Man's Truck Stolen, Driver Murdered: All Thanks to the DEA

Given a choice of being mugged by a Zeta or the DEA, go with the Zeta.

There is one telling difference between organized crime and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Here’s what separates the Mob from the DEA: If a crime syndicate directed a truck driver to steal his employer’s big rig and use that vehicle to deliver a load of marijuana to a group of drug cartel operatives, and the “borrowed” big rig was hijacked, riddled with bullets, crashed, and its cab splattered in blood and body tissue from its driver—the truck driver who absconded with the 18-wheeler at the behest of the crime syndicate—well in that case, the owner of the truck would, theoretically at least, be able to call the cops and hope for the best. 

Craig Patty, the owner-operator of a small North Texas trucking company, has zero hope that the proper authorities will arrest the thieves who took his truck without his permission and returned it shot up, crashed, and full of gore.

Patty’s bad luck was to become ensnared with the Drug Enforcement Administration and not the Mafia.

An undercover Houston police officer at the scene responded by shooting a plainclothes Harris County cop.

On October 10, 2011, Patty hired driver Lawrence Chapa. Soon after, Chapa began moonlighting as an undercover operative for the DEA. In his afterhours job as snitch, Chapa’s function was to roll up in a big truck carrying a load of weed and use the cannabis as bait to lure drug dealers out into the open. The crooks would then be vulnerable to arrest by vigilant narcotics agents who—if all went according to plan—would be hiding in the bushes or some shit like that. 

On November 11 of 2011, Chapa cruised to a drop spot in Harris County, Texas, driving a red Kenworth T600—one of the two trucks owned by Craig Patty. Gunmen, taking the vigilant law-enforcement personnel unawares, ambushed the truck and shot Chapa eight times, which killed him.

An undercover Houston police officer at the scene responded by shooting a plainclothes Harris County cop.

Later that day, four men, three of them born in Mexico, were charged with capital murder.

Damages for mechanical repairs, bullet-hole fill-in, removal of Lawrence Chapa’s bodily remains, and loss of revenue from the Kenworth T600 being out of commission for 100 days totaled $133,532. Craig Patty’s insurance company declined to cover the sum on the grounds that the injured vehicle had been part of a law-enforcement operation.

If Patty’s insurance company had been like a good neighbor dedicated to getting Patty back to where he belonged, it might have gone after the DEA to reimburse its client for damages. That task has fallen to Patty, and the job has been difficult and protracted.

Initially, the DEA refused to confirm that Chapa had been in its employ. Even after reporters from the Houston Chronicle verified Chapa’s DEA snitch status with multiple law-enforcement officials and courtroom documents, this past Monday in New Orleans federal court, the DEA drug warriors remained coy about Chapa’s role.

The DEA was quite transparent, however, in denying all culpability, responsibility, and accountability in regard to Patty’s big rig arriving home all shot up with a dead rat inside. The truck also carried the loaded possibility that the murderous Zeta cartel might jump to concluding that the truck’s owner had been part of the botched sting maneuver and should be eliminated with vindictive prejudice.

Long before Craig Patty’s predicament became public, the DEA had been making headlines for reckless behavior with numbing and depressing regularity.

The DEA regularly seizes cash from common citizens traveling through airports—on shaky grounds that the money is conceivably drug-related—and refuses to return that money even though no criminal charges are filed. The DEA has even hired screeners working for the TSA to target travelers for separation from their cash.

The DEA’s disregard for human pawns is also well established. Students with no criminal history busted for minor drug infractions—such as Rachel Hoffman—are coerced with the threat of mandatory-minimum sentences to work as undercover drug warriors, jobs for which they are not adequately trained or protected. Indeed, the very fact that these forced recruits are too scared to stand up to bullying from prosecutors and cops indicates that their personalities are ill-suited for undercover narcotics operations, which must be a factor in why they end up murdered in the call of duty, often on the DEA's watch.

The known facts of Craig Patty’s story indicate that he has been victimized by the DEA. His livelihood, his life itself, and the lives of everyone in his family could all have been wiped out.

Still, many of the details in this case remain hidden. Citing the need for DEA secrecy, crucial motions filed by the government in the case have been kept sealed. The full extent of the federal agent’s misbehavior may never be known.

One detail left untold is the undoubtedly sad back-story that digs Lawrence Chapa into so deep a hole that his best hope was to climb up into the driver’s seat of that doomed, red big rig.