College Student Abandoned by DEA in Cell for Days to Receive $4.1 Million Settlement

Thursday, August 1, 2013
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A California college student left in a small holding cell by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for five days without food, water, or a toilet has settled his claims for $4.1 million, according to a number of news sources. The student was taken by agents during a late April 2012, drug raid on his friend's house in which nine people were arrested.

The engineering student at the University of California, San Diego, was not arrested or charged with anything.

Click here to read our previous blog.

Such claims must usually first be filed against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The government then has six months to investigate, negotiate and settle the case or to deny the claim. If the claim is denied or if six months go by, the claimant is then allowed to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Student Left to Drink His Own Urine After Being Abandoned by the DEA.

According to a law enforcement official who has reviewed this case, the student was never arrested, was not going to be charged with a crime and should have been released.

Instead, according to CNN, the student was left handcuffed and placed in a 5-by-10-foot cell, where he remained for five days with no food or water. The student says that he yelled and tried shoving his clothes under the door so that someone would realize that he was there. The student said he had to drink his own urine after being without water. The abandoned student reportedly stated that he broke his own glasses and began carving "Sorry Mom" into his arm as a farewell message to his mother, but stopped after the "S."

When he was eventually found, paramedics took him to a hospital. He spent three days in intensive care and five days total at the hospital before leaving. He suffered from dehydration and post-traumatic stress disorder.

To read the entire article from CNN, click here

DEA Apologized and Changed Policies Regarding Treatment of Detainees.

According to The Associated Press, the DEA has acknowledged that the student was accidentally left in the cell and has issued an apology. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating the incident since 2012, but no one has yet been disciplined.

Allegedly, before this incident, the DEA had no policy on the treatment of detainees at the time. There is now a new policy in place that includes cameras in cells and daily inspections of detainees.

Click here to read The Associated Press article.

Student Settles for $4.1 Million.

The student's attorney initially filed a $20 million claim against the federal government for the incident. On July 31, 2013, it was announced the student and the DEA settled his claims for $4.1 million.

Perseverance of Engineering Students.

I believe this incident, which is horrendous and never should have happened, illustrates the perseverance of engineering students. Not to make light of the situation, Survivorman could not have done better. One wonders how such an event could happen in our country. Hopefully with the DEA’s new nationwide detainee policies in place, the incident will not be repeated.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling DEA cases. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse action by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at


What do you think of the settlement? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Wilson, Stan. “Daniel Chong, Forgotten in DEA Cell, Settles Suit for $4.1 Million.” CNN. (July 31, 2013). From:

The Associated Press. “Student Abandoned in DEA Cell For 4 Days to Get $4.1 Million Settlement From US.” NY Daily News. (July 31, 2013). From:

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Tag Words: Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, drug raid, holding cell, abandonment, DEA settlement, Federal Tort Claims Act, FTCA, suit against government, litigation, Department of Justine, DOJ, defense attorney, defense lawyer, DEA attorney, DEA lawyer, The Health Law Firm

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