Seized drug money paid for chief’s personal purchases: Feds

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David Henderson, former head of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit, has been charged with using money seized from criminal enterprises to buy Apple products and pay for home repairs.

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The former head of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division is charged with widespread fraud against the department by siphoning off money seized from criminal enterprises for a slew of personal expenses.

David Henderson is accused of asking his employees to use the money to buy a variety of Apple products and to carry out repairs on his home and other construction projects while on duty.

A grand jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee indicted Henderson with conspiracy to commit program fraud related to the alleged scheme, according to unsealed court documents Feb. 17.

Henderson, who was head of the narcotics unit from 2011 to 2018, pleaded not guilty when arraigned. He could not be reached for comment, and a defense attorney representing him declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

A representative from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ Feb. 21 request for comment. But Sheriff Tom Spangler told the Knoxville News Sentinel he wanted to be “full clear” that the allegations at the center of the indictment took place under the previous administration.

“This is obviously a breach of public trust and should never be tolerated,” Spangler told the newspaper.

Henderson was reassigned to the Special Services Division in January 2019 when Spangler took over, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. He retired in April 2020 after the FBI raided his home.

According to the 22-page indictment, Henderson’s alleged fraud centered on the narcotics unit’s float and credit card. Prosecutors said the cash fund is money seized by the sheriff’s office from criminal enterprises that was set aside to pay for equipment and other supplies within the agency.

The credit card was only supposed to be used for “secret purposes,” such as surveillance equipment, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Henderson used both the cash fund and the credit card for personal enrichment and to reward subordinates who made his bids. He covered up the alleged fraud by telling the finance department that all purchases were for official use, and he rarely – if ever – used the money or cards himself.

“When the chef needs something, we do it”

Henderson is accused of ordering his subordinates to buy all the latest Apple products – from iPads and MacBooks to iPhones and Apple Watches – using the narcotics unit’s credit card.

Apple products were not generally used among other divisions of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, according to the indictment, but Henderson allegedly “ensure that certain officers in the narcotics unit had access to the products.” latest Apples”.

He often told them to replace their old products as soon as new ones became available, the government said, and then ordered them to give the old ones to family members and friends.

Henderson ultimately spent $138,000 on Apple products using the narcotics unit’s credit card between 2011 and 2018, the indictment says.

He also ordered his subordinates to carry out home repairs and construction projects while on duty – often for himself, his family or the then sheriff, prosecutors said. Materials for these projects were reportedly purchased with money from the narcotics division cash fund or by credit card.

According to the indictment, the projects ranged from building a swing set, installing a trash can and moving furniture, to renovating Henderson’s garage and building a privacy fence. of privacy in the personal residence of a former sheriff.

One particular project involved installing a metal roof on an officer’s house in March 2018. Prosecutors said officers took a picture of themselves on the roof after the operation was completed and took it sent in a group chat.

According to the indictment, another officer who was not present for the roof installation because he was teaching a law enforcement course questioned why they were acting like construction workers. Someone would have replied, “Two words…Chief Henderson.”

A former captain who worked under Henderson also responded, saying they didn’t want to do manual labor but “we do what we have to do,” the indictment states.

“You learn three things in this unit,” the captain reportedly said. “1. How to keep your mouth shut when needed. 2. When the boss needs something, we do it. 3. Take care of SIU before anyone else. You want to piss me off? Tell me you have paperwork to do and you’re teaching a class again the next time your partners have to put up a goddamn roof. Refer to number 3 above. Let this be a lesson learned.

The SIU refers to a special investigations unit in law enforcement.

Blind duck, vintage car restoration

In addition to Apple products and building materials, the prosecutor listed a slew of personal property allegedly purchased with narcotics unit money in the indictment. Among them:

$1,299 for two Yeti coolers

$6,000 on two thermal imagers used by Henderson and his superior

$191 in herbicide to treat Henderson’s lawn before he throws a party

$210 on two Thunderstruck AR-15 Speed ​​​​Loader for Henderson

$1,000 for the framework of a renovation project at Henderson

$459 on two La-Z-Boy leather executive chairs for Henderson and associates

Henderson is also accused of ordering his subordinates to build a blind duck for the sheriff when they should have been on duty. The project cost hundreds of dollars and lasted more than a month, according to the indictment.

The Knox County sheriff at the time was Jimmy “JJ” Jones, who served for 11 years before stepping down in 2018, WBIR reported. Jones is running for sheriff again and said in a statement to WBIR that it’s not uncommon for officers and firefighters to be paid for off-duty work.

“Any work done for me took place with me providing the materials and with payment from me to the people who did the work,” he said, according to the outlet. “Some of the same officers did similar personal work for the (current) Sheriff’s administrative staff, photos of which have been posted on Facebook. The timing of this action – which does not name me personally – so close to an election is suspicious and disappointing.

According to the indictment, the narcotics unit also had access to assets for the maintenance and assembly of undercover equipment. Prosecutors said Henderson and his officers instead used it to restore vintage cars.

Henderson’s cars that were restored at the building included a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle and a 1972 Ford F-100, the government said.

Court documents show Henderson has until March 28 to reach a plea deal or his trial will begin on April 26. He is also not allowed to have a gun or drink alcohol.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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