Narcotics commander resigns after feds lodge a charge

A ranking veteran of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office has been named by federal authorities as the defendant in a criminal case opened last week by prosecutors.

Darryl Stewart, who had been the commander of Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s narcotics division, resigned from his post Monday.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office filed a single count of theft of government funds, a felony, in connection with time sheets filed by Stewart as part of a federally-funded

program to enforce laws against alcohol and tobacco purchases by minors.

Conviction can result in a prison term of up to 10 years. Stewart was not arrested on the charge, but was issued a summons, returnable in federal court.

Polite’s staff would not provide details of the case. But The Times confirmed in November that two high-ranking Terrebonne deputies were under investigation in connection with the Juvenile Underage Drinking Enforcement program.

Discrepancies were alleged to have occurred during 2008 and 2012, during the administration of former sheriff Vernon Bourgeois.

Stewart did not comment Monday but has in the past maintained that he was not involved in wrongdoing.

“I have never taken the oath that I swore approximately 25 years ago lightly,” Stewart said. “Nor have I ever done anything to betray that oath.”

Other members of the department expressed shock and sadness.

“He is the best cop we ever had,” said one officer who has worked closely with Stewart, but asked not to be identified because authorization had not been secured to speak publicly.

After receiving an anonymous tip in 2012 that there were problems with the JUDE timesheets, Larpenter notified the FBI as well as former Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

“There does not appear to be any evidence of criminal intent on the part of any of the participants in the grant,” a 2012 letter to Larpenter from Attorney General Investigator Kurt Wall’s letter states.

The FBI performed its own investigation, matching the facts against applicable federal laws, culminating in the single charge against Stewart. His federal court appearance date has not yet been set.

The charge Stewart faces may be brought against “whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use … (a) thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract

for the United States or any department or agency thereof.”

The law says that for guilt to attach, the person would have had to have knowledge.

A key aspect of the Attorney General’s decision that a crime had not been committed under state laws was the lack of intent.

A federal official with knowledge of the case said a guilty plea is expected in connection with Stewart’s charge, which is believed still under negotiation. •

Darryl Stewart