By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Perez, de la Cruz, and Tejada were charged with conspiracy, impeding official function, and wire fraud. They faced up to 30 years in federal prison. On June 18, 2009, the trio was arraigned, and all three pleaded not guilty. Perez claimed that he made $10,000 a year in Miami, had no savings or checking accounts, and lived with his mother.
Prosecutors estimated that Perez's phony tip cost $2.5 million in investigation expenses, including the work of several ICE agents handling Perez, "numerous" FBI agents, the Dominican police, the U.S. Marshals protecting Garcia, and the prosecutors. Relocating Perez's relatives would have cost $1.2 million a year.
"As a sophisticated individual and a long-time informant, Perez was doubtless aware that the U.S. Government has offered and awarded millions of dollars in rewards," prosecutors wrote. "It was precisely Perez's status as a longtime informant, given access to ICE's facilities, lines of communication with the agents, and knowledge about the agents' methods and means, that allowed Perez to perpetrate the fraud."
At the time, Perez still had open cases in Florida, and he had been accused of violating his confidentiality agreement there. New York and Florida officials went back and forth over which case should go first.
That set the stage for a hearing on November 24, 2009, in which Perez gave a soliloquy to the judge: "I live in Florida, and I am working for the government," he began. "My family is in danger in Florida; somebody tried to kill my family in Florida. . . . Why am I here? I need time to speak to my office [ICE handler] to explain exactly what happened. I want to explain to the FBI, call to National Security. I never lied to the government. Never. Nobody here wants to talk to nobody over there."
"I need to speak to the prosecutor or the FBI to give some information—the true information nobody knows for this case," Perez said.
That cryptic, intriguing statement was quickly ignored by the lawyers in the room, along with the judge, who cautioned Perez about incriminating himself.
Little further of note happened in the case until September 9, 2010, when Perez, in another monologue to the judge, stated: "I was approximately nine years working for the government. In all the cases, I never lied to the government, and I don't understand why I won't get the opportunity to explain."
And then, Perez said this: "I understand there are a lot of corrupt officers in Miami and Santo Domingo, and it's no good for them if I open my mouth."
This statement, as intriguing as it is, was once again ignored in court. We asked Perez's New York and Florida lawyers what he meant, but they declined to comment.
For attorney Sabrina Schroff, who represented de la Cruz, the case was a mess, and her client was treated terribly by the federal government and prosecutors.
"He's 58 years old, no prior arrests, poor, and he was totally ensnared," Schroff says. "These guys got totally screwed by Angel Perez and the government."
Schroff added that the worst thing the government did was promise him that he would only be charged with obstruction if he came to New York. Instead, she says, they also insisted the near-destitute man repay the costs of the investigation and then repeatedly delayed the progress of the case.
"The whole thing was so infuriating," Schroff says. As for using an informant while he was also committing crimes, she says "the government doesn't seem to care."
Adam Perlmutter, Tejada's attorney, also said the government promised Tejada that if he were willing to go to the United States, he wouldn't be prosecuted. "Of course, he was prosecuted as soon as he hit U.S. territory," Perlmutter says. "This was a terrible thing to do to [Tejada and de la Cruz] because these were law-abiding people who got sucked into it."
Perez, he says, told the two men, "Follow along, and do what I do, and you, too, can become an agent for the government, and that will give you the right to go to the U.S., to bring your family here, and be paid by the U.S. as an informant."
In October 2010, de la Cruz and Tejada argued that no crime had actually occurred. Meanwhile, Perez insisted that there was an actual plot. The federal judge in the case ordered the case severed—de la Cruz and Tejada in one, and Perez in the other.
"Our defense," Perlmutter said in court, "is to attack Perez, a government informant who was basically run amok on the government and lied to both the government and my client."
Eight days after that hearing, Tejada pleaded guilty, telling the judge he agreed with Perez and de la Cruz "to pretend to make-believe" they would kill a former federal prosecutor for a drug organization in the Dominican Republic. The following day, de la Cruz pleaded guilty.
On November 8, 2010, the day of trial, Perez pleaded guilty. He admitted his lie to the judge. "I thought they [the feds] would pay me for this information," he said.
De la Cruz was sentenced to time served plus 21 days; Tejada, to time served. In the end, after their long ordeal, the judge was merciful. Perez, meanwhile, is awaiting sentencing, with a hearing scheduled for next month.