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The bizarre thing is that, despite his convictions and all the arrests, Perez served zero time in prison. "Perez had been cooperating for years, essentially working off cases in the state court in Florida," prosecutors wrote.
Perez also used his time outside of prison to gamble heavily, even though he had no legitimate means of income. Seminole Gaming records show that he gambled in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, almost every day between June 22, 2008, and May 15, 2009. He bought $464,760 worth of chips during this binge, losing $151,510 total in just nine months. And he was such a fixture in the casino that he got comped for rooms and meals to the tune of $8,000.
Meanwhile, records show, Perez was driving a series of luxury vehicles, including a Mercedes-Benz, a Range Rover, and a Ferrari F430.
Where did he get all that money? Did it come from illegal sources? Did the feds know where it came from? Did the feds know he was gambling? Did he use federal money to gamble? How could the authorities let him get away with that, since he was out of prison on their dime? Shouldn't the government have kept better tabs on him?
Perez was required to disclose his betting to the feds, but they claim he did not. Anyway, his gambling put him in debt, and that was the true motive for what happened next, the feds claim.
On March 25, 2009, Perez contacted his handlers at ICE and brought them a disturbing tip. At the time, the Garcia indictment says, Perez was working as a confidential informant for ICE "to reduce criminal exposure in a state case."
Perez claimed he had word of a plot to murder Michael Garcia, the former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, and he offered to help catch the conspirators. Two men wanted Garcia "eliminated" and "put into the ground." The source of the assassination plot was "Edwin Pou," who supposedly worked for Ernesto Castillo, the leader of the largest drug-trafficking organization in the Dominican Republic. Castillo had been indicted and convicted in New York by Garcia's office in 2005.
The U.S. Marshals Service placed Garcia and his family under 24-hour protection. His security detail also included FBI agents and police. "Garcia was forced to experience a unique psychological and emotional stress associated with believing that a team of assassins, hired by a powerful overseas criminal organization, was hunting him at the location where he lived with his family," prosecutors wrote.
Despite Perez's record as an informant, the feds bit. FBI agents gave him a cell phone to communicate with the supposed hit men. Agents issued numerous orders for pen registers, cell sites, and wiretaps. Perez introduced the two supposed plotters, who were in the Dominican Republic, to an undercover FBI agent. That meeting was videotaped.
Then, in April 2009, ICE agents who were tasked with handling Perez discovered that he was carrying a secret second cell phone also to repeatedly contact the two hit men, Edwin Tejada and Marco Antonio Abad de la Cruz. (Tejada was "Edwin Pou" in the 2007 money-laundering operation.)
Suspicious that Perez had breached his agreement, the feds confronted him. Although he admitted that he did speak with them on the second cell phone, he denied they talked about the case and refused to admit to making unauthorized calls.
Meanwhile, Perez demanded money for his assistance and insisted that the government move 27 of his relatives from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. Getting them visas and temporary homes, ICE started that process.
The FBI analyzed the calls to and from the unauthorized cell phone and learned that it was activated on March 29, the same day that Perez approached ICE with his claims about the Garcia hit. They found numerous calls between March 29 and April 21. Incredibly, Perez kept using the second cell phone even after agents found out about it.
De la Cruz and Tejada were arrested in the Dominican Republic on May 15 and 16. Until that point, the feds believed a plot was in motion and Perez was involved in it. And then de la Cruz and Tejada sat down with investigators in Santo Domingo.
Both men separately told investigators that the whole thing was a hoax. Perez had promised to pay de la Cruz, who, like Tejada, was unemployed and poor, $5,000 to go along with the scheme. Perez's goal was to make money from the U.S. government and get the feds to pay to move Perez's relatives to the United States.
Perez would call each man in advance of making a recorded call and tell them exactly what to say to appear convincing as assassins after Garcia.
When the feds sent an undercover with Perez to meet with the assassins in the Dominican Republic, Perez not only revealed the agent's status, but he also secretly briefed the "hit men" before the meeting on what to say. "Tell him you want to kill Garcia," he must have said.
It turned out that Perez and Tejada were family friends. Tejada told investigators that Perez touted his informant status but needed to make up a story to avoid returning to jail and to bring his family to the States.