Government Concedes Money Paid To Apprehend Fugitive
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A prosecutor admitted in court that the U.S. government paid for the apprehension of a suspected Mexican drug smuggler believed to have witnessed the torture-slaying of American drug agent Enrique Camarena Salazar.
The admission by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Lasater came Friday as he was being questioned by U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving during a hearing involving the arrest in Calexico, Calif., of Rene Martin Verdugo.
Verdugo, of Mexicali, Mexico, and his attorneys claim Verdugo was abducted, handcuffed and blindfolded in San Felipe, Mexico, and driven to the U.S. border, where he was pushed through a hole in the fence into the waiting arms of U.S. authorities.
Lasater did not identify who paid the money, how much was paid, what federal agency was involved or who received the money.
He said Mexico has not filed a formal complaint in the Verdugo case but is considering one.
Irving used the word kidnapping in describing the Jan. 24 arrest of Verdugo.
″We’ve been using the term apprehended, your honor,″ Lasater said.
Irving ordered all documentation from any U.S. agency involved be given to him by Friday for review.
″This court is compelled to at least begin a preliminary investigation to the charges against the United States,″ Irving said.
One of Verdugo’s attorneys, Howard Frank, said outside the courtroom that he believed $100,000 changed hands and was paid to six Mexicans, some law enforcement officials.
Verdugo, 34, is awaiting trial on marijuana smuggling charges unrelated to Camarena’s death.
Frank was seeking to have the marijuana charges against Verdugo dropped because of the way in which he was apprehended.
Camarena, an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was abducted in Guadalajara, Mexico, in February 1985. His body was discovered a month later along with that of his Mexican pilot. Several people have been charged in Camarena’s death.