United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Ronald G. “Tapper” Hendricks, chief of police of Vidalia, La., was charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement agents in the course of an investigation into the use and disposition of certain firearms at the Vidalia Police Department. The charge is outlined in a bill of information filed today with the United States District Court in Alexandria, La.
The bill of information alleges that earlier this year FBI and ATF agents were investigating Hendricks for possible violations of federal firearms laws; specifically, whether Hendricks had transferred a fully-automatic machine gun owned by the Vidalia Police Department to the custody of an individual or individuals for non-law enforcement use at the Rifle Point Hunting Club, a private hunting club in Ferriday, La. The federal agents were also investigating whether Hendricks had allegedly removed certain firearms from the custody of the Vidalia Police Department Evidence Room and subsequently gave those firearms to friends and acquaintances as gifts.
As part of the investigation, federal agents interviewed Hendricks last February. The bill of information alleges that Hendricks knowingly and willfully made three material false statements during the interview: 1) Hendricks denied transferring a fully automatic machine gun owned by the Vidalia Police Department to the custody of an individual or individuals at the Rifle Point Hunting Club, when in truth and in fact he had done so for use by members and guests of the club; 2) Hendricks falsely claimed that one of the individuals to whom custody of the machine gun was transferred was a Reserve Police Officer of the Vidalia Police Department whom he had sworn in at an unofficial ceremony to which there were no witnesses, when in truth and in fact there was no such ceremony and the individual is not a Reserve Police Officer; and 3) Hendricks falsely claimed that the individual described above signed an oath of office form related to the alleged swearing in prior to receiving the machine gun, when in truth and in fact the individual had never signed such an oath of office form.
Making false statements to government agents is a federal crime. However, in most cases, the government already has the answers to the questions they present to an individual when questioning occurs. That way, if the individual happens to answer incorrectly, the government is legally permitted to prosecute for making false statements. It is a trick used by the government to trap an individual into incriminating themselves.
If federal agents are attempting to question you or someone you know in regards to alleged criminal activity, seek independent legal counsel immediately. It is the only way to ensure and protect your rights.
False statements to a government agent is a felony offense and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.
The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at one of the offices listed above.