A Newton County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested Thursday by federal police on accusations he sold marijuana, often from his marked county patrol car.
Darrell Mathis, 40, was charged with distributing marijuana and carrying a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, authorities said.
“This is an embarrassment to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as law enforcement in general,” Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said in a statement Friday.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the case was a reminder that no one is above the law.
“This defendant used his position as a police officer to openly violate the very laws that he was sworn to uphold,” Yates said. “Selling marijuana out of his police car while wearing a badge and uniform is outrageous.”
According to the federal criminal complaint, the FBI learned in April that Mathis kept large amounts of the illicit drug out in the open at his Lithonia apartment and even bragged that he sold marijuana and didn’t worry because he “drives safely and flashes his police credentials to get out of tickets if he is stopped.”
He also admitted to selling between 10 and 15 pounds of marijuana a week, according to the federal criminal complaint.
Between May and September, federal authorities said Mathis sold marijuana to a confidential source working for the FBI and to an undercover FBI agent.
On August 8, FBI officials said Mathis sold a pound of marijuana to an undercover agent, then went with the agent to discuss selling more drugs to another undercover agent whom he believed was a drug dealer, according to the federal criminal complaint.
He took his deputy badge and gun to the meeting, and showed them to the undercover agents, saying, “Don’t worry, I’m on your side,” according to the criminal complaint.
At that meeting, which was being recorded, Mathis also agreed to transport marijuana or cocaine to Alabama or North Carolina for the undercover agent, according to the criminal complaint.
The 5-year Newton County deputy has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Sheriff Brown said.
“My office is completely cooperating with the FBI in this investigation,” Brown said.
Mathis appeared before a federal magistrate judge on Thursday and was released from custody on bond. If convicted of possession of marijuana with the intention to distribute and for distribution of marijuana, he faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, federal court officials said.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty of carrying a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking, authorities said.