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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Former Mesquite narcotics sergeant gets 15 months for stealing drug money

Staff Writer
Published 20 June 2011 10:30 PM
Full article here

A judge frustrated over a string of probation sentences for dirty cops on Monday sent a former Mesquite narcotics sergeant to federal prison for 15 months for stealing money he thought belonged to a drug dealer.

John David McAllister was arrested in March after FBI agents set up a sting in which they placed $100,000 of supposed drug money in a vehicle and asked McAllister to help them seize it. Undercover cameras showed McAllister stuffing $2,000 into his pants.

McAllister then went to Town East Mall and bought a $480 watch and later bragged to his fellow officers that he had paid for it with an IRS tax refund.

FBI agents got a tip in December that McAllister, 42, the son of a retired Dallas police officer, had been stealing money during searches, leading them to set up the sting. McAllister has not been charged with other crimes, but U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay said Monday he believes the 21-year police veteran had betrayed his badge before.

“It would be fatuous for any person to believe it was the first time you had stolen drug money,” Lindsay told McAllister and a courtroom full of his tearful supporters.

One of them yelled, “He made a mistake!” after the sentence was announced. Lindsay told her to leave the courtroom.

Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, a Mesquite police spokesman who did not attend the hearing, had no comment on the 15-month sentence. He said that an internal department review of narcotics seizures for the past five years, the period when McAllister was head of the unit, found no evidence of wrongdoing.

“All the numbers matched,” Hedgpeth said.

McAllister pleaded guilty earlier this year. The statutory maximum for theft of government money is 10 years in prison, but taking into account McAllister’s lack of criminal history and other factors, federal sentencing guidelines put the maximum for his crime at six months in prison. But federal judges are free to impose harsher penalties when they believe circumstances warrant.

“This court takes the deterrent effect very seriously,” Lindsay said. “If law enforcement officials are going to break the very law they are sworn to uphold, they need more than a slap on the wrist.”

He cited several local cases in which officers got probation for committing crimes, including another Mesquite officer. A Dallas County judge in April gave former Officer David Sutton a year of probation after he pleaded guilty to a state jail felony for stealing $1,800 from the Santa Cops and Special Olympics programs. Sutton told investigators he had been having financial problems.

In May, a Dallas County jury generated waves of criticism for giving former Dallas police Officer Alph Coleman 10 years of probation and a $10,000 fine after finding him guilty of participating in the robbery of a Sam’s Club in 2008.

Lindsay also cited the case of Carlos Ortiz, who was allowed to remain an FBI agent despite being involved in two armed standoffs in 1992 and 2004. He finally received two years in federal prison after he told a friend last summer that he was going to kill his wife and the head of the Dallas FBI, Robert E. Casey Jr. It was only then that he was fired, arrested and charged.

“Those breaks would not have been afforded to members of the public,” Lindsay said.

McAllister had no visible reaction to the sentence. He was told to report to prison July 19. After he serves his time, he will be on supervised release for two years.

Before being sentenced, McAllister told the judge he was sorry for his crime and said pride led to his making a mistake.

“I was the big man on campus,” McAllister told the judge. “The job breeds that. I felt like I could accomplish anything.

“I hurt my profession, my department and my family. It’s an embarrassment.”

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