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The Texas Tribune
The Texas Tribune
William Melhado

Former DA investigator faces federal heroin trafficking and money laundering charges

A federal jury found a former investigator with the Waller County District Attorney’s office guilty of money laundering and attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced Tuesday.

Alex Kassem transported heroin and cartel money in his marked police vehicle, between San Antonio, Houston and Louisiana, according to the release. He was paid $31,000 for transporting the drugs, which he hid in evidence bags, while wearing his Waller County peace officer credentials and a county-issued firearm.

“Alex Kassem was a criminal in disguise. He cloaked himself in his trusted position as a licensed peace officer and Waller County DA investigator while working to enrich himself by shamelessly moving money and drugs in his work vehicle and hidden in his police vest,” Douglas Williams, the special agent in charge of the FBI Houston Field Office, said in a statement.

Of the four charges brought against Kassem, he was found not guilty in two: another money laundering charge and possession of a firearm while committing a drug trafficking crime.

Warren Diepraam, Kassem’s lawyer, said he is working to completely exonerate Kassem in the trial court given the inconsistent verdict.

“Because he was exonerated on two cases, it is our position that he should have been cleared of all cases,” Diepraam said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “Barring a complete exoneration, we will appeal.”

In a Facebook post from April 2021, the Waller County District Attorney’s office described Kassem as a “long time county employee.” Elton Mathis served as the district attorney at the time Kassem was indicted. Mathis now serves as the Waller County Court at Law Number Two judge.

“Mr. Kassem had been a valuable employee, and that makes his indictment and subsequent conviction all the more difficult on a personal level,” Mathis said. “I also appreciate the time and effort the jury put into examining the evidence and ensuring that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Mr. Kassem benefitted from a fair process.”

The jury deliberated for eight hours after hearing audio and watching video recordings of each transaction Kassem participated in, the Justice Department announced. Kassem told the jury that he was acting on behalf of the district attorney’s office, conducting undercover investigations, according to the federal agency’s release. Kasser’s former employer refuted those claims.

“Today’s conviction brings Kassem one step closer to exchanging his peace officer attire for prison-issued garb, and to restoring a trust once lost,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani said in a statement.

For the heroin trafficking conviction, Kassem faces life in prison. Additionally, he’s facing up to 20 years for money laundering and could be ordered to pay up to $10 million in fines. The Justice Department announced that sentencing was set for June 13.

“While in this case information presented at trial showed that Mr. Kassem has no co-conspirators, the FBI remains open to receiving tips regarding law enforcement corruption,” Connor Hagan, the public affairs officer for the FBI Houston bureau, told The Texas Tribune.

Disclosure: Facebook has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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