Drug Agents Charged With Bribery
MIAMI (AP) _ Two U.S. drug agents fooled by the same confidential informant were charged with bribery for allegedly offering to protect drug money ″rip-offs,″ federal authorities said Wednesday.
Investigators described a ″Miami Vice″ plot: two longtime, respected agents caught with the help of a double-crossing informant in an undercover operation using wiretaps, hidden microphones and misinformation.
In both cases, when the agent suspects were told the informant had been arrested, they told fellow DEA agents they were working with the informant in undercover operations, authorities said.
Drew Bunnell and Al Iglesias, special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Peter Palermo.
Bunnell, who had been with the DEA in Ecuador, was ordered held without bond pending a hearing Monday and Iglesias, who lives in Miami, was set for release on a signature bond Wednesday evening.
A DEA official in Miami, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bunnell had nine years’ experience and Iglesias 14. Bunnell and Iglesias are on administrative leave with pay, pending prosecution, the official said.
″The reaction is one of dismay,″ said the official. ″But the other guys go on about their jobs, putting their lives on the line.″
The investigation began in July 1988, authorities said, when the unidentified informant told the DEA he had met with Bunnell in December 1987 and discussed ″ripping off″ cocaine money.
That began a series of DEA-monitored telephone calls between the informant, either from Miami or an undisclosed city in South Carolina, and Bunnell in Guayaquil, Ecuador, authorities said.
The informant led Bunnell to believe he had taken $215,000 in cocaine traffickers’ money, authorities said. Bunnell received $7,000 and had expected to receive $100,000, authorities said.
On Jan. 10, a DEA agent in Savannah, Ga., called Bunnell in Miami to say the informant had been stopped carrying large amounts of cash but told agents he was working with Bunnell on a case, authorities said.
Bunnell said the informant was working with him, the DEA said.
On April 18, the informant called Iglesias, a prominent DEA agent in Miami, from South Carolina to say cocaine dealers there would pay the informant $150,000 to buy cocaine for them in Miami, authorities said.
Iglesias told the informant he could work with the DEA or he could keep the money himself and Iglesias would cover it up and protect him from the cocaine dealers, investigators said.
After many DEA-taped phone calls, authorities said, the informant offered Iglesias $15,000. Iglesias declined, but later accepted $700 to pay for a first-class plane ticket to Ecuador, authorities said.
He then agreed to get fake Metro-Dade police reports to prove to the cocaine dealers that he had been arrested and their money seized.
Iglesias told the informant he wanted to be paid with an $11,000 watch, which the informant gave him on April 25, authorities said.
On May 2, Iglesias was called by an agent in Columbus, Ga., and told the informant had been stopped in Macon, Ga., authorities said. Iglesias told Mallarney the informant was working with him in an undercover operation.