FBI Agent Using Public Money to Gamble, Drink in Vegas Troubles Law Professors
The circumstances around an FBI agent allegedly using $13.5K in federal money to gamble at the Bellagio concerns two leading law professors. The case also comes as the FBI faces scrutiny for the unprecedented search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence.
This week, US District Court Judge Gloria Navarro sentenced Scott Carpenter, 40, of New York, to three months of incarceration for his 2017 misuse of money earmarked for an FBI investigation. Beyond losing the $13,500 playing blackjack at the Bellagio’s high limit room, he also downed a six-pack of beer and almost an entire bottle of vodka paid for via public funds at another Las Vegas casino. He has left the FBI and plead guilty to a conversion of government money charge.
This is an extraordinary story,” Robert Jarvis, a professor at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard College of Law, told Casino.org. “Although one often reads about employees embezzling money from their employers to feed their gambling habits, I cannot remember the last time I read about a law enforcement official, let alone an FBI agent, committing such an act.”
There is also a controversy over the relative shortness of the sentence and the request to spend it in a residence rather than a correctional facility.
“On the one hand, it seems necessary to recognize the extra harm done when people who are given a public trust commit a crime,” Frank Rudy Cooper, director, Program on Race, Gender & Policing at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law, told Casino.org. “On the other hand, the defendant seems to have stated a basis for mercy.
“It would be nice if everyone got as much attention paid to their mitigating factors as Mr. Carpenter did. I do not believe we should over-incarcerate law enforcement officers just because we do so to everyday civilians, but I would understand if some people thought Carpenter got more of a benefit of the doubt than many people.”
Cooper acknowledged it is a “difficult” call for Navarro. He called her “intelligent and principled.” Within 90 days, she will announce whether Carpenter can spend the sentence at his residence or in a correctional facility.
Jarvis said he is not surprised at the 90-day sentence. He noted that Carpenter had no criminal record, this was his first offense, and he is a veteran. (He served in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.)
Carpenter pled guilty to a misdemeanor. This can led to probation and restitution rather than prison time, Jarvis said.
Home Confinement Makes Sense
Jarvis confirmed that home confinement is “very controversial among the public,” but is, of course, more comfortable for the convict.
It can provides the wider community benefits over prison incarceration in many cases. For instance, housing prisoners in a facility is very expensive and can lead to repeat offenders, Jarvis said.
Home confinement also poses less risk of spreading communicable diseases such as COVID-19 and monkeypox than being in one’s residence.
“As a former FBI agent, he would be an immediate target in prison and would have to be kept in solitary confinement, which would be an excessive punishment for a misdemeanor,” Jarvis added.
But even apparently favoring the shorter sentence and serving it at home, Jarvis doubts Carpenter’s embezzlement of the government money had anything to do with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as his defense lawyer claimed.
The FBI would have weeded Carpenter out if it had any concerns about his psychological make-up,” Jarvis said. “PTSD is a serious condition and many veterans do not get the help they need, but to draw a link between it and what Carpenter did strikes me as something that would be very hard to prove.”
Since anyone can have a gambling addiction, Jarvis asked what precautions, if any, the FBI took to avoid this situation after giving four agents a large sum of money: $135,000. Among other things, they ordered many drinks at The Cosmopolitan using federal money.
“Given what happened, and the fact that Carpenter was able to consume large amounts of alcohol with apparently no oversight, the FBI needs to have a serious look at its protocols,” Jarvis said.
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