California

‘DEA huh?’ Fake agent’s story unravels when he pulls over real agent, Calif. cops say

This photo was taken outside a man’s home in San Jose, California, on March 1 — the day before federal authorities arrested him on charges that he had been impersonating a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and making traffic stops, according to the DEA.
This photo was taken outside a man’s home in San Jose, California, on March 1 — the day before federal authorities arrested him on charges that he had been impersonating a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and making traffic stops, according to the DEA. U.S. District Court

A California man was arrested last weekend after authorities said he pretended to be a federal drug agent — and pulled over an actual federal officer while faking it.

It was that traffic stop on Christmas Eve that triggered a broader investigation into 49-year-old Alex E. Taylor, which revealed the federal agent he stopped was far from the only victim, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Agents arrested Taylor on Saturday and raided his San Jose home, seizing an imitation DEA badge, a Volkswagen Jetta tricked out with police-style lights, handcuffs, methamphetamine and a fake concealed weapons badge, Drug Enforcement Administration agents said in a news release on Tuesday announcing Taylor’s arrest.

A federal agent with the Department of Transportation encountered the fake agent while driving through San Jose on Dec. 24, when she saw a dark Volkswagen sedan flashing police lights behind her and pulled over, the complaint said. When the man exited the car and approached her, she spotted a gold DEA badge hanging from his neck, according to the complaint. The man said he was a DEA agent and asked why she was in a rush; she said she was en route to mass, the complaint said.

“DEA huh?” the off-duty agent asked the man who pulled her over, according to the complaint. “Since when does DEA make vehicle stops?”

A Raleigh video about what motorists should expect when stopped says you should answer all questions from an officer. But the state's driver's license handbook points out you are not legally required to answer questions after identifying yourself.

The man responded “all the time,” and told the woman he “works all over” after she told him she knows DEA agents and wondered which office he worked for, the complaint said. The off-duty agent also told him she knew he couldn’t write her a ticket, but he responded that he could, according to the complaint.

That’s when she revealed she was a federal agent. He then told her to “have a nice day,” went back to his car, did a U-turn and drove off, the complaint said. She didn’t catch his license plate number.

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Federal agents made more headway in the case after they learned last month that in November 2018 an off-duty Santa Clara County deputy had spotted a Jetta with blue and red lights that didn’t look quite right, and took note of the vehicle’s license plate, according to the news release. It was registered to Taylor. The deputy saw the Jetta pull over a tow truck driver, according to the DEA.

Investigators tracked down the tow truck driver in February, and the driver pointed to Taylor as the person who had pulled him over — as did the off-duty federal agent from the December traffic stop, according to the DEA. The tow truck driver also said Taylor asked him “do you want to die today?” during the encounter, the complaint said. The tow truck driver said Taylor let him go after he asked to see Taylor’s identification.

Then, on Feb. 27 and 28, California Highway Patrol told the DEA there were reports of a Jetta trying to pull people over on Interstate 280 and Highway 85, according to the DEA.

Federal officers staked out Taylor’s home on March 1 and captured a photo of him leaving with “a gold badge around his neck that closely resembles the DEA badge and what appeared to be a firearm on his right hip concealed under his t-shirt,” the news release said.

That photo was included in the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors have charged Taylor with pretending to be an officer of the United States, unlawful possession of official badges or other insignia and using and possessing a counterfeit seal of a federal agency, the DEA said. Taylor’s first court appearance was in San Jose on Monday, according to the news release.

Taylor is expected in court again on March 15, the San Jose Mercury News reports. He faces up to eight-and-a-half years in prison and as much as a half-million dollar fine if he’s found guilty, according to the newspaper.

Fort Worth police officer Matthew Lesell is lucky to be alive. During a traffic stop on July 7, Lesell and the car he had stopped were hit by another car on I-30 east of downtown. (Warning: This video contains graphic content)

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.


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