An amazing story is continuing to play out after more than three years of winding its way through American courts. Craig Patty is the owner of a North Texas trucking company who ran afoul of the Zetas Cartel a few years back and never even realized it! It all started with an early morning phone call that just about floored the Texas business owner…
“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”
The driver was supposed to have delivered Patty’s truck to a local repair shop for some work, instead the driver loaded the rig full of marijuana and headed towards a planned drug sting where the driver wound up dying after a shootout with a terrifying cartel.
All of this happened without Patty’s knowledge.
Apparently the DEA was using Patty’s driver as an undercover informant in an effort to get at the Zetas Cartel. Sadly, the DEA operation was a failure and instead Patty’s employee died, his truck suffered more than $100,000 of damage (including a lot of bullet holes) — and the DEA walked away without so much as an apology.
To make matters worse, Patty’s insurance company also refused to pay for the damage to the vehicle because it was used in a law enforcement operation. So Patty did what anyone stuck in this situation would do; he sued. After all, how could the government possibly be allowed to use his privately owned property without his consent? Moreover, how could they destroy that property without having to pay for it?
Three years after the fact and a judge has finally ruled… the government CAN steal your truck, load it with drugs, then destroy your truck all while making you a very suspicious character with a local (and terrifying) drug cartel and then NOT PAY YOU A SINGLE DIME.
A Houston-based federal judge ruled that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration does not owe the owner of a small Texas trucking company anything, not even the cost of repairing the bullet holes to a tractor-trailer truck that the agency used without his permission for a wild 2011 drug cartel sting that resulted in the execution-style murder of the truck’s driver, who was secretly working as a government informant.
The government argued that it is neither culpable for the damage nor under any obligation to inform the owner of any property that it wishes to use in its operations, because “clandestine.”
No statute, regulation, or policy “specifically prescribe[d]” or prohibited the course of action Patty alleges the DEA agents followed. The DEA derives its authority from the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801, its implementing regulations, and various executive orders…
In this case, Task Force Officer Villasana submitted a similar declaration. He states that the DEA’s decision “to proceed with such an operation is entirely discretionary, and not mandated by any statute, rule, or policy.” Whether and how to conduct such an undercover investigation and operation is “necessarily discretionary in nature.” Villasana did not try to give advance notice to Patty that the Task Force would be using his truck because of operation’s covert nature, the risks of injury and potential for damage if something went wrong, and the uncertainty about whether other individuals (including Patty) could be trusted.
Patty’s attorney summed it up perfectly.
A federally deputized corporal from the Houston Police Department decides to pay your small company’s driver to drive your truck to the Mexican border, load it up with illegal drugs, and try to catch some bad guys. He knows that the driver is lying to “the owner” – although he doesn’t know your name or identity and doesn’t bother to find out. The bad guys outwit the cops. Your company’s driver is killed. Your truck is riddled with bullet holes.
Query: is our federal government liable to pay for the damages to you and your property?
So watch out folks because the government may be coming to “borrow” your truck too.