Crack is wack, unless you happen to be a Federal dope peddler.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents working to clean up the streets of Las Vegas, N.M., decided that it would be a good idea to pay a recovering drug addict aiding them in an undercover investigation, a lawsuit filed in an Albuquerque district court alleges.
According to court documents filed on Monday, 38-year-old Aaron Romero, who agreed to work with the Feds in a DEA investigation dubbed “Operation Smack City” was given copious amounts of crack in return for his cooperation.
“The United States government and the defendants affirmatively and intentionally established a pattern of distribution of crack cocaine to (Romero) in order to utilize his addiction to crack cocaine to further the investigation and to ‘stack drug related charges’ against him,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Federal agents later charged Romero with drug distribution.
According to his attorneys, Romero’s drug distribution charges were dropped — but his addiction to crack persisted, thanks to the Federal government.
“He was targeted because he was a known drug addict,” his attorney Erlinda Ocampo Johnson said. “He is trying to get his life back together but he’s still afraid that the government will try to restart his addiction again.”
According to the lawsuit, agents deliberately repeatedly instructed an informant to contact Romero in 2011. At the time, after years of drug addiction had taken its toll, Romero was allegedly working to get his life together and repair relationships.
Via the lawsuit:
… [The informant]returned to Las Vegas, New Mexico and contacted Aaron to arrange for the acquisition of $40-$50 worth of Crack Cocaine in exchange for payment of Crack Cocaine to Aaron for consumption.
After consumption of the large amount of Crack Cocaine distributed to Aaron on November 30, 2011 by the United States Government and the subsequent related relapse of addiction to Crack Cocaine, Aaron agreed to arrange for the acquisition of $40-$50 worth of Crack Cocaine in exchange for payment of Crack Cocaine to Aaron for consumption.
Consequently, this pattern of arrangement of the acquisition of $40-$50 worth of Crack Cocaine to ¼ ounce of Crack Cocaine for [the informant] in exchange for payment of Crack Cocaine to Aaron for consumption continued 2-3 times per week from early December 2011 through May 2012.
All the while, the Feds stacked charges against the drug addict as they manipulated him.
Romero named five DEA agents in the lawsuit, including two special agents, one group supervisor, an assistant agent-in-charge and the overall agent in charge. He is seeking $8.5 million in damages from the Federal government.
Romero’s case is only the latest in a string of reports of government agents manipulating vulnerable people and employing counterintuitive investigation tactics in targeting crime.
In December, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel printed a laundry listed of dubious tactics employed by another Federal law enforcement agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF):
■ ATF agents befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as “slow-headed” before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting. And agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a “tutorial” on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.
■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.
■ As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.
■ Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity — then stuck landlords with the repair bills. A property owner in Portland said agents removed a parking lot spotlight, damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.
■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.
■ In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers. Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF’s pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.