LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- He is a life-long resident of Bullitt County, a “good ol’ boy” who is married and owns two car lots, his attorney says.
And he was a special deputy with the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department.
But federal prosecutors say Chris Mattingly also is a major drug trafficker, with connections to a Mexican cartel. They claim he has distributed drugs and shipped large sums of cash across the country, making at least eight trips to Mexico in the last year.
Prosecutors also say Mattingly has been plotting to kill a member of the Bullitt County Sheriff Department’s Drug Task Force who was investigating him. Earlier this month, he was indicted for conspiracy to distribute more than a ton of marijuana.
“He is a serious danger to the community,” Assistant United States Attorney Larry Fentress told a federal judge Tuesday, asking that Mattingly remain in jail until his trial.
More specifically, Fentress said, Mattingly is a danger to Capt. Mike Halbleib of the Drug Task Force, which has been leading the 16-month investigation.
“I’m going to see to it that Halbleib is killed,” Mattingly told a confidential informant, according to Fentress. For months, Halbleib has had “armed guards” at his home for protection, Fentress told federal Judge Colin Lindsay.
Speaking about other officers investigating him, Fentress said Mattingly allegedly told an informant: “I’ll blow their brains out and say it was self-defense.”
But an attorney for Mattingly, 27, said it's his client who has been harassed and threatened by Halbleib and the other officers, pulled over and searched at gunpoint repeatedly in the last year.
“Frankly he doesn’t want anything to do with Halbleib,” Brian Butler told the judge. “He never had any intention of harming Halbleib.”
The investigation into Mattingly started more than 2,200 miles away, when he surfaced last year talking on a wiretap investigators had on a drug cartel member in Riverside, California, Fentress said in U.S. District Court Tuesday.
Since then, working with information obtained in wiretaps on Mattingly and the California drug cartel, police have seized hundreds of thousands of dollars they claim are linked to Mattingly.
In May 2014, for example, a Shepherdsville man who said he was working for Mattingly was pulled over in California with $420,000 in cash, which was seized. So far, only Mattingly is facing charges.
Fentress said investigators had to indict Mattingly quicker than they would have liked because of the threat to Halbleib. He said the investigation is ongoing.
In October, investigators seized $237,000 in cash linked to Mattingly, Fentress said in court. They took another $60,000 in November from a cooler in a vehicle at Mattingly’s car lot in Breckinridge County. A search of a farm Mattingly owns in Breckinridge County in March 2015 turned up another $20,000 and several weapons, Fentress said.
During at least part of the time Mattingly has been under investigation, he was serving as a special deputy to the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department.
Special deputies are appointed by the sheriff and have the same powers as a regular deputy, with some exceptions, such as not being allowed to make arrests in domestic violence cases.
In July, WDRB News asked the sheriff’s department for Mattingly’s personnel file and was told he did not have one. He worked as a special deputy in 2013 and 2014, the department said.
In reviewing court records, WDRB could not find that Mattingly made any arrests during the time he served as a special deputy.
Capt. Mike Murdoch, a spokesman for the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department, said he could not comment on Mattingly’s time with the department because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
His badge was taken after he was pulled over last September by Halbleib, several drug task force members, a Louisville Metro Police Department narcotics detective and other officers, according to court documents and interviews. Mattingly was stopped at Preston Highway and Grade Lane in Louisville on Sept. 4, 2014, for speeding and failing to use turn signals, court records show.
Mattingly showed officers his Bullitt County Special Deputy Badge and called Sheriff Dave Greenwell during the stop, attempting to verify he was a deputy, according to a summary of the incident in court records.
While he was on the phone with Greenwell, Mattingly repeatedly attempted to have LMPD Det. Chris Sanders talk with the sheriff, according to court records.
“Sanders refused and told Mattingly to hang up the phone,” according to the summary.
Officers found a small amount of marijuana and several pills in the vehicle. A subsequent search of a home Mattingly has in Louisville found more marijuana and steroids.
Attorney Brian Butler said the case is an example of the harassment Mattingly has faced.
While Mattingly had only a small amount of marijuana and some pills, Butler said he was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury before the pills were tested. Subsequently, when it came back that the pills were steroids, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office agreed to allow Mattingly to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, which has since been dismissed.
After that incident, Mattingly went to an automobile auction for his work and discovered that Bullitt drug task force members had told people at the auction that Mattingly was under a federal wire tap, Butler said.
In addition, Halbleib has threatened Mattingly “with life in prison and to take everything he has,” Butler said in court Tuesday.
The harassment was so bad, Butler said, that Mattingly talked with him and his co-counsel, Alex Dathorne, about filing a lawsuit against Halbleib. The attorneys advised against it, Butler said in court.
And Mattingly has known he was under investigation for 15 months, Butler said, without any harm coming to Halbleib.
“Nothing has happened,” Butler said. If investigators have taped conversation of Mattingly threatening to kill Halbleib, it is nothing more than “hyperbole,” he said.
After hearing the evidence Tuesday, Judge Lindsay ordered Mattingly held while awaiting a trial scheduled for November.
“I’m not saying you were going to do it, Mr. Mattingly,” Judge Lindsay said of the alleged threat to Halbleib. But while Mattingly is presumed innocent of the drug charges, the judge found there was a “real threat” to Halbleib, and he “can’t be unkilled.”
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