How a Democratic congressman pretended to be an FBI agent and became a fugitive

A young congressman for Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) was quietly fired last year after posing as an FBI agent and leading cops on a chase through the capital, sparking a weeks-long nationwide manhunt.

It took four different law enforcement agencies three months to finally catch up with the employee, 500 miles away. And it wasn’t until a Secret Service agent managed to track down the online stores selling the employee’s fake “federal agent” gear and a fake number plate for his fake police car — adorned with a siren and flashing lights — that authorities were ready to do so able to arrest him.

The congressman in question, Sterling Devion Carter, admitted in court to openly and illegally carrying a firearm. Federal prosecutors dropped the law enforcement identity theft charges, and he narrowly escaped jail time. (When Carter pleaded guilty at 24, according to his attorney, he barely made the age limit to attend a local District of Columbia prison diversion program for young first-time offenders.)

That defense attorney, Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., admitted to The Daily Beast that Carter lost his job for posing as an officer and openly carrying a gun in the District of Columbia. Jenkins said his client will not discuss the matter.

Carter’s mishap, which has never been reported before, began on Saturday November 14, 2020.

Two plainclothes Secret Service officers were busy dealing with angry MAGA post-election protests in Washington when they spotted what appeared to be a police car with a strange license plate; The writing seemed bigger and bolder than it should be. But the rest looked authentic. To the untrained eye, the blue Ford Taurus would easily pass for an unmarked police cruiser. According to DC court documents, Carter had tricked the otherwise bland sedan with blue emergency lights, a laptop computer mount on the front dash, a headlight near the driver’s side mirror, and even a barrier separating the front half from the back half — ready to transport prisoners.

Sterling Devion Carter posed as an FBI agent and forged signatures to get a raise while on the staff of Congress.

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Facebook

Carter, standing next to his parked car, wore a black T-shirt that said “Federal Agent”, a police duty belt, a Glock pistol, extra ammo, handcuffs, a radio and headphones. That was enough to convince passers-by, who, according to court documents, repeatedly thanked him for his service.

But something about Carter didn’t seem right either. For one, he put his pistol magazines in cut-off pouches Behind his gun, making it virtually impossible to reload the pistol with your free hand in a firefight. It was a rookie mistake and someone actually trained to shoot a pistol would spot it, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

This person recalled that the closer real federal agents got to him, the farther Carter became from the city police, who were already there. When agents checked the suspect car’s license plates, the results came back blank.

Just after noon, agents contacted the Secret Service Joint Operations Center and asked for uniformed officers to confront this mystery man. When five Secret Service bike cops approached him, Carter simply said he was “FBI,” according to a police report. His baseball cap and face mask made it difficult to identify his face, the police report said. When they asked him for ID, he said he didn’t have it with him, then turned on his emergency lights and sped away. One agent pedaled as hard as he could on an electric bike through several DC streets, but gave up after a few blocks for “safety reasons for officers,” the report said.

The subsequent investigation became a joint effort by Capitol Police, the FBI, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, and the Secret Service. But it was a long shot from one investigator, Secret Service Special Agent A. Pascual, who actually tracked Carter down.

According to an affidavit from another Secret Service agent, Pascual deduced that the unidentified suspect may have been wearing a T-shirt made by a small Florida company, 13 Fifty Apparel.

Pascual and the business owner, a Coconut Creek police officer named Christopher Lewis, worked together on a surveillance photo of the as-yet-unidentified fake police officer and found it was likely a small- to medium-sized shirt. And they knew the shirt was relatively new because it featured a 13FA logo on the sleeve – something the company had only started doing just over a year earlier.

According to the affidavit, Lewis gave the Secret Service agent the list of everyone who had bought the shirt over the past three years, and Pascual narrowed the 399 customers down to the 21 people who live near the country’s capital. Pascual and an unnamed Secret Service investigative analyst then ran all 21 people through law enforcement databases and narrowed them down “based on photos, race and other demographic information.” Only one, a man named Sterling Carter, seemed to fit the description of officers who met him that day: Black, about 150 pounds, and 25 to 30 years old.

The law enforcement affidavit filed with the local DC court alleges that Pascual also obtained Carter’s identity a second way: by contacting a website that makes custom license plates.

According to the affidavit, Pascual somehow found out that the mysterious fake cop bought his fake license plate from When Pascual gave them the replica DC tag, a customer service representative presented an invoice. Once again it was Sterling Carter.

But it wasn’t until three weeks after the police chase that the Secret Service discovered that Carter was an active chartered congressman who had security access to the entire Capitol — while also being a wanted fugitive.

His neighbors told federal agents they had previously seen Carter disguised as a police officer, openly carrying his firearm — which is illegal in the District of Columbia for anyone but the police — and they recalled Carter using his fake police car as his “work.” designated vehicle.”

Secret Service agents with a search warrant broke into Carter’s home on New Year’s Day 2021, where an affidavit says they found his Glock 19 pistol, the extra magazines, ammunition and even the receipt for the police car’s siren.

Weeks later, he was arrested in Georgia, his parents’ home state. He then spent 81 days in prisons in Georgia, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia.

In light of questions from The Daily Beast this week, Rep. Schneider’s office did not explain why it did not publicly mention the incident at the time.

When the congressman’s office became aware of Carter’s impersonation of an officer, Carter was given the option of resigning or being fired, according to an officer’s affidavit. Carter, still on the run in Georgia, called Schneider’s office from his personal cell phone and decided to resign – but still kept his government-issued phone, according to those police files.

However, that initial investigation opened a can full of worms that eventually went public. Schneider’s office discovered that Carter, who as operations manager oversaw pay for congressional employees, had given himself an $80,000 raise.

As of November 2019, just three months into his new job on the Hill, Carter had routinely filled out payroll forms and forged the signature of Schneider’s chief of staff to supplement his monthly salary, according to an FBI affidavit.

When Carter was criminally indicted in February 2022, Schneider’s office said the employee had been fired and “the office is committed to demanding justice for American taxpayers, restitution of the loss to the US Treasury Department and recovery from the US Congress.” “. He also pleaded guilty to this crime.

Last week, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols sentenced Carter to nine months in prison for stealing public funds. As of this week, Carter is still out and his defense attorney said he will soon turn himself in to begin his sentence.

In a court memo, federal prosecutors criticized Carter for betraying public trust.

“Instead of taking this responsibility seriously, the defendant has chosen to selfishly use this responsibility to illegally enrich himself, including using his ill-gotten gains to further his other crimes, including the purchase of a vehicle and a federal gun license,” he said Assistant U.S. Attorneys Molly Gaston and Nicole Lockhart wrote.

Carter, who could not be reached to comment on this story, appears to have gone dark online. His last public Facebook post was during the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Friends who knew he worked in Congress wished him well and asked him to stay safe. Carter, who was still on the run at the time, thanked the same law enforcement agencies who were trying to bring him down at that moment.

“I want to thank the Capitol Police, Secret Service, MPD and all other law enforcement agencies for protecting my colleagues!” he wrote. “WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT!” How a Democratic congressman pretended to be an FBI agent and became a fugitive


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