FBI agent accused of stealing drug money to fund lavish spending
The FBI agent’s buying spree, prosecutors say, began in August when he put down $27,500 in cash for a sports car.
He dropped nearly $44,000 in cash several days later, this time for a Dodge Challenger. More than $25,000 more went to buy wheels and sound systems.
Shortly after, there was $15,000 for cosmetic surgery for his wife, and then a luxury vacation to Las Vegas with a girlfriend, where he paid $1,000 for tickets to a boxing match.
There was one catch, according to federal prosecutors: Scott M. Bowman was funding his extravagance using drug money he had stolen.
A grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday details the spending. Bowman, who was fired from the FBI in March, faces charges of stealing more than $100,000 that he and other law enforcement officials confiscated from suspected drug dealers, according to the indictment.
Bowman, 44, allegedly took cash from a series of drug investigations last year, according to the indictment.
In a few instances, Bowman pocketed several thousand dollars that had been taken off suspected methamphetamine dealers during investigations, the indictment claims.
Then, in August, Bowman, along with members of an anti-gang task force to which he was assigned, discovered several hundred thousand dollars in cash during a raid on a San Bernardino house that was thought to be part of a large heroin and cocaine distribution ring. The cash was sealed in evidence bags and locked in a safe at an FBI office for the night, the indictment says.
The following day, Bowman retrieved the cash to drive it to another facility, where it was to be counted. Bowman opened the evidence bags, removed “a substantial amount” of the cash and repackaged the remaining bills in new bags, according to the indictment.
Bowman “put his own greed above the trust placed in him by the FBI and the American public,” Assistant Atty. Gen. Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement. “Corrupt law enforcement agents not only compromise those investigations in which they are involved, but also damage the reputations of fellow law enforcement officers who are dedicated to public service and the protection of all Americans.”
In addition to the thefts, Bowman, of Moreno Valley, was charged with obstruction of justice, money laundering, falsification of records and witness tampering, the statement said.
Bowman pleaded not guilty during an appearance in U.S. district court in Riverside on Thursday afternoon, said his attorney Tony Raphael. He was later released from custody on an $80,000 bond, according to Raphael, who declined to comment further.
The indictment alleges that Bowman tried to conceal the source of his new spending by falsely telling colleagues he had received a $97,000 advance on his inheritance from his sick father.
He also falsely wrote on a report that a San Bernardino police detective had accompanied him to drop off the money at the cash-counting facility, the indictment says. Bowman forged the detective’s signature on a receipt he received when he delivered the money, prosecutors allege.
After a supervisor later asked about one of the seizures, Bowman sent an email to the detective providing him with a “cover story” to give to officials if he were asked about the money, according to the indictment, which does not name the detective. The detective was told to say he accompanied the agent to the cash-counting facility but did not go in with him, and then signed a receipt the agent brought out to him, the indictment says.
Bowman’s alleged crimes have already taken a toll. Prosecutors late last year walked away from one drug case in which Bowman was an investigator, according to the attorney for one of the defendants.
David J.P. Kaloyanides said he represented Morgan Cousins, one of several men who faced a host of drug charges that stemmed from an investigation by Bowman’s task force. In December, as the case was proceeding toward trial, prosecutors suddenly dropped all charges against the men without explanation, Kaloyanides said.
In March, Kaloyanides said he received a letter from the U.S. attorney’s office notifying him that Bowman had been fired and outlining allegations that he had stolen more than $15,000 confiscated during the investigation into the men’s alleged drug dealing.
The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times, also included mention of other misconduct that FBI officials suspected Bowman may have committed. On two occasions, Bowman is believed to have left drugs and guns that were seized as evidence beneath an office desk instead of securing them in an evidence locker as agents are required to do.
Kaloyanides said he represents two more people in pending drug cases in which Bowman was involved. He added that he knows of at least two additional people who pleaded guilty in cases in which Bowman was part of the investigation.
A spokesman for the U.S attorney’s office said prosecutors had alerted defense attorneys on cases in which Bowman may have played a role.
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times in your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.