First Responders

Feds: Chief Deputy in the Ozarks Sold Stolen Sniper Rifle, Grifted Taxpayers, Defrauded Bank

May 20, 2022Carl Prine

Then-Stone County Chief Deputy Sheriff Zachary Hunter Alexander speaks at a 2019 press conference in Arkansas. A federal grand jury has indicted Alexander for bank fraud, selling a stolen firearm, and extortion. Still from an Arkansas Attorney General video.

A chief deputy in an Ozark Mountains sheriff’s office sold a sniper rifle stolen from the property room, used bogus firearms and ammo sales and the power of his badge to repeatedly and flagrantly defraud taxpayers, and then cheated an Arkansas bank out of tens of thousands of dollars, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

On Thursday, May 19, Zachary Hunter Alexander, 36, of Fifty-Six, pleaded not guilty to selling the stolen rifle, bank fraud, and extortion under the color of official right. He was released without bail but must forfeit possession of his personal firearms.

If convicted of bank fraud, he faces up to 30 years behind bars, five years of supervised release when he exits federal prison, and a $1 million fine. Selling a stolen firearm could land him in a penitentiary for 10 years. Extortion runs 20 years.

Alexander ceased working for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office in early 2020.

“Yeah, I had to let him go once we found out about all this going on,” Stone County Sheriff Lance Bonds told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Sniper Rifle
Located in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Stone County is mostly forested and sparsely populated, with roughly 13,000 residents. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo.

Bonds said the case weighs heavily on his heart because he’d promoted Alexander at a young age to chief deputy, based partly on the man’s wartime service in the US Army.

“I hate it especially because of his military background,” Bonds said.

Neither Alexander nor his criminal defense attorney in Little Rock responded to Coffee or Die Magazine’s messages seeking comment.

A federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment against Alexander on May 2, but his problems appear to have begun in November of 2018.

That’s when federal prosecutors claimed he began to solicit donations from the Stone County Sheriff’s Foundation to purchase rifles styled like AR-15s for his law enforcement agency.

Sniper Rifle
Zachary Hunter Alexander, 36, of Fifty-Six, Arkansas, is a former chief deputy with the Stone County Sheriff’s Office. He’s pleaded not guilty to federal charges of selling a stolen sniper rifle, bank fraud, and extortion. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The Internal Revenue Service had recognized the foundation as a tax-exempt charity only seven months earlier. It’s registered to a Mountain View address that’s also the residence of a former sheriff’s deputy, who didn’t respond to messages from Coffee or Die.

On Dec. 3, 2018, Alexander received a Centennial Bank cashier’s check from the foundation for $4,160.36 so he could buy the rifles. On the same day, he deposited the check into his personal checking account at Stone Bank, according to his indictment.

On March 28, 2019, Alexander received five Palmetto State Armory AR-15 style firearms from a person identified in the court records only as “DW.” Federal investigators said DW hadn’t paid for the firearms, but on Oct. 2, 2019, an invoice signed by Alexander indicated that DW sold six, not five, of the weapons to the Stone County Sheriff’s Office, and the serial numbers listed for the rifles were fraudulent.

Alexander’s invoice triggered a $3,090 payment on the sheriff’s office credit card. According to the indictment, Alexander was the person who used the credit card to buy the rifles. Since DW couldn’t take a credit card payment, an unnamed local business converted the charge into cash for him.

“We sent the case to the state police, but the feds took it over,” Bonds said. “They were interested in the firearms.”

Sniper Rifle
Headquartered in the county seat of Mountain View, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office protects roughly 13,000 citizens across 610 square miles of Arkansas. Stone County Sheriff’s Office photo.

On June 3, 2019, Alexander received another cashier’s check from the foundation for $1,465.90 to buy two Remington 700 SPS Tactical 6.5 Creedmoor bolt-action sniper rifles for the sheriff’s office. Alexander had purchased the weapons from Buchanon Accuracy four days earlier, according to the indictment.

They were supposed to go into the sheriff’s property room, but prosecutors accused Alexander of having sold one of those rifles to someone listed as “RG” in the indictment.

Sheriff Bonds told Coffee or Die that the purchaser was a city police officer who never knew the rifle had been taken from the county property room.

“He bought it, and he had no reason to believe there was something wrong with it,” Bonds said.

Sniper Rifle
Headquartered in the county seat of Mountain View, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office protects roughly 13,000 citizens across 610 square miles of Arkansas. Stone County Sheriff’s Office photo.

On Jan. 2, 2020, Alexander obtained $3,273.85 from the Stone County treasurer to reimburse Mountain View Gun and Pawn for rifles, ammo, and equipment purchased for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office. Federal investigators said Alexander took the check to the pawn shop and asked the owner to cash it and give him the money.

Twenty-nine days later, Alexander used his authority as chief deputy to obtain a $5,000 check from the sheriff’s office to reimburse a bond so a person named “AP” in court documents could get out of jail, according to the indictment.

In reality, she didn’t have to pay a bond to exit jail. Alexander allegedly took AP to a bank, where she endorsed the check and gave the money to the chief deputy.

On Feb. 10, 2020, Alexander obtained $4,427.75 from the Stone County treasurer to reimburse Mountain View Gun and Pawn for rifles, ammo and equipment purchased for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office, but the shop cashed the check and Alexander pocketed the money again, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Alexander repeated this scheme nine days later with a $3,809.10 check and again on Feb. 25, 2020, with a $7,006.78 check.

“We honestly don’t know why he did this,” Bonds said. “We don’t know the motive.”

Sniper Rifle
Headquartered in the county seat of Mountain View, the Stone County Sheriff’s Office protects roughly 13,000 citizens across 610 square miles of Arkansas. Stone County Sheriff’s Office photo.

Prosecutors said Alexander later embarked on another scheme using three businesses he owned — Virtus Outdoors LLC, ZA Fishing LLC, and ZHA Outdoors. The companies employed a former sheriff’s deputy who is unnamed in the indictment.

On Sept. 9, 2021, Alexander allegedly directed the employee to write two checks to him from ZHA Outdoors’ Stone Bank account for $45,500 and $14,700, but the company only had $497.46 in the coffers. The checks bounced five days later, but by then Alexander had deposited all the money into his personal Farmers and Merchants Bank account, according to the indictment.

On the same day, Alexander ordered the employee to write a Virtus Outdoors check to ZA Fishing for $67,142.12, but there was only $50,239.17 in the Arvest Bank account, and the check was later returned for insufficient funds, investigators believe. According to the indictment, Alexander pocketed that money, too.

Also on the same day, Alexander allegedly directed his employee to cut another $50,000 check from ZA Fishing to ZHA Outdoors, and that check bounced, too. And then he directed the employee to reverse the same scheme, writing a $50,000 check to ZA Fishing from ZHA Outdoors.

Investigators said Alexander kept $50,000 for himself.

stone county
Much of Stone County, Arkansas, is carpeted by federal wildlands called the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. The 1.2 million acres of hardwood and pine trees are overseen by the US Forest Service. US Forest Service photo.

On Sept. 10, 2021, Alexander allegedly asked Farmers and Merchants Bank to draw from that pool of deposits in his personal account to cut cashier’s checks payable to Virtus Outdoors and a firm called “Tall Time” and to cut another check payable to his employee.

Federal investigators estimate Farmers and Merchants Bank lost $107,959.73 from the transactions.

According to his indictment, Alexander told the bank he “was in a legal battle with someone and the bad checks that were deposited into his personal account were from another company.” When a law enforcement officer began probing the suspicious transactions, Alexander allegedly blamed the losses on a $160,000 bad check passed to him, but federal prosecutors said no one had ever issued him that payment.

Alexander’s jury trial is slated to begin on June 21 in Little Rock, but defendants often request and are granted continuances.

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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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