Colombian corruption case latest overseas stain for DEA

Colombian corruption case newest abroad stain for DEA

For years, Capt. Juan Pablo Mosquera rose by the ranks of Colombia’s nationwide police, incomes accolades from his bosses on his solution to turning into the trusted supervisor of a unit that labored hand-in-glove with U.S. anti-narcotics brokers.

Now he’s going through as much as 20 years in a U.S. jail for allegedly betraying the Drug Enforcement Administration to the identical drug traffickers they had been collectively preventing.

His 2018 arrest and subsequent extradition to the U.S., which has not been beforehand reported, is one other black eye for an elite DEA program to coach and assist international regulation enforcement that has been repeatedly subverted by corrupt cops and lethal leaks.

The uncommon prosecution of a once-standout U.S. ally follows a report this summer time from a U.S. authorities watchdog that blasted the DEA’s management in Washington for failing to supervise its international regulation enforcement companions even within the aftermath of a string of well-publicized scandals.

“The DEA must be extra vigilant of the operations that it’s conducting in international international locations as a result of the corruption is so rampant,” stated Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former Chief of Worldwide Operations.

Mosquera goes on trial Oct. 13 in Miami federal courtroom on two counts of obstructing justice for allegedly promoting proof and data gathered by the vetted unit he oversaw to key targets of U.S. investigators.

It’s not clear what led the DEA to doubt the 37-year-old Mosquera — the three-page indictment says virtually nothing about his alleged crimes.

However Juan Carlos Dávila, a co-defendant with a protracted historical past in Colombia’s prison underworld, testified as a part of a plea settlement that Mosquera enlisted him to attempt to promote data to a goal of a DEA investigation: an American who was residing in Colombia underneath a false identification.

The American, who was recognized in courtroom papers solely by his initials P.L., is described as somebody who ditched probation in Arkansas within the Nineteen Nineties and stays a fugitive. That matches the prison historical past of Patrick Liljebeck, who was indicted in Miami shortly after Mosquera’s arrest for conspiring to smuggle 50 kilograms of cocaine aboard a sailboat.

Unbeknownst to Dávila, a person he thought was the unnamed American’s affiliate was a confidential supply working on the course of the DEA.

“Mosquera corruptly used his place … to entry investigative data concerning DEA investigations and targets with the intent to make cash from that data,” Dávila stated in a proffer accompanying his plea settlement.

Dávila, who was reportedly arrested in 2013 on an Italian warrant for ties to the Sicilian mafia, agreed to testify in opposition to Mosquera in change for a diminished sentence. Others who could take the stand embody 5 DEA brokers and an unnamed Colombian regulation enforcement officer, in keeping with courtroom papers filed by prosecutors.

Prosecutors additionally intend to depend on intensive audio and video recordings of conferences between Dávila and DEA informants — none of which Mosquera himself seems to have attended.

Daniel Hentschel, an lawyer for Mosquera, declined to touch upon the case, as did the U.S. lawyer’s workplace and the DEA.

Mosquera, earlier than his arrest, led a police squad within the metropolis of Cali overseen by what’s often known as the DEA’s “Delicate Investigative Unit,” or SIU, the gold normal for its partnerships overseas. This system of vetted items was set as much as assist the DEA conduct investigations in international international locations the place the drug enterprise begins however the place its brokers are company and face extra restrictions.

The DEA credit the vetted items with a number of the world’s greatest busts and the arrest of a whole lot of capos. Chosen brokers obtain 5 weeks of particular coaching on the DEA Academy in Virginia and often leverage the Individuals’ mentorship into high positions inside their nation’s safety forces. Since its begin within the late Nineteen Nineties, this system has expanded to greater than 20 international locations, together with Thailand and Kenya.

To mitigate dangers and forestall corruption, international brokers are presupposed to undergo intensive vetting that features drug exams and polygraphs.

However a scathing Inspector Common report this summer time discovered that the DEA’s oversight of its SIU companions is inadequate and faults the company for failing to be taught classes from a decade-long string of well-publicized scandals.

In Mexico, an SIU unit was the topic of U.S. congressional inquiries following stories {that a} drug cartel in 2011 carried out a savage bloodbath of dozens of civilians after receiving a leak from the vetted unit. A commander of the identical unit was charged by American prosecutors in 2020 with taking bribes from drug traffickers in change for defense.

In Honduras, a vetted unit was implicated within the killing of 4 civilians throughout a botched raid, whereas in Haiti a police officer was promoted to the commander of a vetted unit regardless of having beforehand failed a DEA-administered lie detector take a look at.

In Colombia, a former DEA agent who labored with the vetted items pleaded responsible final yr to 19 counts of conspiring to launder thousands and thousands of {dollars} from DEA-controlled accounts and spending the proceeds lavishly on luxurious sports activities vehicles and Tiffany jewellery. The Inspector Common discovered that two SIU members additionally accompanied DEA brokers in cartel-organized “intercourse events” with prostitutes — a scandal that compelled DEA Chief Michele Leonhart to resign in 2015.

Within the wake of every well-publicized incident, the DEA made little effort to analyze the leaks, typically deferring to native authorities, the audit discovered. In the meantime, the Inspector Common stated it was “troubling” to be taught that the DEA had scaled again the frequency of its lie-detector testing — from each two years to a few.

Vigil stated polygraphs ought to ideally be taken each quarter or six months.

“The temptations are very nice,” he stated. “The cops obtained paid a bit of extra for belonging to a vetted unit nevertheless it’s by no means going to compete with the sum of money the cartels can pay to compromise data.”

New DEA Administrator Anne Milgram referred to as for a top-to-bottom overview of the company’s 91 international subject workplaces following publication of the report. She stated the overview would determine areas for enchancment to make sure effectiveness, integrity and accountability.

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Comply with Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

Contact AP’s world investigative staff at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/ideas/

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