2 Big Fish, 2 Super Stoolies, & the DEA Walk Into The SDNY…
September 29, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Two nephews of Venezuela’s First Lady are facing cocaine trafficking charges in Manhattan’s federal court after being apprehended by Haitian law enforcement at the behest of the DEA. According to the government, Efrain Campo and Franqui Flores were trying to send hundreds of kilos of cocaine from Venezuela through Honduras so that Mexican drug traffickers could then transport the dope into the United States.
So far, this is a case of international intrigue that involves two high profile defendants traveling across several countries in order to use Mexican cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S. But the government’s case may have hit a snag because of the actions involving two of the informants cooperating against Campo and Flores, as it turns out the father and son snitching duo were doing some naughty things on the side while working with the DEA. McClathy DC reports on a hearing on several motions filed by Campo and Flores:
Defense lawyers John Zach and David Roday spent hours grilling the father and son, noting that the pair had collected more than $1.2 million from the U.S. government for their undercover work even as they’d continued to conduct unsanctioned major drug deals.
The defense elicited on-the-stand confessions that the father had abused cocaine and hired prostitutes while on DEA missions and had repeatedly withheld key information from federal agents and prosecutors.
The 55-year-old father, who pretended to be a member of the Mexican Sinoloa drug cartel, admitted to deceiving the government for years and selling drugs for four years behind the DEA’s back. Roday got him to acknowledge that it wasn’t until Friday afternoon, during lunch with the prosecutors, that he’d revealed for the first time that he had hired two prostitutes during a DEA mission in Venezuela and also introduced an unauthorized man into their operation.
“I did lie to them,” said the father, whose name was not revealed because of the sensitivity of the case.
These two chivatos got paid over a million dollars by the DEA, kept selling drugs on the side, and got to spend some of that hard-earned easy money on blow and hookers while bringing outside “unauthorized” ruffians into the action. Seems like a good gig, if you can get it and are willing to trade your guilt for someone else’s life.
Is the term “life” an exaggeration? Not exactly, because Flores and Campos are potentially facing life in prison should they be convicted. The indictment charges them with conspiring to bring >5 kg of coke into the U.S., which carries a 10 year minimum mandatory term of imprisonment, but because of their “relevant conduct” (800 kilos have been cited as the total amount), it’s all but certain they’ll be put away for a much longer period.
The fact remains that filthy rats like the ones implicating Campo and Flores have become an unfailing characteristic of every major drug trafficking case. It stinks like hell when they’re cut loose with government money, continue to commit crimes, and are then brought to a courthouse where it will be up to the defense lawyer to expose these scandals. No matter what anyone thinks of Campo and Flores, it doesn’t negate the fact that the government got in bed (no pun intended) with two arch criminals so that it could “get” its big fish.
If they’re on the government dime to snitch and make cases, they should be under heavy supervision, as it speaks volumes that the government didn’t know about papa snitch’s dalliances with hookers and dealings with unauthorized co-conspirators until a few days before the court hearing “during lunch with the prosecutors.” Picturing that lunch between the stoolie and the prosecutors while he tells them of his peccadilloes is enough to make a cat laugh.
Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit wrote the following in his primer on cooperating criminals, addressed to federal prosecutors:
A cooperating criminal used as a witness against other criminals is much like a scalpel … But, as in the case of a scalpel, the careless, unskilled, or unprepared use of cooperating criminal as a witness has the capacity to backfire so severely that an otherwise solid case becomes irreparably damaged, and the fallout can sometimes wreck a case and even tarnish a prosecutor’s reputation or career.
A cooperating criminal is far more dangerous than a scalpel because an informer has a mind of his own, and almost always, it is a mind not encumbered by the values and principles that animate our law and our own Constitution. An informer is generally motivated by rank and frequently sociopathic self-interest and will go in an instant wherever he perceives that interest will be best served.
The father and son informants are not the only gaps in the government’s case. Campos and Flores have moved to suppress their post-arrest confessions based on their treatment at the hands of Haitian and DEA authorities, both while in Haiti and en route to the U.S. It also turns out that two other DEA informants, who had been indicted stateside and had been cooperating against the nephews in the hope of reducing their sentences, were assassinated abroad.
What’s worse, it was a government confidential source who “tested” the suspect cocaine in Caracas, and another snitch gave DEA funds “without authorization” to another man so the latter could fly and meet with the nephews in Venezuela. That mystery man was promised between $50K to $100K if the cocaine deal went through.
It remains possible that this laundry list of problems with the government’s case will not convince U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty to grant Campo’s and Flores’ motions. But then, their defense attorneys can still use this parade of government dealings with some insanely nefarious informants to convince a jury to return two word verdicts for their clients.