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DOE raids Stockton home in criminal probe

10:55 PM, Jun 8, 2011   |    comments
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STOCKTON, CA - After the Department of Education raided the home of a Stockton man Tuesday morning, officials said the search was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Kenneth Wright, after retaining a Sacramento lawyer, gave News10 the full original search warrant he was given by federal agents Tuesday.

DOCUMENT: Search Warrant

An official with the U.S. Department of Education returned phone calls to News 10 Wednesday morning, saying the search warrant is part of a criminal investigation and not because of unpaid student financial aid loans.

However, the official would not say why the department is investigating the Wrights.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday, Wright said he woke up to what he thought was a S.W.A.T team breaking down his door. As Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts, he said the officers barged through his front door.

RELATED STORY: Questions surround feds' raid of Stockton home

Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.

"He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there," Wright said.

According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children, ages 3, 9, and 11, and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.

"They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids," Wright said.

As it turned out, the person a team of federal agents were looking for - Wright's estranged wife Michelle - was not there.

The federal search warrant is sealed by the courts, but the copy given to Wright said the Department of Education and its Office of the Inspector General are investigating the Wrights for financial aid fraud. The search allowed for the seizure of any student financial aid documents, W2 forms and electronic communications.

Wright said he does not have a criminal record and doesn't believe he or his estranged wife did anything illegal.

Wright's neighbors, who did not want to disclose their last names, said they saw the raid unfold.

"They surrounded the house; it was like a task force or S.W.A.T team," across the street neighbor Becky said. "They all had guns. They dragged him out in his boxer shorts, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him."

According to Becky and her two children, the raid started at 6 a.m. with agents ramming down Wright's front door.

"I watched until I went to work at 10:45 and they were still out there," Becky said.

Her young daughter, Valerie, said she counted 13 agents and one Stockton police officer outside Wright's home.

"I felt really bad for those kids," said Becky about agents when they brought out Wright's three children. "They were crying really loud."

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton said the agents that served the search warrant were with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T.

OIG is a semi-independent branch of the education department that executes warrants for criminal offenses such as student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, according to Hamilton. The agency serves 30 to 35 search warrants a year.

The Stockton Police Department said it was asked by federal agents to provide one officer and one patrol car just for a police presence when carrying out the search warrant.

Police officers did not participate in breaking Wright's door, handcuffing him or searching his home.

"All I want is an apology for me and my kids and for them to get me a new door," Wright said.

News10/KXTV

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