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Feb. 7, 2011

HARRIS COUNTY DEPUTY PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT EXTORTION

(HOUSTON, Texas) – A member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department has pleaded guilty to and convicted of conspiring to commit extortion, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno announced today.

Richard Bryan Nutt Jr., 43, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to conspiring with others to use his position as a law enforcement officer to steal drug loads from dealers and split the proceeds with others after the stolen drugs were sold by co-defendants. Judge Gilmore accepted the guilty plea, convicted Nutt of conspiracy to commit extortion and has set sentencing for June 6, 2011.  Nutt has been permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison without parole for the conviction and a $250,0000 fine.

The charges and today’s conviction is the result of a joint Houston Police Department (HPD) Internal Affairs and Narcotics Division and the FBI of a sting operation initiated after HPD obtained information that members of law enforcement were robbing shipments of narcotics in Houston, Texas. 

On Dec. 15, 2010, Deputy Richard Bryan Nutt of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office met with co-defendants Nathaniel House, 37, Richard Jerome Banks, 38, John Edward Scott, 34, and Danny Wayne Bell, 40. House told the group that a vehicle containing narcotics or narcotics proceeds would be driving through Houston. The co-defendants agreed to stop the vehicle, a Chrysler Aspen SUV, with the assistance of Deputy Nutt.  Nutt was to conduct a traffic stop of the SUV, which was reportedly to be driven by a drug dealer from Mexico. Nutt was to pretend to arrest the driver then release him while the co-defendants took the vehicle containing the drugs.  The conspirators would then split the money from the sale of the drugs.  However, the plan did not proceed as intended.

Later that day, Deputy Nutt, in full uniform and driving a silver pickup equipped with red and blue emergency lights, spotted and followed the Chrysler Aspen SUV as it drove into a parking lot of a Houston area shopping center. Once parked, the SUV driver, actually an undercover HPD officer, abandoned the SUV.
 
House entered the SUV and removed a package he believed contained cocaine and transferred the package to a blue Nissan Altima allegedly driven by Banks.  Leaving the silver pickup to other co-defendants, Nutt entered the passenger seat of the blue Nissan Altima and left the parking lot in the vehicle with the package. 

As the Nissan Altima left the parking lot it was stopped by HPD officers. The package containing the purported cocaine - it was actually fake-- was found and removed from under the passenger seat where Nutt sat. Unlike the plan, Nutt and his co-defendants were arrested by law enforcement officers and subsequently charged federally.  

House also pleaded guilty today and is also set to be sentenced in June.  The remaining defendants are pending trial in mid-March 2011 and presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty through due process of law.

Assistant U. S. Attorney James McAlister is prosecuting the case.

 

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