A volunteer sheriff’s deputy with the Arkansas County Sheriff’s Office has been convicted of extorting confidential informants to steal an ATV and firearms.
Cody Hiland, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office, announced that a federal jury found Charles David Chastain, 48, of Stuttgart, guilty of Hobbs Act extortion, attempted Hobbs Act extortion, and receipt of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.
United States District Judge Leon Holmes presided over the two-day trial, which concluded Tuesday with the jury verdict finding Chastain guilty on all counts. Chastain will be sentenced by Judge Holmes at a later date.
“Law enforcement in this district work tirelessly and selflessly,” Hiland said in a news release issued on Thursday. “They respond at a moment’s notice and are willing to sacrifice their lives for total strangers because of a calling to serve their fellow man.”
“The actions of one officer are not an indictment against an entire profession,” Hiland continued. “However, no individual is above the law, and our office will seek justice wherever injustice is found, especially with those we trust to serve and protect our communities. This guilty verdict would not have been possible without the hard work of our Assistant United States Attorneys.”
Chastain was employed as a volunteer Auxiliary Sheriff’s Deputy for the Arkansas County Sheriff’s Office. He was assigned to the Tri-County Drug Task Force, where he utilized confidential informants to develop drug cases in Arkansas County and surrounding areas, including Jefferson County.
Testimony during the trial established that two confidential informants worked for Chastain in an effort to reduce criminal charges. In the fall of 2017, Chastain asked those informants to steal an ATV for him. One of the informants went to a duck hunting club in Clarendon and stole a Browning Edition, Polaris Ranger 900 ATV valued at just under $25,000. The informant stole the ATV in exchange for favorable treatment from Chastain concerning criminal charges, but the informant also reported the theft to the FBI.
Testimony indicated that both informants were concerned Chastain would refuse to give them credit for their cooperation if they did not meet his demands. Trial testimony also indicated that in December of 2017, Chastain asked one of the informants to commit another burglary, this time with the goal of stealing firearms from a storage unit in Arkansas County.
Text messages admitted at trial showed that the informant asked if there were cameras at the storage unit, and Chastain replied, “Long sleeve shirts and a mask would make it a moot point.”
The informant did not commit that burglary and instead worked with the FBI and the Arkansas State Police to obtain three firearms to offer for sale to Chastain.
Evidence at trial showed that the informant told Chastain the firearms were stolen and included a Chinese Type 56-1, which is similar to an AK-47 rifle, a Colt M16 A1, and a Winchester M14. Chastain agreed to buy the purportedly stolen firearms from the informant for $300. He was arrested shortly thereafter with those rifles in his possession.
Investigators later executed a search warrant at Chastain’s shop, where they located the stolen Polaris Ranger.
The statutory penalty for Hobbs Act extortion, as well as attempted Hobbs Act extortion, is not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years of supervised release. The statutory penalty for receipt of a firearm with intent to commit a felony is not more than 10 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, and not more than three years of supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, with assistance from the Arkansas State Police.