Sheriff Under Criminal Investigation for Theft from Undocumented Immigrants

Sheriff Nathan Johnson, of Real County, is under investigation for felony theft.
Nathan Todd Johnson

Real County Sheriff being Investigated for Illegal Seizures

(TX) – A Republican Texas sheriff, Nathan Todd Johnson, is under investigation by the Texas Rangers. On December 7, a search warrant was issued for four different properties owned by the Real County Sheriff’s Office. The warrant was in regards to a stop that occurred on October 27.

Edward County deputies assisted Real (ree-al) County deputies in a suspicious vehicle stop. The vehicle contained three undocumented immigrants. Before turning the immigrants over to Border Patrol, the Real County deputies confiscated their money and the vehicle. Sheriff Johnson arrived at the scene “in a Real County Sheriff’s Office vehicle towing a flatbed trailer,” to take the seized vehicle.

Fortunately, Edward County deputy, Felix Ruiz, recognized that this was a violation of the asset forfeiture laws and protected himself by requesting the Border Patrol agent supply him with a Memorandum of Investigation. This memorandum may have been the beginning of the investigation into the Real County Sheriff’s Office.

Criminal Investigator Reviews Body Cam Video

Texas Ranger Ricardo Guajardo appears to be the lead criminal investigator on the case and is the one who wrote the warrant request. Regarding the body cam video, Guajardo writes the following:

Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson acknowledges the currency seized will be filed under abandoned cash and deposited in the Real County General Fund after a disposition order is obtained. Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson explains he will attempt to identify the registered owner of the Toyota Tundra and notify them they have 30 days to claim the Toyota Tundra. Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson explains if the owners of the Toyota Tundra fail to do so, the Toyota Tundra would be considered abandoned property and sold at the next auction. Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson admits this procedure eludes having to file Chapter 59 paperwork. Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson admits, if he files Chapter 59 proceedings, he must serve the owners with paperwork and the vehicle is seized under Chapter 59 guidelines which would cause him to split the proceeds. 

In other words, the sheriff is admitting to intentionally and knowingly violating the law in order to take possession of the property. And that doesn’t even include the money that was taken. They had nothing that indicated the money was part of a crime, which is the criteria for seizing it.

More Info in Search Warrant

The comments by the sheriff, caught on the body cameras weren’t the only things listed in the probable cause section of the search warrant. Texas Ranger Guajardo lists comments made during interviews with various members of law enforcement who were present during the stop. The following statements can be found in the warrant.

Deputy Matthew Christian stated seizing currency from undocumented immigrants and the driver has been the standard operating procedure for as long as he has been employed by the Real County Sheriff’s Office from January 2021 to present time. 

Corporal Jennifer Harvey stated she always calls Real County Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson when seizing currency. Corporal Jennifer Harvey stated she has attended asset forfeiture training in the past. Corporal Jennifer Harvey stated the Real County Sheriff’s Office procedure regarding seized currency was under the direction of Sheriff Nathan Todd Johnson and 38th Judicial District Attorney Christina Busbee.

You have a law enforcement officer who has no idea what he is doing. He was unable to cite what law allowed him to seize the money when asked by Texas Ranger Guajardo. Then you have a ranking officer, a corporal, who implies she knows it’s wrong, but does it anyway because the sheriff and the district attorney said to. And lastly you have a sheriff who admits he is attempting to circumvent the law to get money.

Did District Attorney Know What was Going On?

I haven’t heard anything regarding District Attorney Busbee. According to Corporal Harvey, the district attorney knew what was going on. Real County only has a population of about 3,400 people. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine that she didn’t know the money flowing into the county’s general funds wasn’t being validated with paperwork. After all, that paperwork would have gone through her office. But the investigation is ongoing. Documentation has been requested from 2017 through the present. We’ll see who gets caught up in the sweep.

Sheriff Accused of Theft

Texas Ranger Guajardo writes in the warrant, “I believe Nathan Todd Johnson is committing felony offense of theft by a public servant, abuse of official capacity and other possible criminal offenses.” 

According to KSAT 12, “After his offices were raided in December, Johnson said in a Facebook post that he didn’t know what prompted the investigation, had not been arrested and would continue to serve his constituents.”

Hopefully, his service will come to an end along with his peace officer’s license and his freedom.

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