Home Cd converter Houston’s Scrap King’s Ox with HPD sergeant climaxes

Houston’s Scrap King’s Ox with HPD sergeant climaxes

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The Houston junkyard tycoon has a bone to pick up with a copper.

Dennis Laviage, a business owner best known for buy Houston leftovers with $ 2 bills, is at the heart of a civil rights lawsuit against the former Houston police sergeant. Jesse Fite, who is accused of withholding evidence from a judge in order to have Laviage arrested in 2016. Fite attempted to circumvent liability with a qualified immunity defense, but a federal judge in Houston ruled on December 2 that the case could go ahead against the sergeant. – a rare event for anyone trying to prosecute law enforcement officers for wrongdoing, according to Laviage’s lawyers.

As the owner of C&D Scrap Metal, Laviage has at times worked closely with HPD’s metal theft unit, which was led by Fite before it retired from the force in May. Fite cracked down on metal thieves throughout Bayou town, and Laviage worked diligently to detect any stolen material passed on by a vendor. C&D scrap the website is currently asking customers to contact Fite directly about any concerns. The two were even cited side by side in a 2020 article on the recent increase in catalytic converter theft in Houston in the Houston Chronicle.

Beneath the camaraderie, however, is an ongoing feud between the two that began months before Laviage’s arrest in 2016 over a discrepancy in the documents, of which he was ultimately found not guilty.

Dennis Laviage, owner and CEO of C&D Scrap Metal, shows off the catalytic converters his company picked up on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Houston.

Yi-Chin Lee, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

“Believe me, I should have been thrown in jail once or twice in the past 60 years,” Laviage said on the phone Monday. “But not for this chicken business.”

In Texas, scrap buyers like Laviage are required to report their purchases to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The City of Houston also requires that they submit reports to a national database called Leads Online. This is in part so that law enforcement can track down potential metal thieves who sell stolen trash to unsuspecting buyers.


In 2015, C&D Scrap Metal used a program called Scrap dragon to complete the appropriate forms and send them to DPS and Leads Online. In the summer of that year, a glitch in Scrap Dragon held up a handful of reports from C&D to DPS, but all reports were still pending with Leads Online. Once Laviage was made aware of this, he informed the police and insisted that he manually report to DPS until the software issue was resolved.

As of November 2015, Fite began what a federal judge called a “fishing expedition” against Laviage and C&D Scrap Metal. He was recently promoted to head of HPD’s metal theft unit in early summer 2015, according to the lawsuit. Fite and his officers ignored Laviage’s repeated calls about the software glitch and continued to accuse him of not reporting to the DPS.

During the investigation, Laviage claims that Fite sometimes turned rude and unprofessional, according to the lawsuit. Laviage filed a formal complaint with the HPD about the persistence of Fite and other issues, but the police department dismissed it.

Laviage accused Sgt.  Jesse Fite for being unprofessional at times during the investigation.  On one occasion, during an inspection of C&D Scrap Metal in December 2015, Fite walked around the counter and pressed a silent alarm behind the company's counter, believing it would open the front door to a colleague, according to a lawsuit.  The police rushed to the scene but of course found no emergency.

Laviage accused Sgt. Jesse Fite for being unprofessional at times during the investigation. On one occasion, during an inspection of C&D Scrap Metal in December 2015, Fite walked around the counter and pressed a silent alarm behind the company’s counter, believing it would open the front door to a colleague, according to a lawsuit. The police rushed to the scene but of course found no emergency.

Jay R. Jordan / Jay Jordan, Staff

Yet Fite continued to lobby until March 2016, when he filed a complaint against Laviage. In a request for Laviage’s arrest warrant, Fite accused the junkyard of “intentionally and knowingly” failing to report these scrap purchases to the DPS. Nowhere in the application did it state that Laviage stated that he was aware of the problem and that he was actively trying to correct it.

A judge has found probable cause for Laviage’s arrest based on the request. Several Houston police officers arrested him shortly after at his now closed Heights location. In September 2018, a jury found Laviage not guilty of the misdemeanor charge and the case was struck from its record. In December of the same year, Laviage filed a complaint in Harris County against Fite for false arrest and malicious prosecution, which was ultimately transferred to federal court for the Southern District of Texas.

“These types of decisions have such a profound impact on businesses, individuals and families,” said Laviage’s attorney, Michael Wynne. “It is a sacred duty to be precise when one decides to disrupt all this and not to take upon oneself, as a police officer, to be vigilant or reckless before disrupting so deeply people’s lives, as in this case, Dennis’. “

Fite is represented by attorneys from the City of Houston Legal Department as well as the Harris County Attorney’s Office. It is not known why a county attorney is on the case. None of the lawyers could be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Fite were unsuccessful.

Owner Dennis Laviage ran his business, C&D Scrap Metal, despite not having electricity for two weeks after Hurricane Ike, seen here in 2007.

Owner Dennis Laviage ran his business, C&D Scrap Metal, despite not having electricity for two weeks after Hurricane Ike, seen here in 2007.

Steve Ueckert / Chronicle

In August of this year, attorneys for Fite asked U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to initiate the lawsuit. They argued that Fite should be exonerated from all liability as he was performing his official duties with the Houston Police Department. This concept, called qualified immunity, is commonly used as a defense for law enforcement officers across the country who face similar scrupulous civil lawsuits.

On December 2, Hughes ruled that Fite couldn’t use a qualified immunity defense for his case.

“Laviage had no intention of covering up,” Hughes wrote in the Dec. 2 order. “He filed substantially identical reports with the City of Houston. Fite deliberately cross-checked [DPS’] relationship with the city of Houston. Laviage kept Fite informed of his efforts to correct the software problems, but Fite persisted on a fishing expedition. ”

Hughes also said “Fite is responsible for his omissions” before determining that the qualified immunity defense is irrelevant in the case.

The case is not nearly over. Wynne expects Fite’s lawyers to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the meantime, Laviage and his lawyers are still accounting for the damages. They could include opportunity costs, reputational damage and compensation for shuttering a new C&D site during the ordeal.

“It’s a win for me,” Laviage said of the Dec. 2 order. “This guy just destroyed my life for about three and a half years. Finally, justice is going to be served against him.”

A trial date has not been set.




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