FBI Informant Helped Out In Terrorism Stings While Running A 'Stranded Traveler' Scam

from the pros,-cons,-and-pro-cons dept

It's well known many confidential informants are criminals. Acting as informants is supposed to keep their criminal acts to a minimum while providing access to bigger criminal fish. The same goes for undercover officers and agents. Some illegality is presumed but those running CIs are expected to be making the world a better place, not ignoring vast amounts of criminal activity simply because the informant is now on their side. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

The DEA's informant program is being run with almost no oversight, according to an Inspector General's report. Money flowed to informants who were still under federal investigation and no one up top seemed too concerned about the program's bang/buck ratio. The FBI made abusable programs worse by hiding payments to informants and giving them a cut of forfeited property.

It's not that informants can't break the law. In some cases, they must. But the illegal acts must be done with permission and as an integral part of an investigation. But that's not how things work out. Trevor Aaronson of The Intercept tells the story of FBI informant Mohammed Agbareia, who participated in terrorism stings while making a healthy, illegal profit on the side.

According to court records, Agbareia began working for the FBI only after being convicted in U.S. District Court in Alabama for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

[...]

After pleading guilty to the wire fraud case in March 2006, Agbareia was ordered to report to immigration authorities for possible deportation. But instead of being removed from the United States, Agbareia signed up with the FBI.

The threat of removal and/or the dangling of citizenship is a powerful motivator. This is why multiple federal law enforcement agencies have turned the nation's borders into unofficial recruitment posts.

But old habits die hard. The Intercept reports Agbareia has again been indicted for the same criminal activity.

According to a new wire fraud indictment handed down in Florida on June 27, Agbareia has continued to swindle people with his stranded traveler scheme. He received six Western Union wire transfers from 2012 to 2017 from victims in Texas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, and Germany. Two of the wire transfers — one for $1,414.26 from Berlin and another for $1,000 from Brooklyn — occurred around the time he was working undercover in the FBI’s ISIS sting.

The government is trying to bury this damaging information. It has already asked for evidence of Agbareia's illegal sideline to be placed under a protective order, supposedly for national security reasons. The government is also refusing to turn over information of Agbareia's criminal efforts to one of the accused, despite two of three suspects targeted in the sting having already pled guilty.

Federal prosecutors’ position has been that they do not have an obligation to provide information about the FBI’s informant so far in advance of a trial, since Hubbard’s is not scheduled until October 30. “In a national security case at this point, I mean, we understand our obligations to turn it over, but the trial is in late October,” federal prosecutor Edward Nucci said in the March 14 hearing.

The remaining suspect's defense lawyer has been asking for this information since 2016, pointing out that the proactive nature of sting operations should result in proactive delivery of evidence by the government.

Agbareia is now in the awkward position of having government demands for secrecy work both for him and against him. In the terrorism stings, the government is playing keep-away with anything that might damage his status as a source of evidence. In his wire fraud prosecution, the government is looking to bury info he might use in his defense. National security-related suppression is being asked for in this case as well.

Agbareia’s lawyer, Murrell, noted in a June 30 filing that federal prosecutors haven’t specified the level of classification — top secret, secret, or confidential — the evidence involves, raising questions that the information “is not ‘classified’ simply because it might embarrass law enforcement or in some way hinder prosecution of this or other cases.”

Federal prosecutors have requested Agbareia’s witnesses disclose up front the testimony they intend to offer, giving the U.S. Attorney’s Office an opportunity to agree to the release of “a stipulated, declassified summary of that information.” In other words, federal prosecutors want to use claims of classified evidence to control the information Agbareia can use in his defense

If the government succeeds in this evidence suppression, it might be able to run the prosecutorial table -- convicting a suspected terrorist and the crooked informant it used to rope him in.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 3:40am

    National security-related suppression is being asked for....

    to hide FBI wrongdoing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 3:42am

    This is all Obama's fault.
    If his premium payments hadn't skyrocketed he wouldn't have needed a side hustle. /SARCASM (for the impaired)

    I guess the upside in using actual criminals is they can stop their bodycount of college kids busted with small amounts of drugs setup to inform on cartels known for killing people who cough wrong.

    Of course the downside is they really want to hide that on their watch the CI was still a criminal doing whatever they wanted because getting information (that anyone get with a little work) is hard. Of course no one wants juries to know that the CI was trying to work off having molested a child and assaulted 3 more, but his info was so good they kept him around the grade school.

    Of course the fish these CI's seem to offer up are just other schmucks who cross their path that the CI tells a fantastic story about and the full weight of the law comes armed for bear without wondering how the 65yr Grandmother was the kingpin in funding ISIS in Iowa.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 5:27am

    Re: my Dad was a stranded traveler's scam victim

    Of course the side effect of these scams is that if you really are stranded abroad there is now nothing you can do about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 7:43am

      Re: Re: my Dad was a stranded traveler's scam victim

      Actually, you call collect and SPEAK with them on the phone so they have a decent idea that it's actually you and not a scammer who got into your account. I'd never send a family member an email asking for money - I'd CALL.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 8:49am

      Re: Re: my Dad was a stranded traveler's scam victim

      <i>Of course the side effect of these scams is that if you really are stranded abroad there is now nothing you can do about it.</i>

      That is what the consulate is for. If you are stranded abroad, you can usually find a way to make it to the consulate or contact them. That way, the consulate can get in touch with your family and offer help.

      At the very minimum, they can provide you with a phone to call your family, but usually they can help with things like passports and contact with family members.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 5:41am

    Is anyone really surprised that someone the FBI recruited was still committing crimes? I doubt it. Let's remember the reason most of these "confidential Informants" the FBI recruits are people who have been caught by the FBI doing crimeS and took a deal to be a informant in hopes of avoiding jail or getting a lighter sentence if they helped rat out people for the FBI.

    There are a lot of FBI informants from turned mobsters to street thugs and your average criminal who go caught up in an FBI OP that have turned informant to save their own skin.

    Salvatore " Sammy The Bull " Gravano ran a major ecstasy ring while in witness protection after ratting out his fellow mobster and got 20 years for it.

    Alberto 'Alpo' Martinez' was a huge drug dealer in Harlem and helped intorduce crack and moved tons of cocaine into Washington DC. Alpo had major street cred so much so that he was depicted as an iconic figure in hip-hop mythology who was played by the rapper Cam'ron in the movie Paid in Full not only that Alpo was a rat who betrayed the street code to save himself after killing his drug business partner and ratting out his top enforcer to save his ass

    This is just two stories, there are lots and lots more out there. These are all people trying to save their own ass and if they have to lie, cheat, steal or commit some more crimes so be it.

    As for the FBI whose agents have been known to commit their own crimes, if you cant trust a fellow criminal, who can you trust

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 6:04am

      Re:

      Don't forget about "White Boy" Rick Wershe who got flipped, helped take down a bunch of corrupt cops and other people, and then was given life in prison. He could have shot a cop and gotten less time.

      He finally got parole, but it was clear that the state was still holding a grudge, he was IIRC the last teen sentenced under the life in prison law that was rolled back and others were released.... but not White Boy.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2014/10/white_boy_rick_richard_wershe_was_ a_detroit_legend_and_an_fbi_informant.html

      As shitty as they treated these people at least they lived. There are many stories about college kids mysteriously dying while working as a CI & the Feds claiming they know nothing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 6:25am

      Re:

      Blackmail, like in these cases, is mental torture, and gets the same results as physical torture, and that is what the torturer wants to hear.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      "...they have to lie, cheat, steal or commit some more crimes so be it."

      Don't forget that these "informants" are paid... sometimes paid VERY well so they aren't just in it for the reduced sentence it's the M.O.N.E.Y..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      Don't forget the CI's who never even exist in the first place and are just placeholders for illegally obtained evidence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 11:19am

    What's Too Far for a CI

    Was the Boston Marathon bombing one step too far for a CI?

    Maybe not, if you consider the incident was a tactical advantage for the FBI.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), 24 Jul 2017 @ 7:49pm

    What sort of information could Agbareia use in his defense that would not only be classified, but could be redacted? A possible defense claim might be that on date XX/YY/2016, when he accused of scamming someone in Los Angeles, he was hundreds of miles away doing a sting on terrorist recruits. Could he just say

    On XX/YY/2016, I was off somewhere else helping the FBI. I can't say exactly where or exactly what, but the FBI can back me up

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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