By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
A family member called Homar Gracia, who in turn called his lawyer, Frank Perez, and asked him what to do.
"I get a page in the middle of the night from Frank Perez," recalls a narcotics detective. "Mind you, Roper's doing this shit in the middle of an ongoing public integrity investigation, and Roper knows he's under investigation.
"Perez says, 'Roper is holding Homar's grandfather hostage, what do I do?' I said, 'Whatever you do, don't go over there.' So I page [public integrity detective] Diane McLeod, and she pages Roper's sergeant or something. Anyway, the thing gets resolved."
Despite such antics, PI still didn't think they had enough to make a move on Roper. Cases against cops are among the most difficult to win, and there were problems. A few witnesses didn't want to get involved in a case against cops. Because of medical problems, a few witnesses, such as Frank and Rosalinda Alvarado, could not take polygraphs. A few witnesses, like Joshua Jordan, had flunked theirs. And while there were a good number of witnesses who had passed, PI had no evidence of either Roper or Maples living beyond his means. Unfortunately for the detectives, Maples was a saver, not a spender; his bank and credit card records suggested he was the sort who liked to pinch a nickel. And if Quentis Roper was spending money, he was operating strictly on a cash basis. Since their attempted stings had gone south, PI had no marked bills they could trace, no videotape--just the testimony of drug dealers, illegal aliens, and junkies. While the detectives thought these statements trustworthy, who knew what a jury would think?
PI wasn't ready to give up; they called the FBI and asked for help setting up yet another sting. But in retrospect, it seems highly unlikely that either Roper or Maples would have been arrested had Danny Maples not fallen in love.
On the first day of Maples' sentencing, all heads turned as the statuesque Belgian-born strawberry blonde in strappy black heels, a plunging neckline, and dangerously slit skirt sashayed to the stand. Like Erin Brockovich in church, she swept thick bangs out of heavily made-up eyes, sighed, and claimed she was terrified of Maples, her ex-lover.
Maples met her while he was in the police academy; at the time, Schoovaerts was married to one of Maples' classmates. By the time Maples heard from her again in the summer of 1998, Schoovaerts had divorced and was working as a dispatcher for Grand Prairie police. They got engaged in September, while Maples was on a month-long military leave; by October, Eveline and her 4-year-old son had moved in.
Maples behaved terribly. He was jealous, possessive, domineering, insecure--and under mounting pressure. For if Maples thought he had extricated himself from the thefts, he was wrong; at the same time Maples was acquiring his new family, PI was turning up the heat. In October, Maples noticed a new box in the trunk of his police cruiser. He drove his squad car to a city garage and asked a mechanic about the box. "It's a tracking device," the mechanic said and then disconnected the wire.
For the next two months, Maples and a crew of PI detectives played psychological cat-and-mouse. When Maples disconnected the tracker, they assigned him a live tail. To make sure they knew he knew, or just to be a smart-ass, in late October, as he was being followed, Maples whipped around suddenly, waited for the PI detective to do the same, and ticketed his tail for making an illegal U-turn. In turn, detectives subpoenaed Maples' bank records. (PI subpoenaed Roper's accounts, too.)
"We knew they were investigating us," Maples says. "But we didn't know how bad they really wanted us until the FBI showed up."
On October 21, Maples was riding by himself when he got a message over the MDT, the computer terminals cops have in their cruisers. It was Roper, summoning Maples to a La Quinta Inn on Interstate 30. When Maples arrived, Roper, who was with his new partner, Larry Coddington, explained he had just gotten a tip from narcotics that a Jamaican drug dealer was in a certain room.
Before they could go in, Maples got another call from dispatch. Roper and Coddington said they'd wait for Maples to return. And while they waited, Roper saw something suspicious.
"They didn't count on Roper running counter-surveillance," says Clark Birdsall, the assistant district attorney who would later prosecute Roper. "He looks across the freeway and, to his surprise, finds a woman looking through her binoculars at him. So he hotfoots it across [to the Taco Bell, where she was parked], and he sees her sitting there with her FBI raid jacket and radio."
When Maples returned from his call, Roper and Coddington were waiting. "They said, 'It's a setup, but let's go in anyway,'" says Maples.
The resulting videotape shows an extremely hacked-off Roper, waving at the camera and talking trash to whomever might be listening in. The undercover Jamaican tried to bribe the officers, telling them he had a safe nearby, and if they'd go with him, he'd pay them off. They accompanied him, seized the money--$19,999--and promptly booked him into Lew Sterrett. The money--every marked penny of it--made it to the property room. On the way home, Roper sent out a message on the MDT: "Thanks for the money, Louis Freeh."