SAN ANTONIO – The KSAT Investigates team kicked off the new year in 2022 by debuting an award-winning hour-long special.
“Necessary Evil: The Cost of Confidential Informants” premiered in early February and would later earn an Emmy nomination from the Lone Star chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The investigative special focused on a handful of drug cases handled by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office that led to the wrongful convictions of at least four suspects.
Years after the suspects were convicted of possessing large amounts methamphetamine, it was discovered the confidential informant used by narcotics investigators had planted the drug evidence in several cases.
In fact, it was the first time the agency had used the informant. It appears every case he was involved in was corrupted by him planting the drugs deputies would later find when raiding the locations.
Three of the suspects were freed from prison and ultimately had their convictions overturned, but not before one of the suspects died from a terminal illness her family members insisted was made worse by her wrongful imprisonment.
Investigative Reporter Tim Gerber and Photojournalist Dale Keller traveled from San Antonio to Washington D.C. and to Harvard University to get nationally recognized experts to weigh in on the bungled cases and provide some easy solutions local law enforcement and the criminal justice system could employ to prevent these types of incidents from occurring.
Despite serving three years on bogus drug charges, none of the suspects were compensated for the time they spent behind bars.
The family of the suspect who died is now suing Bexar County, the sheriff, the former Bexar County district attorney and the deputy who used the untested informant.
Lone Star Skoolie Conversions
In May, KSAT Investigates exposed a local businessman who was accused of ripping off dozens of customers from around the country after they hired him to convert old school busses into recreational vehicles they could live out of.
Customers from California to Philadelphia shared their horror stories of dealing with Benjamin Potts-Rodriguez and his conversion company Lone Star Skoolie.
Many of the customers had spent tens of thousands of dollars to have their busses converted by Potts-Rodriguez, but they said all they got in return was the run around. From multiple missed deadlines to downright dangerous and potentially deadly defects, customers said they didn’t get what they paid for.
When KSAT Investigates reporter Tim Gerber confronted Potts-Rodriguez about his many unsatisfied customers, he had nothing but excuses and empty promises. He said he would fix all the mistakes or offer full refunds but has not refunded many of the customers who have demanded their money back.
Shortly after the story aired, Potts-Rodriguez quickly moved out of his warehouse and moved from location to location as his business continued to crumble. A few of the customers have now successfully sued Potts-Rodriguez in small claims court, but they doubt they’ll ever see their money. Ultimately, they’d like to Potts-Rodriguez criminally charged, but so far, no agency has been willing to take that step.
Records paint troubling picture unregulated Castle Hills nursing home
A June investigation uncovered a twice-sanctioned nurse who continued to operate an unregulated boarding home in Castle Hills, despite two previous criminal cases against her in Bexar County involving people in her care.
Julie Foster was able to continue using the home at 404 Antler Drive to house the elderly and people living with disabilities or mental illness in large part due to a lack of regulation within the San Antonio suburb, which does not have its own boarding home ordinance.
While a retired U.S. Air Force major housed by Foster recovered in a medical ward in late 2017, according to court records, Foster and a second woman stole multiple checks from the victim’s purse and forged her signature on them.
Each theft amounted to thousands of dollars from the hospitalized veteran, records show.
In June 2019, Foster and the other woman were indicted on multiple counts of felony theft by check under $30,000, records show.
Foster was granted deferred adjudication on both counts in October 2019 after pleading no contest, court records show.
County officials confirm Foster was released from community supervision early and the case was dismissed in August 2020 after she completed the terms of her probation.
Texas attorney general investigators issued a warrant for Foster’s arrest in March 2018, and she was charged with two counts of felony injury to a disabled person in a separate criminal case.
"Hello." See you Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. pic.twitter.com/l1KF5yj9vO— Dillon Collier (@dilloncollier) May 31, 2022
Years earlier, San Antonio Police Department officers responding to a disturbance call at a home in the 400 block of Marbella Vista encountered Foster, who “became upset and stated that she did not care about these mentally retarded people and that she wanted them out of the house,” a warrant for Foster’s arrest states.
The next day, according to the warrant, a second SAPD officer conducted a welfare check at the home and “observed a very strong foul odor emanating from the house.”
The officer found a woman slumped over while sitting at the kitchen table.
The woman had human feces on her dress, legs and feet and all around her, the warrant states.
One of the woman’s legs had obvious signs of infection, “was swollen to an abnormal size and fluids and pus were oozing from the wound,” the warrant states.
Several flies were gathered on the woman’s open leg wound, the paperwork states.
“(Her) foot was in a bucket so that the drainage would go into the bucket and not onto the floor. The bottom of the bucket had so much pus and drainage in it that it covered the bottom portion of her foot,” according to the warrant.
The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, however, has no disposition information on the case, and there are no public records available regarding the adjudication of the charges.
It’s possible Foster attempted to have the 2018 charge expunged from her record.
Foster, a licensed nurse since March 1992, has twice been sanctioned by the Texas Board of Nursing for violations that include leaving her nursing assignment without notifying a supervisor and initiating care for patients without a physician’s order.
Law enforcement agencies take in close to $10 million in excess military equipment
An investigation in July found that law enforcement agencies around the San Antonio area have taken in close to $10 million in excess military equipment as part of a controversial federal program.
The items, which would likely be destroyed otherwise, range from massive armored vehicles, to rifles and office supplies, Department of Defense records show.
The revelation comes amid continued criticism of the program, which some groups have blamed for contributing to the militarization of police in the United States.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the U.S. Congress allowed the transfer of surplus equipment from the DoD to law enforcement agencies without charging them for it.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 established the current adaptation of the program, nicknamed the “1033 program” after the section of the Act that authorizes it. It is administered by the DoD’s Defense Logistics Agency.
To date, the program has moved more than $7.6 billion in equipment, the program’s website states.