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

A young congressional staffer for Rep. Brad Snyder (D-IL) was quietly fired last year after pretending to be an FBI agent and leading cops on a chase through the capital, sparking a nationwide manhunt.

It took four different law enforcement agencies three months to finally reach the personnel 500 miles away. And it wasn’t until a Secret Service agent was able to track down the online stores that were selling the employee fake “federal agent” gear and a fake license plate for his fake police car—decked out with a siren and flashing lights—that authorities were able to arrest him .

The congressman in question, Sterling Davion Carter, admitted in court that he openly carried a gun illegally. Federal prosecutors dropped the law enforcement impersonation charge and he narrowly avoided jail time. (When Carter pleaded guilty at 24, he barely made the age limit to enter a local District of Columbia jail diversion program for young first-time offenders, according to his attorney.)

That defense attorney, Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., acknowledged to The Daily Beast that Carter lost his job for impersonating an officer and openly carrying a gun in the Columbia area. Jenkins said his client would not talk about the matter.

Carter’s misfortune, which has never been reported until now, began on Saturday, November 14, 2020.

Two plainclothes Secret Service officers were busy dealing with angry, post-election MAGA protests; in Washington when they spotted what looked like a police car with a strange license plate. the font looked taller and bolder than it should have been. But the rest seemed authentic. To the untrained eye, the blue Ford Taurus would easily pass for an unmarked police cruiser. According DC CourtsCarter had tricked out the otherwise boring sedan with blue emergency lights, a laptop dock 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 give himself raises while a congressional staffer.

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

Carter, who was standing near his parked car, was wearing a black T-shirt that said “federal agent,” a police service belt, a Glock pistol, extra ammunition, handcuffs, a radio and a headset. That was enough to convince passersby, who kept thanking him for his service, according to court records.

But something also seemed to Carter. First, he put the magazines of his pistol in bags cut open back his weapon, making it practically impossible to reload the pistol in a melee with his free hand. It was a rookie mistake, and someone trained to shoot a pistol would notice it, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The closer the real federal agents got to him, the more Carter moved away from the city police who were already on the scene, this person recalled. When agents ran the suspect car’s license plates, the results came back empty.

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

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

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

Editing a surveillance photo of the as-yet-unidentified fake cop, Pascual and the owner of the business, a Coconut Creek police officer named Christopher Lewis, worked out together that it was probably a small or medium 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 a little over a year earlier.

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

The law enforcement affidavit filed in D.C. District Court alleges that Pascual arrived at Carter’s identity in a second way: by contacting a website that makes custom license plates.

According to the affidavit, Pascual somehow figured out that the mysterious fake cop bought his fake license plate on When Pascual gave them the copy of the DC label, a customer service representative handed over an invoice. Once again, it was Sterling Carter.

But just three weeks into the police pursuit, the Secret Service discovered that Carter was an actively credentialed congressional staffer with security access to the entire Capitol building — while also being a wanted fugitive.

His neighbors told federal agents that they had seen Carter dress like law enforcement in the past, carrying his firearm — which is illegal in the District of Columbia for anyone but the police — and recalled that Carter he referred to his fake police car as his “project vehicle.”

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

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

When asked by The Daily Beast this week, Rep. Schneider’s office did not explain why it did not publicly report the incident at the time.

When the deputy’s office was informed of Carter’s impersonation of an officer, it gave Carter the option of resigning or being fired, according to the officer’s affidavit. Carter, who was still on the run in Georgia, called Snyder’s office from his personal cell phone and chose to resign—but kept his government-issued phone, according to those police records.

However, this initial research opened a can of worms that eventually came out. Snyder’s office discovered that Carter, who as director of operations oversaw the payments of congressional staff, had given himself an $80,000 raise.

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

When Carter was criminally indicted in February 2022, Schneider’s office said the employee had been fired and that “the office is committed to pursuing justice for the American taxpayer, restitution to the U.S. Treasury Department, and correcting Congress of the USA”. He pleaded guilty and in this crime.

Last week, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols sentenced Carter to nine months in federal prison for theft of public funds. As of this week, Carter is still out and will soon surrender to begin his sentence, according to his defense attorney.

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

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

Carter, who could not be reached for comment for this story, appears to have gone dark online. He made his last public Facebook post during the violent attack on Capitol Hill 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 that were trying to hunt him down at the time.

“I want to thank the Capitol Police, Secret Service, MPD and all other law enforcement agencies for keeping my colleagues safe!” He wrote. “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!”

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