This former congressional staffer faked being an FBI agent. Now he’s going to prison

This former congressional staffer faked being an FBI agent. Now he’s going to prison
An FBI badge in 2010 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sterling Devion Carter was once a staffer for Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois, but that was before he was fired for pretending to be an FBI agent. Now, Carter is on his way to federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing public funds, according to the Daily Beast.

In an in-depth article published by the Beast on August 4, reporter José Pagliery describes Carter’s crimes and the manhunt that went on for months before he was arrested. Carter, who is in his twenties declined to be interviewed, but his attorney, Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., discussed the case with the Beast.

“A young congressional staffer for Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) was quietly fired last year after he faked being an FBI agent and led cops on a chase through the capital, resulting in a weeks-long nationwide manhunt,” Pagliery explains. “It took four different law enforcement agencies three months to eventually catch up with the staffer 500 miles away. And it was only after a Secret Service agent managed to track down the online shops that sold the staffer mock ‘federal agent’ gear and a bogus license plate for his fake police car — decked out with a siren and flashing lights — that authorities were able to arrest him.”

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According to Pagliery, Carter has “admitted in court to openly carrying a firearm illegally.” Federal prosecutors, Pagliery reports, “dropped the law enforcement impersonation charge” against Carter but not a charge of stealing public funds.

“Carter’s misadventure, which has never been reported until now, started on Saturday, November 14, 2020,” according to Pagliery. “Two plain-clothes officers with the Secret Service were busy dealing with angry, post-election MAGA protests in Washington when they spotted what looked like a police car with an odd license plate; the font seemed taller and bolder than it should be. But the rest of it looked authentic. To the untrained eye, the blue Ford Taurus would easily pass as an unmarked police cruiser. According to D.C. court documents, Carter had tricked out the otherwise boring sedan with blue emergency lights, a laptop computer mount on the front dashboard, a spotlight near the driver’s side view mirror, and even a barrier separating the front half from the back half — ready to transport detainees.”

2020 was a good year for Schneider, who was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives via Illinois’ 10th Congressional District that year when he defeated Republican challenger Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee by roughly 27 percent. In 2018, Schneider had defeated another Republican, Douglas R. Bennett, by 31 percent.

Carter was employed by the office of a successful Democratic congressman, but his crimes brought that association to an end — and according to Pagliery, some of his actions in late 2020 alerted law enforcement to the fact that he wasn’t really an FBI agent.

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“For one, he put his pistol magazines in pouches clipped behind his gun, making it practically impossible to reload the pistol in a firefight with his free hand,” Pagliery notes. “It was a rookie mistake and someone actually trained to shoot with a handgun would notice it, according to a person familiar with the investigation…. The subsequent investigation became a joint effort by the Capitol Police, FBI, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and the Secret Service.”

Subsequently, according to Pagliery, the U.S. Secret Service “discovered that Carter was an actively credentialed congressional staffer with security access across the Capitol Building — while simultaneously being a wanted fugitive.”

“His neighbors told federal agents they’d seen Carter dress up like law enforcement before, openly carrying his firearm — which is illegal in the District of Columbia for anyone other than police — and they remembered Carter referring to his fake police car as his ‘work vehicle,’” Pagliery reports. “Secret Service agents with a search warrant broke into Carter’s home on New Year’s Day 2021, where an affidavit says they found his Glock 19 pistol, the extra magazines, ammunition, and even the receipt for the police car siren. He was arrested weeks later in Georgia, his parents’ home state. He then spent 81 days in jails across Georgia, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia.”

Pagliery reports that when Carter was still working in Schneider’s office in 2019, he was, according to an FBI affidavit filed on February 14, 2022, “routinely filling out payroll authorization forms and faking the signature of Schneider’s chief of staff to bump up his monthly salary.” And in late July, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols sentenced him to nine months in prison for stealing public funds — a charge he had pleaded guilty to.

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

That day on Facebook, Carter posted, “I want to thank Capitol Police, Secret Service, MPD, and all the other law enforcement agencies for keeping my colleagues safe! WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!”

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