HOUSTON A former Harris County Precinct 6 deputy constable, once hailed as a hero, has now been indicted and arraigned in federal court on charges of tax evasion and lying to federal investigators.

Vernon Matthews was commended for his actions in October 2009 after he came to the aid of a robbery victim in a grocery store parking lot near the Texas Medical Center. A female first-year resident from the Baylor College of Medicine had been shot in the neck during the robbery. Matthews, working off-duty as a security guard at the grocery store, apprehended the suspect and stayed with the wounded woman until paramedics arrived.

In contrast, on Friday prosecutors charged Matthews with several counts of tax evasion in an alleged scheme connected to his 21-year law enforcement career. Mathews, who is no longer employed by Precinct 6 and currently works full-time as a private security guard, is charged with using information he gathered from people he contacted during the course of his career.

Prosecutors said Matthews gathered enough information to claim the children of those people as his own dependent nephews and nieces on tax returns in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Prosecutors said he also claimed child care and educational expenses for non-existent relatives and made false statements to the FBI when agents questioned him about the tax returns in March of 2013.

We have a career police officer that s charged with a tax evasion issue and making a false statement to an FBI agent. So it s a little early to be making observations, or coming to conclusions. But our client has been a good cop for a long time, said defense attorney Robert Scardino.

Matthews was arraigned in federal court Friday in downtown Houston, released on $10,000 bond, and a trial date set for March 31st.

He faces up to five years in federal prison on the false statement charge and each of the four counts of tax evasion.

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