Federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the use of confidential informants by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta office.
In congressional testimony last week, a DEA official said the agency referred “potential criminal charges” to the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation concerns a DEA supervisor who allegedly had sexual relationships with two confidential informants, one of whom the agency paid $212,000 for information that helped indict four St. Louis men on drug-trafficking charges.
The possibility of criminal prosecution came up for the first time publicly at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The panel was conducting a hearing into a critical review of the DEA’s confidential informant program nationwide.
“Where is this investigation?” Chaffetz asked, according to a transcript of the hearing. “And what’s being done about this?”
Rob Patterson, the DEA’s chief of inspections, told Chaffetz the agency initially conducted an internal investigation.
But “we found issues that rose to criminal, potential criminal charges,” Patterson said. The Justice Department’s inspector general, he said, is in charge of the criminal investigation.
Patterson said the agency held managers responsible for lapses in the case, which reportedly include false documentation of payments to the confidential informant. The woman received a monthly stipend of $2,500 for about 2 ½ years, along with two large bonuses: one for $55,000 and another for $80,750. The monthly payments apparently covered the rent on an apartment the woman leased near the DEA supervisor’s home in metro Atlanta.
“We’ve held managers accountable, as well as people below them, in this particular instance,” Patterson said.
But Chaffetz was skeptical.
“You’ve done what with them?” he asked.
“We have investigated and held managers accountable,” Patterson said.
Chaffetz persisted: “When you say you held them accountable, how did you hold them accountable?”
“Well,” Patterson said, “ultimately they resigned.”
One police officer on loan to the DEA returned to his department, Patterson said, and a DEA supervisor retired after about 15 years with the agency.
“So he gets full benefits,” Chaffetz said. “He’s not prosecuted. So you just let him go.”
“It’s not criminal in nature for him,” Patterson responded, adding that the employee was suspended without pay while he was under investigation.
The testimony did not make clear what action has been taken against the supervisor involved with the informants. He has denied having sex with informants, but he acknowledged having a personal relationship with the woman who received $212,000.
Chaffetz said the agency’s handling of the matter “seems to fall far short of the proper justice that should be required.”
“They do need to have consequences,” he said. “And I worry that all too often in the federal government, they just walk away.”