Sheriff fires officer after sting arrest


PARAGOULD -- Greene County Sheriff Steve Franks terminated the employment of Lt. Scott Pillow, 55, from the sheriff's office in light of his indictment this week on a charge of theft of government property.

"Our office will not tolerate anything but utmost integrity and honesty among our staff and our law enforcement," Franks said in a statement. "The Greene County Sheriff's Office is committed to working with other law enforcement agency partners to conduct public corruption investigations."

Cody Hiland, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced Thursday the return of an indictment charging Pillow, of Paragould, with theft of government property, specifically $30,400 of FBI funds. A federal grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday night.

The federal indictment states that the FBI conducted a ruse narcotics investigation leading to the seizure of funds by Pillow.

Specifically, the indictment states, an FBI Task Force officer parked a rental vehicle Monday in the parking lot of Lowes in Paragould. Staged in the unattended vehicle was a glass pipe and a backpack containing $76,000 divided into 10 bundles of $7,600 each.

Other FBI agents called Pillow by cell phone and asked him to respond to the scene at Lowes, saying they were Tennessee law enforcement officers who had gotten to the location during a narcotics investigation. They said they could not investigate further than surveillance of the vehicle and wanted an Arkansas law enforcement officer to search the vehicle.

The indictment alleges that Pillow searched the car and then was asked to let the officers know how much money was in the backpack after he counted it. Pillow went to the Greene County Sheriff's Office, the indictment states, and later called one of the agents who posed as a Tennessee law enforcement officer and told him that the backpack had $45,600 in it.

A search warrant was executed Tuesday at Pillow's home in Paragould. While being patted down by Arkansas State Police Trooper Joe Pickett, who is a Task Force officer with the FBI, Pickett reported finding a large bundle in a cargo pocket of Pillow's pants. He removed a stack of currency, according to the indictment, and one of the bills was compared to, and matched, the serial number of one of the bills that had been placed in the backpack.

There also was a positive match of serial numbers for money that was located in a safe in Pillow's garage, and the indictment states that officers also found fake $100 bills for movie production use.

Pillow was released on his own recognizance Wednesday. As standard conditions of release from federal custody pending trial, Pillow must not violate any federal, or state law while on release. He is also required to cooperate in the collection of a DNA sample if it is authorized, and must tell the court of any change in his residence or telephone number.

Pillow is also required to appear in court, in Little Rock, and he was ordered to stay away from the Greene County Sheriff's and Arkansas State Police offices.

Other standard conditions of release include a requirement for Pillow to avoid all contact, direct or indirectly with any person who is or may be a victim or witness in the investigation. He is also required to abstain from alcohol while out of custody.

The statutory penalty for theft of government property is not more than 10 years in prison, not more than a $250,000 fine and not more than three years of supervised release.

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