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Home > News > Crime News > How a sheriff’s sergeant went rogue, part 1

How a sheriff’s sergeant went rogue, part 1

By Bob Conrad

About this four-part series
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

THIS IS RENO began seeking answers into the criminal case against former Sheriff’s Sergeant Dennis Carry more than a year ago. In that time, we were continually met with resistance from the Reno Police Department, the City of Reno, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Reno City Attorney’s Office. Those entities denied access to information and individuals involved with this case and failed to follow Nevada’s public records laws on multiple occasions. Officials would not even confirm public information or respond to simple questions. Public records, however, including the criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Carry, reveal extensive details in this case, in addition to records obtained from local courts and even records obtained in partnership with Madison365.com in Wisconsin. Names of alleged victims in this case are not reported out of respect for their privacy. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Carry, through his attorney, would not comment on the allegations against him.

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Sheriff’s Sergeant Dennis Carry’s heart rate on Feb. 28, 2019 was 107 beats per minute. It was 6:44 p.m. He had been arguing with his second wife, a federal judge, about whether he had officially divorced his first wife.

Dennis Carry, former Washoe County Sheriff's sergeant.
Dennis Carry, former Washoe County Sheriff’s sergeant.

In fact, he had not, Reno Police detectives said. But he went to extraordinary lengths to try to show he did.

His heart rate was noted by detectives citing data from his Apple Watch. The data is only a sliver of the amount of digital information obtained by the Reno Police Department as part of a multi-year investigation into the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Sergeant Carry.

It’s also information the Reno City Attorney’s Office and the Reno Police Department refused to make public — even though another public agency produced the 200-page criminal affidavit written by RPD Detective Trenton Johnson.

The document, which This Is Reno has been requesting of RPD for more than a year, details why Carry is now facing seven felony charges.

It’s a case, RPD argues, that involves considerable deception, including Carry flying to Las Vegas — using a secret undercover identity — in order to mail a document from a fake legal firm to himself, from Vegas to Reno.

Detectives said he was trying to show his second wife he was divorced from his first wife. Johnson’s document details why Carry is now facing the felony charges after more than two years of investigation.

He was arrested in late January and is now under house arrest. The charges against him include bigamy, forgery, burglary, providing false evidence, perjury and unauthorized surreptitious intrusion of privacy.

Startling allegations are documented in the affidavit, and subsequent reporting by This Is Reno also shows that the investigation was treated by law enforcement differently than is afforded to average citizens.

Findings include:

  • Carry was able to use his undercover identity to gain access to unsecured but confidential court files in the Second Judicial District Courthouse.
  • He issued subpoenas to AT&T and Charter / Spectrum to gain access to downtown business Wi-Fi, allegedly to monitor internet traffic for a child porn suspect that, police claim, did not exist.
  • Reno Police and the Sheriff’s Office went to extraordinary lengths to deny access to information about Carry’s case — even when that information was publicly available elsewhere.
  • Carry was detained and read his Miranda rights by Reno Police detectives nearly a year before he was actually arrested.
  • Carry used his alternate, undercover identity allegedly so that the “Reno Cop Watch” Facebook page would not have access to publicly available information about him.
  • Detectives served search warrants on smartphones, Carry’s Apple Watch and many online accounts, including PayPal and Google. They noted his elevated heart rate, measured by his Apple Watch, three times in the affidavit filed in his case.
  • Carry tried to cover his online tracks with numerous apps designed to cloak his activities and generate false information.
  • Carry continued these activities even after he was interviewed by detectives in February of 2019.
  • Carry, rather than face discipline or an investigation from the Sheriff’s Office, was allowed to retire months after being put on paid leave, even after it was discovered he used a spy cam to record his supervisor, other WCSO personnel and FBI agents.

Carry’s secret identity

Dennis Carry’s work identity is murky. Officially, he was a sergeant who investigated internet crimes. He headed Washoe County Sheriff’s Office’s cyber crime division.

Carry started as a sheriff’s deputy in 1996.

“On January 27, 2003 Dennis transferred into the detective unit of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office,” RPD’s Johnson wrote. “Dennis became an investigator in the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Federal task force at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. Dennis gained extensive training in investigations and computer forensics related to this field.”

“Due to Dennis’ position as an investigator, he is granted the opportunity as a law enforcement officer to have …. an undercover identity of Dennis James.”

He served on the SWAT team and was promoted to sergeant in 2011.

“Dennis began working with, then a federal prosecutor… to prosecute sexual predators and online child pornographers,” Johnson noted.

That relationship led to his second marriage to the prosecutor, who is now a judge. The problem: He never divorced his first wife, police allege.

Fox Valley Technical College's Appleton location. Image: FVTC.
Fox Valley Technical College’s Appleton location. Image: FVTC.

Carry was also an instructor, since 2009, at the Fox Valley Technical School in Appleton, Wisconsin. Public records obtained in partnership with Madison365.com show he made nearly $70,000 in 2017 and 2018 from this side gig while maintaining full-time employment with the WCSO.

“His teaching career and his advanced training in forensics required an extensive amount of travel throughout the United States and included several trips overseas,” the RPD detective noted.

The WCSO refused to disclose details of his external employment. The Nevada Public Records Act mandates any withholding of public records be construed narrowly and not because of speculative damage.

But WCSO denied a records request anyway.

“It is unclear at this stage what impact the release of such information would have on the investigation, victims or criminal proceedings. At this stage, the interest in maintaining the integrity of the investigation and/or prosecution is paramount,” said WCSO Lieutenant Ralph Caldwell.

However, some of those records are available from the employer — Fox Valley Technical School. Upon learning the allegations against him, the college’s National Criminal Justice Training Center (NCJTC) dropped Carry from its teaching roster.

“As soon as we got wind that he was under investigation, we stopped using him as an instructor,” the center’s Brad Russ said. “It’s not like terminating an employee. We just stopped using him.”

His outside employment, however, had kept him busy over the years.

“Dennis used this identity and his own to maintain a multitude of email accounts and their associated cloud storage services.”

“In January of 2017 Dennis was hired as a NCJTC Associate with the Fox Valley Tech School and continued to travel throughout the United States and the world teaching computer forensics and online child sexual predator investigations,” Johnson noted.

Besides secondary employment, Carry also maintained a second, alternate identity.

Sheriff’s Office mum on Carry

He was one of more than 40 law enforcement officers with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office whose identity is secret. Their names and salary information are not available on the Transparent Nevada website, which publishes salary information for all public employees — except undercover cops.

“A detective carrying out an undercover assignment faces an increased risk of danger,” said Sarah Johns, the sheriff’s public information officer. “So, the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles issues an alternate driver’s license to help protect the detective’s wellbeing.”

Sarah Johns, Washoe County Sheriff's Office public information officer.
Sarah Johns, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

Johns refused to say how many law enforcement officers get this level of privacy. A public records order placed by This Is Reno, however, shows the number to be 42 — one captain, six sergeants, three lieutenants and 32 deputies. 

Johns refused to confirm these numbers provided by Washoe County. Collectively, these 42 positions cost taxpayers $5.5 million in 2020. Each position makes more than $100,000 a year in salary and benefits.

Carry’s alternate name was Dennis James. He was granted the undercover identity using authorizations from the WCSO and the FBI in 2007, 2011 and 2015. He was also given a credit card in that name by the WCSO.

The Sheriff’s Office, however, denied a records order for the credit card statements. Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Kee said the department could not authorize the release of statements that were not theirs.

Johnson’s affidavit indicates the credit card was, in fact, issued by the WCSO. When informed of this, a WCSO official said the documents were in RPD’s hands and would be confidential anyway.

“Due to Dennis’ position as an investigator, he is granted the opportunity as a law enforcement officer to have a valid Nevada driver’s license in the name of his undercover identity of Dennis James,” Johnson wrote. “Dennis used this identity and his own to maintain a multitude of email accounts and their associated cloud storage services.

“Dennis utilized Dropbox accounts, online and social media, as well as had access to a multitude of platforms of electronic storage, computers, cell phones, and tablets. These devices contain [software] for his work and access online accounts through various carriers and subscriptions.”

Reno Police gained search warrants on those devices and accounts, which, they said, Carry was using to cloak his movements, communications and even official duties while employed with the WCSO.

The reason, according to the criminal affidavit, was to create the impression for his second wife that he had been divorced from his first wife all along.

Read part two tomorrow: A faux divorce.

Robert Chappell of Madison365 contributed to this report.

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