How Much Did the DEA Spend on its Africa Vacation?

So, the DEA and its paid informants go to Africa for a sting. (AP here, NY Times here, U.S. Attorney press release here.)

The DEA informants pretend to be from FARC, willing to ship cocaine from South America to Africa where three Africans with claimed al- Qaida ties promise to transport it across the African desert into Spain.

Here's the Complaint (pdf). It doesn't sound like they got any cocaine or there ever was any cocaine, and the deal almost fell apart a few days before the bust.

It wasn't really FARC, just paid DEA informants pretending to be FARC. There never was any drugs, the pretend drugs weren't headed to the U.S. but Europe, yet the three would-be purchasers/transporters are arrested in Ghana and flown to New York for prosecution on terror and narco-terror charges here. [More...]

The DEA forked over $25,000 so the Africans could by a truck. The Africans then tried to demand another $15,000 for outfitting the truck, and to prove they really bought one, showed the DEA informants a cell phone photo of a truck and gave them what they said was a key to a truck. Then the Africans increased the transport price from $2,000 a kilo to $10,000 a kilo, demanded $75,000 euros as down payment on the transport (instead of the agreed upon 10% or $15,000 euros) and the deal began to fall apart.

One of the African men said he is the head of a militia. The militia's size: 11 men.

The e-mails are laughable. The DEA informant writes to the African, addressing him by his real first name, refers to the Colombians, the need to protect the merchandise, writes that once the passport is completed, he'll pay him separately for the drivers' license and ID card he'll need to go with it -- and then writes:

The load will be ready and that's why we have to study well the route.

"The load?" What drug trafficker would use that phrase in an e-mail?

The DEA used two informants. The first began working for the DEA five months ago, in July, 2009. In August, he told them about Oumar, one of the Africans. In September, the DEA sent him to Ghana to meet with Oumar. By October, it must have been clear he needed help, because the DEA sent in the second informant (who began his DEA informant career in 2000 as a cooperating witness, working off his own misdeeds, and later then became a paid informant.)

So the DEA gave the Africans $25,000., sent two informants and who knows how many agents to Africa, to pretend they were going to ship cocaine to Ghana, which the Africans believed they would transport to Spain. It was all make-believe. There were no drugs. There was no FARC involvement. The Africans never even showed the truck they claimed to have purchased, just a cell phone photo of one and a key.

Maybe the Africans really were drug transporters. Maybe they really even knew some people in al-Qaida. Or maybe they were playing the neophyte informant and his supporting cast, intending to rip them off.

In any event, why we have to fly these three men from Ghana to the U.S. for trial (and pay for their prosecution and defense)in a case where no drug deal transpired or would have transpired and the make-believe drugs were supposedly going to Spain, not the U.S., makes no sense to me. According to the U.S. Attorney's press release:

The defendants each are charged with one count of narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

How much will it cost to incarcerate these men if they get 20 year sentences? How much did the DEA spend on this venture? Is this what we're going to get with the $30 million Congress gave the DEA to fight narco-terrorism?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Whole lot of unfair happening everywhere. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Salo on Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 07:43:33 PM EST
    The world sucks.

    How much did they spend? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Zorba on Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 07:49:17 PM EST
    Way too much.

    Back when I used to (none / 0) (#3)
    by jondee on Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 08:38:44 PM EST
    work construction, we, rank amateurs that we were, used to call this kind of thing "milking a job." But
    at least we had something to show for our work and it did have a beginning and an end. These righteous scam artist/arms of the state have their very own constantly replenished, genetically engineered, toxin-excreting, mega-cow. And not one person in the U.S who wants to take drugs, wants to take them less
    after all that.

    I confess (none / 0) (#4)
    by Steve M on Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 08:44:55 PM EST
    that I am unfamiliar with what terms drug traffickers tend to use or not use in an email.

    The politics (and vocabulary) or crime. (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 09:12:55 PM EST
    Our government is (none / 0) (#6)
    by JamesTX on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 01:35:34 AM EST
    hopelessly misguided, and I don't think we will ever get control of it again.

    this sounds like (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 09:55:18 AM EST
    like a classic "nigerian 419" scam. my question: wouldn't the appropriate venue for prosecution, assuming a crime was actually commited, be ghana? that's where all the activity took place, not the US.

    the time has come to put the DEA our of our misery. they had no reason for being to begin with, and as time goes by, even less so.

    I'm with CPinVA on this (none / 0) (#8)
    by Peter G on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 12:25:39 PM EST
    Admitting that I have done no research (can I blame the near-foot of snow we have here, with more still coming down?), I am wondering ... what is the excuse -- I mean, legal basis -- for U.S. jurisdiction in this case, much less S.D.N.Y. venue?

    It appears to me (none / 0) (#9)
    by Steve M on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 01:26:38 PM EST
    that the jurisdictional hook is the alleged intention to provide material support to a terrorist organization (FARC), which I gather is a crime if committed anywhere in the world.

    It sure sounds like entrapment to me as to the terrorism issue, even if we assume they were predisposed to sell drugs.  In other words, if I go to my neighborhood drug dealer and pretend that I want to buy drugs, I can nail him for selling drugs.  It's not entrapment because he really is a drug dealer.  But if I go to that same drug dealer and say "I'm from al-Qaeda and I want to buy drugs," can I seriously convict him of attempted support for terrorism as well as selling drugs?!?  That's a little nuts.


    Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (none / 0) (#10)
    by jondee on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 01:44:54 PM EST
    and other watchdog groups continue to put heat on Bubba's sometime employer, Columbia's Uribe, for his administration's probable role in making Columbia first among countries in the world that "disappear",
    labor organizers.

    Man (none / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 05:36:32 PM EST
    Everything is about those evil Clintons with you.  You must be fun at parties.