Notorious San Luis Obispo con man accused of impersonating a federal agent

August 31, 2022

Scott Barnes


A San Luis Obispo man who allegedly flashed a badge, claimed he was a federal agent, and then pepper sprayed a man could face charges of assault and impersonating a law enforcement officer.

The SLO Police Department has asked prosecutors to file charges of assault and impersonation of a law enforcement officer against Scott Barnes, a 68-year-old man known to hobnob with the spouse of a local judge, law enforcement officers, politicians and attorneys. The latest incident is one of a handful of criminal allegations Barnes has battled regarding assault, battery and wiretapping charges.

On July 22, Barnes and another man were driving vehicles westbound on Madonna Road in an area where three lanes merge into two lanes. While attempting to merge into the same lane, the men were close to colliding, though an accident was averted. CalCoastNews is not using the other driver’s name to protect him from harassment.

Barnes then allegedly placed a law enforcement badge in his window and pointed for the other driver to pull over, the other driver said.

The other driver flipped Barnes off and headed to a home on Cucaracha Court, where his friend Mark Johnson was standing outside. Barnes pulled up and accused the other driver of cutting him off, while the other driver blamed Barnes. Barnes then threatened to arrest the other driver.

Johnson told Barnes he could not make an arrest over a traffic infraction. Barnes then threatened to arrest both Johnson and the other driver.

“Come out and I will arrest you right now,” Barnes yelled from his Jeep, according to a video and audio recording of the incident. “I am a retired federal agent.”

Barnes pulled his Jeep up blocking the other driver from driving away. Sporting a Luca Benedetti T-shirt, hat and wristband, Barnes stepped out of his car and began yelling about his ties to Benedetti, an officer who was killed in 2021 in the line of duty.

“That has nothing to do with this,” Johnson said.

Barnes argued Benedetti has everything to do with “it,” and charged towards Johnson while making a veiled threat.

“Now I know where you live,” Barnes said. “I got your plate.”

Johnson told Barnes to, “Walk away dude.”

Standing inches away from Johnson, Barnes yelled, “Push me, push me!”

The other driver told Johnson not to push Barnes, and Barnes again threatened to arrest Johnson.

Johnson put his hands behind his back, and told Barnes to put the cuffs on him.

“Do it,” Johnson said. “Hook me up.”

Johnson and the other driver, using multiple cuss words, repeatedly ordered Barnes to leave the area.

“I’ll see you soon buddy,” Barnes said.

Barnes walked back to his Jeep, opened the door and grabbed an object.

“Are you going to pull a gun on me?” Johnson asked.

Barnes pepper sprayed Johnson in the face, before getting back into his Jeep and driving away.

Johnson is working to get a restraining order against Barnes, while the SLO County District Attorney’s Office reviews the police department’s request for criminal charges.

Barnes told CalCoastNews the video has been doctored. He said he had a legal right to arrest the men and that he did not claim he was a retired federal agent.

Barnes also alleges that Johnson threatened and assaulted him while he stood in the street at the home on Cucaraha Court, an allegation that is not supported by the video.

In regards to the proposed charges, Barnes accused the officer who requested charges against him of bad behavior.

“Officer John Stevens, the gay guy you wrote about, lied,” Barnes said. “You do not lie or accept gratuities in uniform.”

The twisted tale of Scott Barnes

Without knowing his history, many  SLO County residents believe Barnes’ claims he is a retired federal agent who conducted multiple covert operations, a decorated officer, and a hero who attempted to rescue missing prisoners of war.

Whether fact or fiction, Barnes’ many yarns have resulted in federal investigations, retractions by the media who repeated his false claims, and a candidate for president of the United States stepping down.

Scott Barnes is infamous for convincing Ross Perot to drop his bid for the presidency because of information Barnes was accused of constructing. Barnes has a resume that includes serving time for fabricating evidence, illegal wiretapping, giving false testimony and sending government investigators on wild goose chases.

In 1976, Barnes was hired by the El Cajon Police Department. After 11 months, the department fired Barnes for falsifying police reports.

Barnes accused the department of corruption and filed a lawsuit, which he lost.

In 1977, Barnes was hired as a police officer in Ridgecrest, where he was fired 11 months later for fabricating evidence. Barnes claimed a sergeant ordered him to fabricate the evidence.

A few year later, Barnes told the LA Times that he was part of a POW hunting team in Thailand. Barnes told reporters he had crossed the Mekong River into Laos where he saw two white men in a prison camp, who his team was ordered to assassinate.

The LA Times sent two reporters to Thailand only to discover Barnes had never crossed the Mekong River. Shortly afterwards, Soldier of Fortune Magazine described Barnes as “a flake.”

In 1984, while working as a prison guard in Hawaii, Barnes contacted ABC News with a huge story that he had been hired by the CIA to kill a prisoner. Shortly after ABC aired Barnes’ tale, they retracted their story.

In 1988, Barnes was sentenced to one year in jail for wiretapping Kern County law enforcement.

A few years later, Barnes knocked a repo man down, sat on his back and handcuffed him. He was charged and convicted of battery.

While in SLO County, multiple people have sought restraining orders against Barnes, including a woman in her 20s who claimed he was stalking her.

Several years ago, Barnes was arrested for pepper spraying a homeless man in SLO. In the end, a visiting judge granted Barnes diversion instead of jail time.


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Barnes should apply for a job with SLO PD or SLO County Sheriffs Dept. He would fit right in ….Worse case he could apply to Atascadero State Hospital ( CDCR ) or CDCR Prison System… After all he has LEO OJT for use in his resume …


Or he could be a SLO firefighter or building inspector, or any number of other city jobs, he clearly has all the right credentials.


Here’s the playbook for this type of guy:

“I am the victim here!”

“The video is doctored!”

“Those young women lied about me harassing them!”

“The guys I confronted deserved it!”

“The DA is corrupt!”

Wait for it…3…2…1…


Where is the video? I just want to see it so I can identify this guys Jeep! So when I see him out there stalking SLO, I can give him the right of way to avoid his freakish drama! Don’t want to get arrested for taking an opportunity to merge!


He’s a notorious day drunk and he is creepy


I think his “ hob nobbing” with a judge’s wife, law enforcement officers and attorneys show San Luis Obispo is an inclusive city. He should definitely run for SLO mayor.


Do we know who the judge is? Just curious since the author used the word “spouse” of a judge. I wondered if the judge could be a female?

That said, can anyone tell me why this guy is walking around in public without so much as an ankle bracelet? Is it the “hobnobbing with the judge’s spouse” thing?


Do not hold your breath waiting for The Tribune coverage. I just cancelled my digital subscription. $16/mo for the same articles on the website for a week (I pay $4/mo for the LA Times and $6 for the New York Times) and subsidizing extremely partisan activism, aka Tom Fulks (the real editor)/Joe Tarica. Do not subscribe to, or acknowledge The Tribune. CCN and New Times for news, and KSBY for news, weather, and sports. The sooner The Tribune is relegated to the tar pits of journalism the better.


Hard to comment on this as I feel the Justice system has again failed the people so my comment would just go out to uncaring ears


This dangerous wacko needs to be permanately incarcerated in a mental health facility.


No, he just needs to move north of Cuesta Grade.


Lordy, there is video.

This man isn’t just a kook, he is dangerous. I believe the FBI also had a bead on him at some point. My hope is that his threats and bloviating finally come to an end with this incident. SLOPD and those affiliated with the local judiciary had better rethink this association, and quick.


Why would you think the Josh and Suzie Walsh culture, killing harmless dogs, raiding residences without cause, of the SLOPD would change? I had high hopes for the new Chief, but in SLO I have to question whether he is really in charge.