He’s No Angel: The federal informant the government doesn’t want you to know about
In March 2009, immigration agents in Miami transmitted an urgent message to the FBI field office at 26 Federal Plaza: Dominican narcotics traffickers had put out a contract on the head of Michael Garcia, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Alarm bells sounded. A plot to assassinate a man who had been one of the most powerful and prominent law-enforcement officials in the country was a big deal.
The FBI quickly dispatched agents, U.S. Marshals, and police to provide around-the-clock guards for Garcia, who had served as U.S. Attorney here from 2005 to 2008 before going into private practice. Federal agents ordered a range of wiretaps, dumped phone records, and sent agents and undercovers to the Dominican Republic.
The threat appeared plausible. After all, Garcia had sent his share of big-time narcotics dealers to prison. He had presided over terrorist indictments and page-one political-corruption cases (see Spitzer, Eliot).
Three months and $2.5 million in investigative costs later, however, the threat on the former federal prosecutor turned out to be a hoax. Even worse, the mastermind of the scam turned out to be a longtime paid confidential informant for both the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and Florida state authorities. His name was Angel Jose Perez, a 30-year-old Dominican native living in Miami.
Worse than that, Perez was not only a convicted sex offender before he was granted confidential-informant status, but he also continued to commit a range of violent and nonviolent crimes over an eight-year period while getting paid by the authorities in exchange for dubious information, records show. Meanwhile, even though he had no visible means of financial support, he gambled nearly $500,000 in a nine-month binge from 2008 to 2009, and the authorities did nothing about it.
Perez was convicted of felonies in 2005 and 2007 in state court, but he was allowed to remain out of prison for years, until his hoax assassination plot was dismantled. And, records indicate, he actually fooled the feds twice—once involving the Garcia plot and a second time involving a 2007 money-laundering investigation in which the feds actually smuggled $500,000 in cash from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic but didn’t get a single arrest out of it.
Somehow, the full breadth of this story never came out, neither here nor in Miami, until theVoice recently obtained a sentencing memo in the Garcia case that laid out the bones of Perez’s involvement with the government.