NarcoNews: DEA Prostitute Scandal Isn’t Agency’s Only Trick

Drug-War Agency’s Latin America Operations Tarnished by a Pattern of Unaddressed Corruption Allegations

Bill Conroy

The current scandal over Colombian narco-traffickers paying prostitutes to provide sex services to DEA agents has an even deeper footprint in the agency than the current head of the DEA has conceded, court records stemming from past DEA operations reveal.

A March report by the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office that first revealed the allegations publicly indicates the sex parties with DEA agents and prostitutes in Colombia played out between 2005 and 2008. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart wasn’t made aware of those activities until around 2012, according to the IG report.

“This has been a very difficult week for DEA, with members of Congress and the media asking tough questions and sharing our outrage about the disgraceful conduct of a few individuals several years ago,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart states in an email sent to employees earlier this month.“This employee misconduct has upset me for many reasons, but especially because it calls into question the incredible reputation DEA has built over more than 40 years.”

The House Oversight Committee, which is investigating the charges, recently released a report based on DEA documents that indicates some of the illicit activities in Colombia actually date back to 2001 but involved only a handful of agents.

Court records reviewed by Narco News, however, show DEA agents in Latin America were hooking up with prostitutes as far back as the late 1990s as part of a much broader pattern of alleged corruption involving DEA’s operations in Colombia.

A 2002 internal DEA report filed as an exhibit in a DEA agent’s wrongful termination lawsuit includes claims that a narco-trafficker and money launder turned DEA informant “prepaid the services of prostitutes” for as many as five DEA agents in Panama in the late 1990s. Those agents were assisting an operation that was making use of one of the more interesting characters in the shadows of the drug war.

That individual, Baruch Vega, served as a “foreign intelligence source” for the CIA, litigation documents reveal, while also doing work for the DEA and FBI in Latin America. As part of his work for the DEA in the late 1990s, Vega played the role of a broker of sorts charged with convincing key narco-trafficking figures in Colombia to negotiate favorable plea deals with the US government, court records reveal. Some of those narco-traffickers then went on to serve as cooperating sources for U.S. agencies, according to Vega.

Many of the negotiations with the Colombian narco-traffickers took place in Panama with DEA agents present, Vega claims. He described the DEA agents’ liaisons with prostitutes as a “very normal” part of the process.

“We would go for dinner with these narco-traffickers to negotiate their surrender to DEA, and after they would say, ‘Lets invite some girls,” Vega recounted in a recent interview with Narco News. “Then everyone would go out somewhere and the narco-traffickers would hire prostitutes to mingle with the agents, and the narco-traffickers would pay for it. This happened on several occasions in Panama, and in Colombia as well.”

Vega said the prostitutes didn’t know their clients were DEA agents, “but it’s possible when the narco-traffickers hired the girls, they told them they were agents.” He added that the ironic part of the arrangement was that the narco-traffickers would be “dating beautiful models” while the DEA agents would “be with the prostitutes.”

The 2002 DEA internal report is a small puzzle piece in a much larger web of intrigue and alleged corruption involving DEA’s operations in Colombia. Another piece of the puzzle surfaced in a leaked memo drafted in 2004 by a DOJ attorney named Thomas Kent. In that memo, Kent referred to DEA operations carried out in Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He alleged that DEA agents in Bogota were on the payroll of narco-traffickers, engaging in money laundering for Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary groups, and conspiring to murder their own informants to protect their corrupt schemes.

Mike Levine, a former deep undercover DEA agent who now serves as an expert court witness, said the rot inside DEA is far deeper than the current “sexcapade” scandal. In a legal case involving Colombian narco-traffickers as DEA targets that Levine recently investigated as an expert witness, he said he “documented something like $20 million in funds stolen by DEA and/or task force agents.” …

You can read the complete investigative report here @ NarcoNews

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Comments

  1. PeterM says:

    ““This employee misconduct has upset me for many reasons, but especially because it calls into question the incredible reputation DEA has built over more than 40 years.” – DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart

    Never ever admit that it’s bad policy nor institutional dis-function. Good article from Mr. Conroy.

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