By Jared Chausow
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Roberto Acosta infiltrated the notorious MS-13 gang and developed information that led to the arrests of 30 members. But in July, federal prosecutors in San Francisco tried him for lying about his arrest history and the fact that he'd murdered eight people in his native Honduras. Acosta also continued to commit felonies as an informant, telling gang members to rob drug dealers. Another San Francisco–based MS-13 gang-leader-turned-informant, Jaime Martinez, directed robberies and murders and stole cars while working with the feds.
Federal rules allow informants to engage in certain nonviolent criminal acts—such as drug dealing—to maintain their covers as long as they get prior authorization from agents. But it's doubtful the people who wrote that rule had Perez's scale of wrongdoing in mind.
Angel Jose Perez arrived to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic around 1999 at the age of 20. In 2000, he was arrested four different times. He was charged with felony sexual battery, felony false imprisonment, obstruction of justice, six probation violations, and giving a false name. He also pleaded guilty to falsely impersonating a U.S. citizen and lying on a passport application.
He was convicted on the sexual battery and false imprisonment charges. He was ordered to register as a sex offender, which he failed to do.
Perez continued committing crimes in 2002. He was charged with six offenses, including probation violations and fleeing police.
In 2003, ICE, the federal immigration agency, signed Perez as a confidential informant, records show. It's unclear whether he was recruited or approached authorities, as well as what information he provided.
In 2005, Perez was arrested on fraud of more than $50,000, 10 counts of fraud worth up to $100,000 per count, and one count of auto theft. Each of the offenses took place on different dates spread throughout the year.
In 2006, he was charged with felony weapons possession and carrying a concealed weapon. Also that year, he was arrested by state authorities for carjacking, grand larceny, firearms possession, and failure to register as a sex offender.
ICE "deactivated" Perez in 2006 as an informant not because of his arrests, but "based on his failure to provide any useful information."
While he was in jail on the state charges, Perez contacted ICE agents and claimed that someone named Miguel Pou had called him wanting to launder some money. Pou, Perez claimed, was the head of a major Dominican drug organization.
Perez claimed Pou wanted help moving $10 million from Spain to the Dominican Republic. ICE recorded some calls and then reactivated Perez as an informant.
"The Pou investigation led to a series of failed meetings in Spain with people Perez identified as representatives of the Pou organization," the sentencing memo states.
Then, in October 2007, Perez set up a seemingly successful undercover money-laundering operation. He claimed Pou asked him to smuggle $500,000 to someone in Miami and someone else in the Dominican Republic and convinced ICE agents to get involved in the illegal operation.
On October 26, 2007, ICE agents got $500,000 cash in Puerto Rico from someone Perez claimed was a member of the Pou drug organization, and agents, including Detective Oscar Fernandez, working undercover as "Don Guillermo," delivered half the cash to someone in Miami and the other half to an Edwin Pou in the Dominican Republic.
The guy in the Dominican Republic, "Edwin Pou," turned out to be an Edwin Tejada. As the feds didn't know then but would learn, Tejada was a friend of Perez's own family and, at least according to his lawyers, was never involved in any illegal activity.
After that money was delivered, Perez's contacts mysteriously broke off. And here's the key part: "ICE was unable to identify or arrest any of the purported members of his organization," the sentencing memo reads.
So, in essence, federal agents illegally smuggled $500,000 across three national borders on Perez's behalf and didn't get a single arrest out of it, nor did they develop any useful information. Moreover, the feds postponed Perez's sentencing on state charges.
On a smaller scale, the operation recalls the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms "Fast and Furious" investigation, in which federal agents moved more than 2,000 firearms into Mexico for gunrunners, leading to the murder of a border agent.
Federal law-enforcement authorities are prohibited from authorizing an informant to commit crimes unless it is approved by a superior and a federal prosecutor. One wonders whether that was done here and whether anyone raised ethical questions about the operation.
Also in 2007, Perez was arrested for carjacking with a firearm, robbery, theft, grand theft, and attempting to intimidate a witness. He eventually pleaded guilty to carjacking, grand theft, forged use of a personal identification card, and fraud worth more than $50,000. He was also arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving with a counterfeit license. But his sentencing was put off, probably because of his work as an informant.
At any rate, in October 2008, a year after the botched money-laundering operation, ICE once again deactivated Perez as an informant, but he might have continued to work as an informant for state authorities. He was arrested that year for failing to register as a sex offender and habitually driving with a suspended license.