DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned a DeKalb County police officer is caught up in a federal investigation.
Records show he found out about a stolen car the day it happened, but never went to go retrieve it.
"I just started crying to be honest with you, I busted out in tears," said Mary Mason, describing the day she returned home to find her 1968 Ford Mustang missing.
It had been parked along Frederica Street in Atlanta's Virginia Highland neighborhood. She called Atlanta police right away.
"I labored over that car, and I loved that car. The indication that he gave me was that I had little to no chance of getting it back," Mason said.
That was Oct. 7, 2011. What Mason did not know was the very same day DeKalb Police Detective Marion Lee Chadwick got a text on his cellphone containing a picture of Mason's missing car.
DeKalb Police Internal Affairs records show a man named Jeffrey Worstell sent the text, asking Chadwick to run the car's tag.
Georgia's Crime Information Computer listed the car as stolen.
"I would have expected that they would try to find the rightful owner. The car was registered, it had a tag on it," said Mason.
Two weeks later, the car did not have its tag on it when Worstell showed up at police headquarters. On Oct. 20, he said he'd just gotten the car and wanted a new vehicle identification number, to sell it.
Another detective remembered the car from Chadwick's search and arrested Worstell, after finding that text in his phone.
DeKalb police towed the car
for safekeeping according to the report.
At the same time, the United States Secret Service was already investigating Worstell, and the car company, Global Asset Consolidation.
Federal agents sent a letter to DeKalb police saying Chadwick had also become 'a subject in the investigation' and requested copies of his internal affairs files.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer filed an open records request for that file last summer, after learning Chadwick was on restricted duty. The DeKalb County Police Department did not provide the records until this month.
"I would certainly want to know what recourse I have because I feel sort of violated. These are the people that are supposed to protect us and look out for us, help us in these kinds of situations," said Mason.
She didn't know anything about that investigation until Fleischer showed her the report. Stunningly, she said she never even knew they had found her car.
"That is crazy," said Mason. "I don't understand that."
More than a year and a half after it vanished, Fleischer found the Mustang still sitting in a tow yard, a little worse for wear.
"I really want to see my car. I want to know what kind of shape she's in and get her back," Mason said.
Chadwick spent eight months on restricted duty before the DeKalb police chief returned him to patrol in July 2012.
But the department's internal affairs investigators never looked at his potential role in the federal case.
He told them his Secret Service interview distracted him; and he simply forgot to go get the Mustang. He said Worstell was just a confidential informant.
But DeKalb prosecutors dropped the charges against Worstell for insufficient evidence, saying police never gave them the complete file.
"The car was really just going to be something I could pass down to my daughter one day, after it was all fixed up and shiny and pretty and cool," she said. "I just want to make sure justice is served and this doesn't happen to another person."
Fleischer provided prosecutors the complete internal affairs file, and they've now decided to take another look at Worstell, and Chadwick's role in the case.
A DeKalb police representative said when the car was first located, detectives called Atlanta police to verify it. At that point, Atlanta police should have contacted Mason.
Records show a civilian communications employee tried once to reach her by phone, but never mailed her a required letter. An APD spokesman said he can't be sure why because that employee no longer works for the department.
Chadwick declined Fleischer's request for an on-camera interview, but by phone said he had no inappropriate relationship with Worstell, and never accepted any money or cars from him or his associates.
Chadwick also pointed out that he's a
20-year veteran of the DeKalb County Police Department, with a decorated service record.