Danger Comes From Those You’d Least Suspect

By: Jan Kemp

In January 2012, Jason Thomas Scott, 28, was sentenced to 100 years in federal prison on 11 felony charges relating to a series of crimes committed during more than 50 burglaries and nine armed home invasion robberies. The convictions included armed carjacking, production of child pornography, theft of firearms and related gun charges, according to the U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, for the District of Maryland.

Image of Jason Thomas Scott. He was sentenced to 100 years in federal prison on 11 felony charges relating to a series of crimes.

Scott's criminal career started early. He was arrested in 2001 at the age of 16 on a burglary charge. His crimes seemed to be minor back then, but as time progressed so did the level of his violent crimes.

In 2009, ATF agents John Cooney and Dave Cheplak initiated an investigation into the illegal activities of Scott, who was selling firearms out of a UPS parking lot. The investigation resulted in the purchase of 15 stolen firearms and then the subsequent recovery of 48 stolen weapons, including silencers and machineguns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

During the course of the investigation, it was revealed Scott, the ring-leader of a small criminal group, participated in dozens of crimes to include the burglary of a Maryland federal firearms licensee (FFL). When agents brought Scott in, along with his attorney, to talk about the guns, Scott passed a list of approximately 40 addresses across the table to the agents. The agents looked at the list and questioned what it was. Scott admitted to burglarizing the homes on the list and said that nine of them were at gun point.

"We knew at this point in the proffer session, speaking with Scott about the theft and sales of firearms from the FFL, that these addresses, nine of which included locations where Scott and his associates committed the armed home invasions, dramatically changed the course of the investigation," said Cooney. "We knew we were looking at someone who was doing way more than illegally selling guns."

Agents Cooney and Cheplak contacted their local counterparts Detectives Tony Schartner and Bernie Nelson at the Prince George's Police Department (PGPD). Det. Schartner arrived at the ATF offices to discuss this new information, as he and Det. Nelson were working a parallel investigation into home invasion robberies and murders in PG County. At this point, the detective realized that more than likely Scott could be responsible. The four joined forces as the investigation took on a new direction.

As the investigation into Scott and his three other associates progressed, interviews led the ATF agents and PGPD to understand Scott was a professional criminal who was very methodical and extremely dangerous.

Scott selected the homes to target using internet searches and a database at the Landover, Md., UPS facility where he worked. He would observe the homes to assess the number of occupants and vehicles present at each residence. He would then come back and cut phone lines to disable the alarm systems, and gain entry through unlocked windows or by smashing glass windows and doors.

During one of the armed home invasions, Scott sexually assaulted a minor at gun point and took pornographic pictures and video of himself conducting the assault. Through the course of the investigation, ATF agents worked closely with PGPD Homicide detectives and suspected that Scott could also be responsible for other murders within PG County.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Scott wore dark clothing, a black balaclava mask, black gloves, and carried a black backpack with a flashlight and various burglary tools during the burglaries and home invasions. Scott used a police scanner with an earpiece to monitor police communications and police activity in the immediate area. During the home invasions, Scott also carried a handgun and wore a holster. The evidence showed Scott stole money; computers and computer accessories; flat screen televisions; firearms; safes; debit and credit cards; cell phones; and vehicles. After their escapades, Scott and his associates would use a vacant home, which he nicknamed the "Spooky House," to divide up their stolen loot.

ATF, laboratory personnel, computer forensics experts and the PGPD waged a careful and meticulous investigation against a calculating and dangerous criminal.

Special Agent Cheplak, who goes after the worst society has to offer, was even given pause when one night he ended up clearing his own home when the power went off thinking it was Scott breaking into his home.

"Even though I was able to determine Scott, who was on supervised electronic monitoring and not in custody, wasn't responsible for the power going out, I realized just how dangerous he was and that he needed to be off the streets," said Cheplak.

Scott later pleaded guilty to the murders of Delores and Ebony Dewitt. He was also found guilty of carjacking, firearms violations, and child pornography production and sentenced to 100 years in federal prison.

Last Reviewed September 22, 2016