Feds Paying Millions To Inactive Drug Informants

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U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials paid millions of taxpayer dollars to drug informants who are no longer providing information, according to to a new Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General report.

“We found that the DEA did not adequately oversee payments to its sources, which exposes the DEA to an unacceptably increased potential for fraud, waste and abuse, particularly given the frequency with which DEA offices utilize and pay confidential sources,” the IG said.

Among the payments cited by the IG were $9.4 million to 800 informants after cutting ties with them between 2011 and 2015. Federal policy prohibits paying sources who have been arrested for serious crimes.

The agency also paid nearly $500,000 to a confidential source who had previously been cut-off after giving false testimony in trials and depositions.

Overall, the DEA paid $237 million to 9,000 of its 18,000 active confidential sources between October 2010 and September 2015, for an average payout of $263,333. But the wasted tax dollars didn’t just go to useless sources.

The DEA’s Intelligence Division paid one source $30 million — some of it in cash payments of more than $400,000 — during a 30-year span for narcotics-related intelligence. The same office also paid $25 million to just nine sources for its narcotics investigations without independently verifying their credibility or the accuracy of their information.

The DEA also overpaid “limited-use” sources who were supposed to be temporary tipsters, the IG said, including 33 Amtrak employees who collectively got $1.5 million, and eight Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees who together received more than $94,000. The IG previously found the DEA paid one Amtrak employee $800,000 to steal passenger information.

The IG also found some DEA agents set up their own non-government email accounts to receive tips and talk with informants, “thereby possibly compromising personally identifiable information, affecting government record maintenance requirements, and complicating the DEA’s efforts to manage and access important case-related information.” (RELATED: DEA Agents Ran Secret Strip Club)

“When we informed DEA management and program officials about our findings and concerns, these officials expressed a commitment to improve the DEA’s confidential source program, to implement appropriate controls over confidential sources, and to ensure that confidential sources remain a productive and essential element used by the DEA to accomplish its mission,” the IG said.

This isn’t the first time the IG has raised serious concerns about the DEA’s use of informants.

Last year, the IG reported the DEA wasn’t vetting informants before giving them a free-pass to buy and sell narcotics. The DEA tried to hide those findings from the IG and the public by withholding relevant documents from federal investigators, contradicting the 1978 Inspector General Act.

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