operative.
Pittman was arrested “as a chief of police and not a bad guy,” Renton said, when he was called to St. Charles Parish believing he was going to a meeting regarding a pending arrest within Lutcher.
“This is a sad day,” Renton said, “This police officer tarnished his image and violated the trust of the people of Lutcher who elected him in 2002.”
According to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court, the DEA Task Force Group had started to investigate Pittman three months ago, after receiving a tip on Pittman’s activities from a source within the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The exchanges took place on the streets of St. James and St. John parishes, including one incident occurring in the parking lot of Garyville/ Mt Airy Magnet School. The last deal was executed on Aug. 12, at a Reserve truck stop, the complaint said.
According to authorities, Pittman was shameless about his position as an officer of the law. He discussed his department during the deals, and carried out some of the illegal sales wearing clothes typically used by law enforcement. The prescription bottle containing the hydrocodone pills bore Pittman’s name on the front.
The complaint stated the substances totaled approximately five ounces of crack, one ounce of cocaine, and 40 hydrocodone pills, purchased at over $5,000 during the investigation.
Jim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said he hopes the arrest does not have the public feeling their police department cannot be trusted, saying this incident instead is a testament to fighting crime and pointed out the many departments which worked together to investigate Pittman.
“These departments are willing, able, and have the motivation to maintain their integrity,” Letten said.
The DEA Task Force Group included investigators from St. Charles and Jefferson parishes sheriff’s offices, the New Orleans Police Department, The Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes sheriff’s offices, the FBI and the IRS.
Letten said the attorney general’s office is attempting to detain Pittman until his trial, and, citing security reasons, declined to say where he would be held, but that he is the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service.
In an article in the News Examiner dated March 2003, Pittman admitted he used to sell drugs before becoming involved in law enforcement, stating he was “young and foolish.”
Pittman, who is married with two children, went on to address those dealing drugs by saying those involved have to worry about the police and dirty money.
“I tell them, you help kill your dreams, your parents and your own,” he said in the article.
FBI Special Agent James Bernazzani, in charge of the FBI investigation, expressed disgust over Pittman’s actions on Wednesday.
“This is nothing more than a case of the fox got into the henhouse,” Bernazzani said, “He swore to uphold the law and stop crime and instead engaged in criminal activity. It is a disgusting display of contempt.”
Gary Ricks, the owner of Aunt Ellie’s, a restaurant in Lutcher said, though he did not personally know Pittman, he had been in his presence several times, and was shocked to hear the news.
“Corey looked like a professional person, he had a sophisticated air about him,” Ricks said, “I would have never thought him to be involved.”
However, though Ricks himself had never heard rumors of Pittman being involved with drugs prior to his arrest, not everyone he has talked to, including people previously in the drug scene, shares his surprise.
“Somebody told me it’s been that way for years,” Ricks said, “She said, ‘you wouldn’t believe the people who are involved.”
Now that the Town of Lutcher is out of a Chief of Police, is too early to tell who will to take over the department.
Kimberly Babin, Town of Lutcher Clerk said, since he is an elected public official, the town will have to wait for Pittman to resign.
“Then we will have to consult with attorneys to find out what steps to take,” Babin said.