KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A former high-ranking officer in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is now under federal indictment accused of treating seized drug money as a personal piggy bank to benefit himself, an unnamed former Knox County Sheriff, and several co-conspirators. That sheriff is not identified by name in the indictment.

Knox County narcotics chief facing federal indictment
Former Knox County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief David Henderson

Assistant Chief David Henderson, head of the county’s Narcotics Unit, entered a not guilty plea in court today in response to a federal indictment handed down Feb. 16.

That indictment accuses Henderson of directing subordinates to use Narcotics Unit cash and credit cards to make purchases for personal use, as well as using Knox County vehicles, supplies and machinery to complete personal projects at Henderson’s home, the former sheriff’s home and at the homes of friends, family and acquaintances.

The document alleges that the Narcotics Unit credit card, which is assigned to the unit by the Knox County Government, was used to purchase approximately $138,000 of Apple electronics.

The Narcotics Unit is fully funded by the Knox County general fund. Three percent of that fund is made of federal grant money that is paid to provide for the housing of federal detainees in the Knox County Jail.

The Charge: One Count of Conspiracy to Commit Federal Program Fraud

Henderson has been indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud. The indictment details allegations against Henderson and “co-conspirators” for actions around 2011 through September 2018.

The federal indictment lists the following accusations:

  • Directing certain Narcotics Unit officers to perform renovation, remodeling and construction projects of a purely personal nature at various locations, including the private residence of an unidentified former Knox County Sheriff, at Henderson’s private residence, and the private residences of family members, associates and friends
  • Using Narcotics Unit cash to purchase items for their own personal use, and for that of a former Knox County Sheriff
  • Using the Narcotics Unit credit cards to purchase items for their own benefit, or for the benefit of family, associates or friends
  • Concealing the purchases that were made by submitting expense reports and credit card statements to the Knox County Finance Department and claiming the purchases were for official purposes when they knew they were not

Manner and Means

Henderson controlled the cash fund and credit cards for the Narcotics Unit. The indictment states Henderson did not personally use the Narcotics Unit credit card but instead directed subordinates to use the credit cards or cash “on several occasions.” Items were purchased for Henderson’s personal use and for the use of a former Knox County Sheriff, as well as family and friends of those in the Narcotics Unit.

A partial list of items listed in the indictment as being bought with Narcotics Unit credit card or cash:

  • A Narcotics Unit credit card was used to purchase $138,000 of Apple products from 2011 to 2018
  • In January and February of 2012, $1,400 in Nuvico security cameras were purchased for Henderson’s friends.
  • In May 2012, cash in the amount of $510,74 was used for a camouflage tactical optic rifle scope for former Knox County Sheriff
  • In November 2013, Yeti Coolers totaling $1,299.98 for Henderson’s and others’ personal use
  • In July 2014, two EO Tech thermal imagers totaling $6,000 were purchased, one of which was seized at Henderson’s residence during the execution of a search warrant in April 2020.
  • In August 2014, herbicide was purchased to treat the lawn at Henderson’s personal residence totaling $191.40
  • In February 2015, a Kobalt 7-inch tile saw was bought for $206.48 for Henderson’s personal use
  • In March 2015, a $379.99 Yeti Tundra cooler was seized during the April 2020 search warrant execution
  • In June 2015, A Google Nest indoor security system for $2,199.98 was installed at the residence of a friend of a KCSO Narcotics Unit officer
  • In February 2017, Dewalt framing items totaling $1,010,89 were used to complete a renovation project at Henderson’s home
  • In September 2017, a Mariner extinguisher and various camouflage cans of spray-paint were used to outfit the former Knox County Sheriff’s personal duck hunting boat.
  • In September 2017, post hole diggers for $29.49 were used to build a privacy fence at the former Knox County Sheriff’s personal residence

Apple products were purchased and distributed to narcotics officers of Henderson’s choosing, the indictment states.

“Henderson made sure that certain officers in the Narcotics Unit had access to the newest Apple products, especially those who subordinate officers who followed Henderson’s directions and assisted with various construction, remodeling, and renovation projects at Henderson’s direction including projects at the residences of Henderson’s family members, associates and friends,” the indictment states.

Henderson retired in April 2020, the same day an FBI investigation came to light.

Current Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said the investigation was over a matter that occurred before he took office. Spangler took office on Sept. 1, 2018, after winning an election against Lee Trammel.