Charles David Chastain, a former volunteer deputy in the Arkansas County Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Tri-County Drug Task Force where he used criminal informants to develop drug cases in Arkansas County and surrounding areas, was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in federal prison for extorting confidential informants to steal an ATV and firearms, according to a news release from Cody Hiland, US Attorney for the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office.
“Law enforcement officers and their families make sacrifices every day to protect and serve our communities. Unfortunately, when an officer is found to have abused their position, the trust and respect that law enforcement works so hard to maintain is undermined. A violation of that sacred public trust will not be tolerated,” Hilland said. “Today’s sentence is a reflection of the fundamental principle that no one is above the law, and an officer who abuses his position will be held accountable.”
In February, a federal jury found Chastain guilty of Hobbs Act extortion, attempted Hobbs Act extortion, and receipt of a firearm with intent to commit a felony. Testimony during the trial established that two confidential informants worked for Chastain in an effort to reduce criminal charges, according to the news release.
Chastain, in the fall of 2017, 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, according to the news release.
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, according to the news release.
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, according to the news release.
In addition to 30 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Leon Judge Holmes sentenced Chastain to one year of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Arkansas State Police, investigated the case.