Profile of a paid government informant

By Jackie Quarterman, Prisoner of the Drug War

One of the most disillusioning aspects of the case against my sons and me was the fact that a real drug dealer turned government informant was used to create a "drug dealer" (me) and create a "case" (us) for the prosecution. An unproductive person was used as a tool to entrap three productive citizens. How could the justice system support and create such absurdities in America? We thought our case must be some freak accident, but sadly we learned that the creation of drug cases by paid government informants is the method of choice for securing drug entrapments and convictions in America's bizarre "drug war."

My personal "narc," Mark Addington, was a small time drug dealer, who became a government informant and entrapped me for the sole purpose of ensuring his own freedom. He did not want to spend one day in jail, and he did not. All he had to do was think of a vulnerable, property owner who might be sucker enough to obtain drugs for him. The most common commodity used to pay government informants is freedom, the one thing Americans may consider more valuable than money. But, if they prove to be a lucrative, skilled entrapper of people with property, they are often paid large sums of money. In addition to their license to break the law, the skilled liar is even more valuable because they are used to commit perjury, as my "narc" did; it's all part of the conviction game. In our case, Mark Addington was brazenly told by a DCI Agent Williams, "You give us Wyarno and you're off scot free." He's probably working full time for them now, earning; good money for his acting skills.

As we progressed through the system, I learned that Mark Addington was a "babe in the woods" in the paid informant realm. Through the numerous convictees I became acquainted with, I discovered that the entire "drug war" is a scam, perpetuated by the widescale use of unscrupulous agents and paid government informants. Most often these informants are guilty of more than the people they testify against, and many have records a mile long. They are con artists creating slaves and statistics for imprisonment. Virtually every drug case I'm familiar with was based on a paid informant.

I have met numerous prisoners who had the same Wyoming federal prosecutor as I did, and all were convicted by the use of a paid informant. I became friends with several Wyoming ladies who were convicted by testimony of one Michael Hemlinger, an informant with a long rap sheet that includes rape and armed robbery-crimes for which the long sentences should be reserved. Another Wyoming friend and her daughter were convicted on the less than credible testimony of David Lahr, a child molester, drug dealer and bank robber.

My friend, Joan Tejada's lawyer pointed very succinctly to how the federal system works: "Either you testify against him, or he will testify against you!" And he did, even though she was totally innocent and unaware of the marijuana that he carried in his suitcase during their trip together. Being an honest person, she knew she could not testify against him, as she knew nothing about the marijuana or its existence. That's the real irony. It's the dishonest and unscrupulous person who is willing to lie to earn his own freedom, while the innocent pay the price. It's an unbelievable, cut-throat game that has destroyed thousands of lives in America.

One of the more extreme cases involving the use of a paid informant is that of 63-year-old Maria Benitez of Chicago. She was harassed and entrapped unbeknownst to her judgement, by a professional government informant, an illegal alien wanted for murder in Mexico. Thirty-five to forty recorded phone calls demonstrate Varela's persistent harassment of Maria, as he tried to pressure her to buy cocaine from him. She finally told him she didn't have any money when he conveniently told her that he has a friend who will loan her the money. One paid government informant gives her the money; another inforrnant has the drugs. How accommodating. When she is arrested by the DEA, the only thing in the apartment is the government's money. She never even completed the transaction.

At the trial, Mara learned many things about her "friend," Varela. Sections from Maria's appellate brief tell the story. Varela was "released from jail in October of l993, having served a 16 month sentence. He was initially sentenced to 32 months; however, the court reduced the sentence to 16 months in light of his'cooperation. Varela has participated in some 40 investigations resulting in the arrests of 35-40 persons and the seizure of substantial quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as $1,200,000 in cash. He received $300,000 for his activities with the DEA, which included a single payment of $200,000 in cash in December of 1994, and an $8,000 payment of his activities in connection with this case.

"An overview of the facts of the case are that between mid-February and March 19, 1994, Varela made some 35-40 telephone calls to the defendant and visited her on several occasions at her bar all for the purpose of inducing her to purchase cocaine. At no time did the defendant ever call Varela unless he first attempted to contact her either by calling or visiting her bar and leaving a message. Varela offered the defendant drugs on nearly each of these occasions, and the defendant rebuffed each offer until March 19, 1994."

Varela's entrapment of 63-year-old Maria was very lucrative. The court fmed her $200,000 plus $57,000 interest, which she recently paid off from the sale of her bar. The tax-free, $8,000 payment to Varela was small change. In addition to the fines, Maria was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 15 years supervised release.

In the 1995 and 1996 appeal of Arturo Gonzalez it was revealed that Varela "was willing to kill or have others killed in order to steal cocaine (CI report 2/20/91); was a suspect in the murder of Alfonso Herrera, a possible drug dealer (Ohlin report 2/20/91); participated in simulated drug and firearm transaction Perez and Phlin reports 3/4/91); sold two kilograms of cocaine for which he was neither indicted nor sentenced (Grobe report, 6/29191); sold five to ten kilograms of cocaine per week (Grobe report 6/6/91); hatched several plots to steal cocaine and attempted to convince an undercover agent to participate in these plots (Mazzola report, 6/25/910 was involved in dealing drugs other than cocaine (Naddis report, 6/2519i); and received ~:oner to be used for counterfeiting US currency (Grobe report 12/17/90)." It was also noted that his wife also dealt drugs out of their home.

The court believed that even if all of the undisclosed evidence regarding Varela had been admissible, "the result of the trial would not have been different."

In another 1994 appeal of Jose Juan Rodriguez Andrade it was disclosed that Varela was fired from C&NW Transportation Company for stealing mechanical tools (C&NW Transportation Company Police Reports); another DEA informant was ripped off and later beaten by Varela in a drug transaction; and Varela was wanted for murdering a young woman in the Durango Mexico area.

How absurd is this? It does stand to reason that the majority of paid government informants would be of the lowest caliber, but how did the government stoop to this low point of fabricating cases for a ludicrous ''drug war?"

I truly believe this fake war with its illustrious paid government informants will go down in history as the biggest farce of all time, but I'm tired of waiting in prison for history.

1) United States v. Arturo Gonzalez and Ricardo Ramirea. 1995 WL 59249 (N.D.111); and 93 F.3d 311 (Seventh Circuit, 1996).

2) United States v. Jose Juan Rodriguez-Andrade, 1994 WL 285066 (N.D. III.) No.92 CR 677-3.