Monday, July 20, 2009

Probation officer screened job applicants for drug cartel

Yet another bribery case has cropped up involving a criminal justice worker on the Texas border with the arrest of federal probation officer Armando Mora last week in McAllen. Reports the American Chronicle ("Federal probation officer charged with drug trafficking and bribery," July 20):
According to allegations in the criminal complaint, Mora received bribe payments from members of a drug trafficking organization to provide sensitive and confidential information from government records. It is alleged before the drug trafficking organization considered hiring drivers for their tractor-trailers to transport its drug loads, it would provide personal information - full name, commercial driver's license number and date of birth - to Mora, who in turn would obtained confidential and sensitive information from government sources about whether the prospective driver was on probation or supervised release or had any outstanding arrest warrants. If Mora reported no such warrants or supervision, the drivers would be hired. On the other hand, the complaint alleges that on at least two occasions in May and June 2009, Mora allegedly advised the drug organization not to hire three drivers telling a member of the drug trafficking organization that two of the drivers were undercover agents and the third was one of his own supervisees and and an FBI informant. In June 2009, Mora is alleged to have received $5,000 from a member of the drug trafficking organization for providing the confidential information regarding the third driver.
Obviously ratting out undercover officers puts federal agents at risk. I also have a big problem with using probationers as drug informants, for reasons identified earlier this year by Bobby Frederick at the South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog:
If a person is trying to get clean or stay clean, they cannot repeatedly go into houses and make drug deals - sooner or later they will use and their recovery will be blown to bits. Many narcotics officers do not care if you stay clean or not - you are a tool that they use to do their job for them. Many narcotics officers do not care that you are placing yourself in danger - again, you are a tool that they require to make drug arrests. Rachel Hoffman's death in Florida, although tragic, was representative of the ethics problems that narcotics officers often ignore in their work and thankfully brought national attention to the problem.
There is a fundamental contradiction between policy goals when a probationer is used as a drug informant. Putting someone on probation instead of sending them to prison implies both that the court viewed them as not dangerous enough to require incarceration and also that they're capable of possible rehabilitation. But if that person is sent back over and over into drug environments by the state, it's nigh on impossible to make the kind of clean break from reoffending and drug use that rehabilitation requires.

In this particular case, what kind of message does it send to learn that the FBI and federal probation officers knowingly encouraged an offender under federal supervision to apply for a job as a driver making drug shipments?

In the bigger public-policy picture, this example shows why anti-corruption efforts deserve greater priority in the enforcement battle against multinational drug cartels: One corrupt official can easily thwart the work of many, many others in the system, and too often that's exactly what happens. Americans tend to think of public corruption as more typically a Mexican problem, but we've seen far too many examples of corruption on the US-side of the border to take much comfort in such stereotypes.


JohnT said...

Off Topic.

Scott, I don't know how to get in touch with you but I believe this item is important to your readers.

It seems that privatizing our roads has secret contract non-compete provisions that are alarming.

Here is an excerpt from

Infrastructure Privatization - Have You Read the
Contracts? You Should

Ellen Dannin,
Fannie Weiss Distinguished Faculty Scholar and
Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson School of Law

See the excerpt's concluding paragraph

A Texas Adverse Action provision required the state to pay the
private company for revenue potentially lost for new
highways built within 200 miles.

This provision is totally contrary to Texans's interests.

Could you please follow up on this crime?

doran said...

Grits, I know you have more than enough to do, and so do I. But I, too, would like to see some of the details of the off-topic matter related by JohnT. If accurate, these non-compete provisions and pay-offs probably have Rick Perry's and AG Abbott's stinkin finger prints all over them.

What a perfect way for kick-backs and payoffs. The State promises not to build a highway within 200 miles [!!!200miles???], subject to payment of a penalty if it does. So, of course, it does. Pays off, and the payees make campaign contributions to you know who.

The potential is there. If, as I said, JohnT's report is accurate.

RAS said...

You don't get the enemy to cooperate by appealing to their concern for humanity, you appeal to their desire for freedom. This guy is probably on probation in return for his cooperation.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RAS- I sincerely doubt that agreeing to act as a snitch was part of the guy's probation agreement, which results from a plea bargain where the terms are publicly recorded in court records. Typically probation requires offenders to not associate with criminals, refrain from criminal activity, etc., and in this case the government is the one encouraging the probationer to violate that.

The way you usually see this work is that TESTIMONY may be given in exchange for a plea agreement, probation, etc., but with snitches who they want to infiltrate an organization they just don't prosecute them and let them keep running the streets rather than out them in public court records. I'd be surprised if this was part of any official plea deal, and even more surprised if participating in such activities didn't violate the offender's written terms of probation approved by the court.

JohnT and Doran, I'm afraid the toll roads thing is a bit too far afield for me to jump on, though I agree it's troubling.

Hook Em Horns said...

OMG bribery in Texas? Surely not! This state takes the damn cake now!

Narconon Arrowhead said...

I agree a drug addict can not go into a drug house and not want to use or slow down or halt their recovery.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed that even cartels are having to do background checks. Cops and cartels competing for morality. That's just too much!

kaptinemo said...

What Anon 08:39 said; this is getting surreal.

I am reminded of the scene in the movie Blow where the main character is being counseled by his new patron Pablo Escobar to ditch his previous source because he's had (relatively minimal) 'trouble with the police'. It wasn't the nature of the infraction, it was that he'd been in contact with the US criminal justice system at all.

Such 'contamination' was seen as a potential 'security breach' in much the same way someone with a security clearance is seen if they begin to behave 'out of character'.

This latest revelation attests to how 'professional' these cartels are becoming. And how that makes them an even greater threat.

Bill Fason said...

More evidence that the "war on drugs" breeds corruption and disrespect for the law.

The sooner this country comes to its senses and end prohibition, the better.

Kat @ TAJLR said...

I agree with all of the points you have made in this article. Our justice system's logo should be a snake biting it's own tail.

On the other end of my thought train, it bodes ominously that drug dealers are now 'accepting applications'. Seriously, people apply for these jobs and have to worry about not getting them from a background check. Seriously?! No Seriously?!

What does a probation officer make? said...

The job search for probation officers hasn't yielded any positive results yet. I've had a lot of interviews but no one is hiring. Maybe it's that I'm under qualified.