Congressional staffer spent his off-hours pretending to be an FBI agent

This story from the Daily Beast about a congressional staffer impersonating an FBI agent is just crazy. In 2020 a couple of Secret Service agents in Washington, DC noticed what appeared to be an unmarked police car but something about the license plate looked off. It turned out it wasn’t a real undercover police car, it had just been made to look that way by a congressional staffer named Sterling Carter:

According to D.C. court documents, Carter had tricked out the otherwise boring sedan with blue emergency lights, a laptop computer mount on the front dashboard, a spotlight near the driver’s side view mirror, and even a barrier separating the front half from the back half—ready to transport detainees.

Carter, who was standing near his parked car, was wearing a black T-shirt that read “federal agent,” a police duty belt, a Glock pistol, extra ammunition, handcuffs, a radio, and an earpiece. That was enough to convince passersby, who kept thanking him for his service, according to court records.

The two Secret Service agents tried to get closer but Carter seemed to be trying to avoid them. When they ran the license plate for his car, it came up blank. At that point they called a Joint Operations Center and uniformed Secret Service agents on bicycles were sent to confront Carter.

When five bicycle cops with the Secret Service approached him, Carter simply said he was “FBI,” according to a police report. His baseball cap and facemask made it difficult to identify his face, the police report said. When they asked him for credentials, he said he didn’t have them on him, then flipped on his emergency lights and sped away. One agent pedaled as hard as he could on an electric bike through several D.C. streets, but gave up after a few blocks for “officer safety reasons,” the report says.

An investigation was opened involving the Capitol Police, the Secret Service and the FBI. One Secret Service agent recognized the shirt the suspect was wearing and traced it back to a single shop in Florida. After receiving a list of everyone who’d bought that particular shirt, he narrowed it down to one person who lived in the DC area and matched the description of the suspect: Sterling Carter. Several weeks later, the investigators learned that Carter was a congressional staffer who worked for Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Illinois.

His neighbors told federal agents they’d seen Carter dress up like law enforcement before, openly carrying his firearm—which is illegal in the District of Columbia for anyone other than police—and they remembered Carter referring to his fake police car as his “work vehicle.”

Secret Service agents with a search warrant broke into Carter’s home on New Year’s Day 2021, where an affidavit says they found his Glock 19 pistol, the extra magazines, ammunition, and even the receipt for the police car siren.

Carter was eventually arrested in Georgia. Investigators then learned that he’d given himself an $80,000 raise as a staffer by forging the name of Rep. Schneider’s chief of staff on documents. He was charged in that crime and pleaded guilty. He’ll be serving a 9 month sentence for the theft but prosecutors dropped the charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer and he avoided any prison time for illegally carrying a firearm in Washington, DC.