FBI: Arkansas lawman extorted informants to acquire stolen guns, vehicle

David Chastain (Photo courtesy: Pulaski County jail)

An Arkansas lawman whom federal authorities arrested Tuesday arranged for a criminal informant to sell him stolen assault rifles and coerced an informant into stealing an all-terrain vehicle for him, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday in federal court.

David Charles Chastain, a special investigator with the Arkansas County sheriff's office, faces a charge of interference with commerce by threats or violence, specifically extortion under color of official right.

Two criminal informants had reportedly been working with Chastain, 46, of Stuttgart, for months in exchange for reduced charges or sentences. Chastain coerced one of the informants into stealing him an ATV from a duck hunting club in Clarendon on Nov. 28 in exchange for $1,000 and favorable treatment in a drug case, according to the affidavit.

The court filing says Chastain, a former Arkansas State Police trooper and former Stuttgart police officer, also arranged to buy three stolen rifles from an informant. He reportedly wanted the guns -- an AK-47 assault rifle, a Colt M16A1 assault rifle and a Winchester M14 rifle -- for his gun collection.

Special agent Aaron Green wrote in the affidavit that the informants "were worried that if they did not comply with Chastain's demands, Chastain would diminish or refuse to give them credit for previous cooperation."

Chastain, who was part of a drug task force in the area, is also accused of propositioning a criminal informant for sex.

The informants reported Chastain's activity to the FBI earlier this month and provided the agency with video and audio recordings, as well as text messages, that show his involvement in the crimes, according to the affidavit.

The FBI said that after the ATV theft, Chastain texted: "Man getting that thing is probably the only thing I have really done wrong in my life. Y'all take care of me I will take care of y'all. As long as y'all don't do anything stupid y'all are golden. Just don't do anything without me knowing about it ahead of time."

In other texts, according to the affidavit, Chastain suggested that an informant wear a long-sleeve shirt and a mask as part of a plan to steal firearms from a storage unit.

The FBI and Arkansas State Police, after being told of the scheme, provided an informant with three rifles that Chastain agreed to buy for $300, the affidavit says. The agencies arrested Chastain after the transaction Tuesday morning.

Authorities said they searched Chastain's home at 1150 Bob Davis Road and found the stolen ATV.

After he was arrested, Chastain "admitted to using his power as a law enforcement officer" to coerce the informants into stealing the ATV and to making the informants "locate stolen firearms or steal firearms for his personal benefit," according to the affidavit.

The Arkansas County sheriff's office could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Cody Hiland, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, issued a statement Wednesday on Chastain's arrest.

“The investigation, [which] includes allegations of stolen firearms and extortion, is ongoing and will continue after today’s court appearance,” Hiland said. “This law enforcement officer was placed in a position of public trust, and will be held accountable for any abuse of that trust. Any allegations of this sort will be thoroughly investigated and taken extremely seriously.”

Chastain was being held in the Pulaski County jail Wednesday.

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