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Two DEA Agents on Leave During Probe

April 17, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two Drug Enforcement Administration agents have been taken off duty temporarily as investigators probe an alleged bribery and obstruction of justice scam by two Miami men, the agency said Monday.

The DEA spokesman Terry Parman denied the two agents _ Larry Castillo and David Tinsley, both part of a DEA enforcement group in Florida _ were suspended. He said the two agents are not accused of any wrongdoing.

``Pending further inquiry by our Office of Professional Responsibility, the agents were placed on administrative leave. They were basically asked to stay home (with pay),″ said Parman.

The investigation involves an alleged scheme of two Miami men who used their status as occasional informants for U.S. law enforcement agencies to scam narcotics traffickers, possibly of millions of dollars, according to an FBI affidavit.

The affidavit says that the two men _ Baruch Jairo Vega and Roman Hernando Suarez Lopez _ took money from indicted and unindicted narcotics traffickers, and in return promised them they could get federal agents to drop the charges or get their sentences reduced.

``According to sources who have spoken with several of these drug traffickers, Vega and Suarez’s fees have ranged from $6 million to $100 million,″ FBI agent John C. Jones claimed in the March 22 affidavit.

The affidavit cites a witness who allegedly paid Vega and Suarez $3.5 million for help in connection with his own indictment and that of several family members.

That witness, who was not identified in the affidavit, reported that Vega said about 80 percent of the money typically was ``paid to important people in Washington″ while Vega and Suarez kept the rest, the affidavit says.

The affidavit provides no evidence of wrongdoing by Washington or other law enforcement officials even as it recounts that cooperating witness’ tale of a meeting with four DEA agents and a Miami police officer in a Panama hotel room in November.

``The meeting lasted several hours, during which the agents discussed the procedures for the surrender and cooperation of the (witness’) indicted family members,″ Jones wrote.

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