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FBI informers' hotel orgy led U.S. prosecutor to shelve cases

by Dennis Wagner Sunday, Jul. 09, 2006 at 6:18 AM

Trust the government. They NEVER do anything wrong!!!!!

The Arizona Republic

Jul. 8, 2006 12:00 AM



U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton refused to prosecute a major Arizona corruption case after learning that FBI informers sexually abused an unconscious prostitute during a Las Vegas hotel orgy, according to a letter sent by Charlton to the bureau's top Arizona agent at the time.

There are no allegations that FBI personnel participated in the orgy. However, Charlton's letter complained that agents did not mention the incident in official reports nor did they advise prosecutors of possible crimes committed in the hotel room, including knowledge that "one of the women in the suite may have been raped."

Charlton's conclusion: "Our office will not prosecute any additional cases involving any of these individuals (informers) until the circumstances of the Oct. 16, 2002, incidents in Las Vegas are fully investigated."

Seventy-one U.S. military personnel, prison guards and law enforcement workers have been convicted in the sting known as Operation Lively Green, which involved undercover operatives and agents posing as Mexican narcotics traffickers. The government employees were bribed to haul cocaine from southern Arizona to Phoenix and Las Vegas, sometimes wearing uniforms and using military vehicles.

Charlton's letter of March 29, 2004, to Charlene Thornton, then-FBI special agent in charge for Arizona, suggests that crimes by informers and questionable conduct by agents were so troubling that he backed away from the case entirely.

Thornton said in an interview that she recalls the letter and Charlton's decision to drop the case. She said Charlton sought an investigation by the Inspector General's Office. After that request was declined, she said, the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility reviewed the allegations and exonerated all agents.

Charlton declined to comment.

Deb McCarley, a bureau spokeswoman in Phoenix, describes Lively Green as "one of the most successful public-corruption cases in the FBI's history" but said she could not comment further because prosecutions still are pending.

The Justice Department's Office of Public Integrity wound up pressing charges, allowing each defendant to plead guilty to a single felony with no public trials or disclosures in U.S. District Court.

Charlton's letter to Thornton spells out the Nevada events of Oct. 16, 2002, in detail: Eleven suspects had just delivered 132 pounds of cocaine from southern Arizona to Las Vegas. FBI agents rented the presidential suite at the MGM Grand Hotel for three informers who invited a half-dozen targets to join them. That night, five prostitutes were hired to participate in an orgy with the men.

The letter says one of the prostitutes fell unconscious because of drug or alcohol consumption and was draped naked over a chair. It says she may have been sodomized by informers and suspects, who also posed for pictures with the woman.

Disclosure papers from a military court previously revealed that the photographic evidence was destroyed after an FBI agent told one of the informers he "did not want to see them again."

Charlton said in his letter that, under Justice Department rules, he felt obliged to tell state or county prosecutors in Las Vegas about the suspected criminal conduct of FBI informers.

Clark County, Nev., District Attorney David Roger said he never was contacted about the MGM Grand incident by the U.S. Attorney's Office or the FBI. Police in Las Vegas said they never were asked to investigate.

Thornton said Charlton's letter contained "some conclusions that wouldn't be supported by the facts," but she declined to elaborate.

She also disputed a disclosure report in military court that says a key FBI agent was removed from Operation Lively Green as a result of the Office of Professional Responsibility inquiry.

"There was no misconduct found," Thornton said, "so there was no action taken as a result of the internal investigation."

Five months after Charlton wrote the letter, Thornton was appointed by FBI Director Robert Mueller as assistant director at the bureau's Inspection Division, in charge of internal investigations and professional conduct. She said she had no part in reviewing behavior by agents in Lively Green.

According to the military court disclosure, there was no surveillance on the hotel suite during the night in question. It is unclear why FBI agents, amid a major sting operation, would not have set up eavesdropping devices in a room rented for informers.

McCarley, the Phoenix FBI spokeswoman, said Lively Green "underscores the FBI's commitment to fighting public corruption at all levels of government. . . . (When) all remaining prosecutive activity is complete, the FBI will be in a position to offer comment on this investigation.

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