PAPD officer on leave amid corruption allegations

Officer Rickey Antoine has become the face of PAPD traffic enforcement.

Although Port Arthur “traffic-policing juggernaut” Rickey Antoine is famous for being the kind of hard-hitting lawman that even wrote his own mother a speeding ticket, according to allegations that sparked an investigation currently underway, he is also the kind of officer that would set aside those tickets if the price – or shoe size – is right.

Officer Antoine is a staple in the Port Arthur community, writing a column for the local newspaper and speaking on city radio as an expert in the field of law enforcement, and his picture hangs prominently in the police department administrative office where he’s been employed as the face of the PAPD traffic unit for the last decade or so.

In a January 2016 BuzzFeed article by investigative reporters Alex Campbell and Kendall Taggart, Antoine is highlighted nationally for his tenacity on the beat.

“Police higher-ups say the traffic unit has made Port Arthur a safer place to drive,” the article reports. “The unit also caused the city’s yearly revenue from fines to soar, from $750,000 in 2006 up to as high as $2.1 million in 2012 before settling, most recently, at $1.5 million.

“But people who cannot afford to pay their fines — which can run to a thousand dollars or more — often wind up behind bars, leading to a great disparity in the consequences of traffic tickets on people’s lives.”

The article recounts Antoine’s recollection of writing his mother, Sadie Mae Antoine, a speeding ticket.

“She said, ‘Boy, quit playin’ with me,’” Antoine is quoted as saying. BuzzFeed writers couldn’t independently confirm that story, the article explains, since they could not reach his mother for comment and “a search of citations issued in Port Arthur in the last decade turned up no record of his mother’s ticket.”

Port Arthur resident Darwin Moore offered testimony to police and an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office last week that may explain why a ticket written for speeding doesn’t show up in the system anymore – he says Antoine is making them go away in exchange for “gifts” of goods that are trafficked through local businesses such as the Men’s Collection clothing store in Central Mall.

According to Moore, he, too, has benefitted from the system of paying for “gifts” at the behest of Officer Antoine in exchange for the disappearance of a traffic ticket.

“It’s been going on for years in our department,” Moore said, adding that the first time he paid for a ticket to go away was three years ago.

“Over the last three years, I’ve paid for at least three myself,” he said. “I have friends I know who paid, too. Sometimes, I’ve paid with cash. The last time, (Antoine) requested a pair of Stacy Adams shoes (that cost in excess of $100). The ticket never showed up on my record – nothing at all.

“To me, it was worth it because I’ve been given so many tickets to where my driver’s license was suspended for two years. It would be more profitable for me to buy him a mink suit than duck and dodge for two years trying to get this ticket off my record. I have over $5,000 in surcharges that I’m trying to pay down now.”

Moore said the way it works is the same day you get a ticket, you contact a scheme-friendly business like Men’s Collection at Central Mall, who then contacts Antoine. The store rep then tells the person trying to get the ticket removed what “gift” is being requested, and the ticketed driver (or friend or family member or other representative) goes in and pays for the gift. Then the ticket goes away.

“I wonder, did he receive a pair of Stacy Adams to take that ticket off his mama?” Moore quipped.

Moore told what he knew of the alleged scheme to officers from PAPD’s Internal Affairs Unit on Tuesday, May 9.

“This is not the first time I have talked to Internal Affairs, and I went to my City Council before,” Moore told The Examiner of attempts to bring other matters up for investigation long before now. “Then, they just swept it under the rug and didn’t want to hear it.”

This time was different.

“I will say … I believe these guys take this very seriously,” Moore said, commending PAPD’s Internal Affairs investigators currently on the case. Three days after Moore’s latest meeting with Internal Affairs investigators at PAPD, a case involving Antoine was forwarded to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, and the officer was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation that officials say is still ongoing.

Currently on leave amid the allegations of corruption, Antoine has not been criminally charged — at least not yet, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham said Wednesday, May 17, that the investigation is fairly fresh, as his office didn’t receive the case alleging wrongdoing until Friday, May 12.

“We’re going to continue to investigate it,” he said.

Wortham said his office could not confirm or deny any allegations of fact as asserted by Moore, instead referring questions of that nature back to Port Arthur Police Chief Patrick Melvin, who, according to division secretary Cyndi Simmons, does not answer calls from the media. A message was left for Melvin anyway, but was unanswered as of press time.

“The public needs to hear the truth,” Moore said. “We’ve got plenty of citizens here who care about what I’m talking about. They know PAPD has a history of this type of activity. A bunch of them in that department are crooked.

“They’re lining their pockets with the authority of the city of Port Arthur.”

According to a source close to the investigation and PAPD, administrative policy allows for tickets to be lawfully suspended and, unless it can be proven that “gifts” — if they were given —were required tit-for-tat in exchange for unlawfully making tickets vanish, criminality could be hard to establish. Barring any illegal activity, the remedy to resolve an officer suspending an elaborate amount of traffic tickets would be handled administratively. Moore said he never witnessed Antoine retrieve the “gifts” he bought for the officer, as he only paid for the merchandise and left it with the store to forward. He said he has no doubts of the officer’s involvement, however, due to three-way phone conversations between himself, the store middleman, and Antoine. A store representative originally named in the investigatory complaint denied participating in paying off the PAPD officer in exchange for dropping tickets.

“There’s more to the story than that,” he said, “but I’m not going to be talking about it.”

“I don’t care if they try to say this is administrative or not, we know it’s a crime (for an officer) to ask for a ‘gift’ in exchange for making a ticket go away,” Moore said. “They don’t let us get by with anything. I don’t see why a Port Arthur Police officer should be allowed to either.”

Moore said he knows he’s not going to be getting any favors, or dismissed traffic tickets, anytime soon.

“I have nothing to gain by coming forward with this, but it is my hope that this creates a path so more people can come forward,” Moore said, elaborating on the official corruption he feels Port Arthur citizens witness every day that has, until now, been allowed to blatantly run amok. “I honestly think that if anybody has information, we finally have an Internal Affairs department that will listen.”

Anyone with information on this case or others involving official corruption at PAPD can contact Internal Affairs Sgt. Reagan Sweat at (409) 983-8614.