In 2009, a small East Texas town was thrust into national headlines after a CNN segment on Anderson Cooper 360 reported on a high number of traffic stops, which all resulted in the seizure of money.

But that wasn't the real story, says a retired FBI agent who has written a book on the case. There was a deeper level of crime and corruption, and even a mysterious murder.

That book, "Tenaha: Corruption and Cover-up in Small Town Texas," is retired FBI Special Agent Stewart Fillmore's first.

"Tenaha" tells the story of Barry Washington, who was a retired Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and a deputy city marshal in Tenaha when the segment aired. The town was spun into a federal investigation led by Fillmore, a Tyler native, who would spend a year and a half unraveling the fraud, corruption and that suspicious death.

The book also examines the large scale seizures of drugs and money on U.S. Highway 59, a major drug trafficking corridor.

The money's seizure and use for law enforcement purposes by city and county governments are legal, by Texas law, but in 2009, in Tenaha, the frequency was suspicious.

Although Washington was not convicted of any wrongdoing, the legendary narcotics interdiction officer's reputation would be damaged by accusations of racial profiling. When Washington was a state trooper, he patrolled U.S. Highway 59 and made many high profile drug arrests in the area.

"Barry got a bad reputation for this," Fillmore said. "Washington was an excellent patrolman. There was some worry about his use of controversial techniques, but through the investigation we found that every single one of his traffic stops started with the rightful probable cause for a law enforcement officer to pull someone over."

The book takes readers through Fillmore's investigation of city officials, their confessions and on to the federal indictments and sentencing hearings.

With the help of the Texas Rangers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Fillmore corroborated evidence of wiretapping, drugs, illegal guns, child pornography and elected officials breaking into an evidence room, stealing drugs and selling them.

Fillmore said the case was fascinating and various people had told him he should write a book.

"I naturally like writing and got plenty of practice from many years of writing reports and affidavits in the FBI," Fillmore said. "Although the style is certainly different from report writing, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it never felt like work to me."

This most likely won't be the only book Fillmore will author. His retirement plans include a fiction novel and another true-crime book.

"Right now, I'm working on a fictionalized version of an investigation I worked involving a ‘dirty' cop," Fillmore said. "I'm also talking with some retired law enforcement officers and FBI agents about a sad, tragic kidnapping and murder case in Tyler from the 1990s that emotionally impacted many people."

 

TWITTER: @LouAnnCampbell

Multimedia Journalist

I am a retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant. After a 21-year military career, in Security Forces, the military police of the Air Force, I went back to college for a journalism degree. I started working at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in June 2016.

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