Truck 793 - Built by the Obama DEA
The Chronicle's story focuses on Craig Patty, a married father of three who left the pharmaceutical business to start a sand hauling trucking operation in North Texas. Until November 2011, Mr. Patty's business owned two revenue-earning trucks.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Patty, while Truck 793 was supposedly in Houston for repairs, it was:
Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty's knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.
The DEA's sting operation went bad, resulting in the death of the driver in a surprise attack by hijackers seeking to steal the truck and its load of pot. Truck 793 was sprayed with bullets, impounded and out of commission for 100 days for repairs that were funded by Mr. Patty's 401k savings. Mr. Patty's business nearly went bankrupt as a result of the loss of the use of half of his business assets.
Eight months later, Mr. Patty is still seeking reimbursement for repairs, lost wages and damages to his family who now "fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting." So far, he has had no luck getting reimbursed by the US government for its decision to use his asset and employee without his permission. His insurance company has denied the claim because the semi was used in a law-enforcement operation.
The economic damage is bad enough, but Mr. Patty's family has been hit hard in less tangible ways:
Panic at the Patty home these days can be triggered by something as simple as a deer scampering through the wooded yard or a car pulling into the driveway. One morning as his wife made breakfast, one of his young sons suddenly bolted across the house yelling, "Get the guns!"
A Bronco sport utility vehicle had pulled into the driveway past a broken gate. The dogs were barking in the darkness. Patty grabbed a pistol and headed for the front yard. The Bronco pulled away, leaving a shiny object by the front walkway. It turned out to be the morning newspaper wrapped in a plastic bag reflecting a neighbor's floodlight.
The whole ordeal has forced his children to grow up more quickly than he'd like, Patty said. "I wanted to keep them young as long as I could," he said. "I've gone to great lengths to keep my son believing in Santa Claus, and now I'm talking to him about death, mayhem and drug cartels. "That is a huge canyon between the two."
So far, the DEA refuses even to acknowledge that the driver was an informant, "because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant." This makes reimbursement tough, given that the DEA concedes no role. Mr. Patty is stuck:
How am I - a small businessman, father of three, American Joe from Texas - supposed to make a claim against a federal agency that has conveniently shrouded itself behind a red, white and blue cloak of confidentiality and secrecy?
How very convenient indeed.
How rare, as well - we seem to have found at least one successful business asset for which the Obama Administration seeks to take no credit, Mr. Patty's Truck 793.
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