Courts & Crime

Lie in court, and the DEA still might pay you, audit finds

Efrain Campo Flores, 29, and Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, were arrested during a sting in Haiti on Nov. 10, 2015. They have been charged with conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.
Efrain Campo Flores, 29, and Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, were arrested during a sting in Haiti on Nov. 10, 2015. They have been charged with conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. EBove

The Drug Enforcement Administration paid its informants tens of millions of dollars even after at least one of them lied in court.

That’s according to a new report by the Justice Department inspector general, which scrutinized DEA offices across the country, including Sacramento. The inspector general’s auditors found that more than 9,000 law enforcement sources had been paid a total of $237 million for information or services.

Yet the DEA, which relies on such informants to investigate drug trafficking, did not “adequately” oversee the money flowing to its more than 18,000 sources between Oct. 2010 and Sept. 2015, Thursday’s report said.

The sloppiness “exposes the DEA to an unacceptably increased potential for fraud, waste and abuse, particularly given the frequency with which DEA offices use and pay confidential sources,” the inspector general’s office said.

The DEA, for instance, prohibits paying informants who were “deactivated” because of arrest warrants or other serious offenses, but auditors found one had been used after being deactivated for lying during trials and depositions. The source was paid more than $469,000 and used by 13 offices for five more years.

The inspector general’s office estimated the DEA may have paid about $9.4 million to more than 800 previously deactivated sources. The office, however, said it had received shoddy data, and it could not say definitively why they were deactivated.

The report comes after the drug case against the nephews of the Venezuelan first family looks more fragile after prosecutors’ key confidential sources appear to be tainted with credibility problems. The informants have acknowledged improper conduct while receiving money from the United States, including snorting cocaine and hiring prostitutes. It was unclear whether the DEA knew what its informants were doing.

DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said in response to the inspector general’s report that her agency had revised its policies, adding “today’s report highlights the need for continued improvement.”

Marisa Taylor: 202-383-6164, @marisaataylor

  Comments