Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jun 2000
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Michael Sorkin and Phyllis Brasch Librach


Fallen "super-snitch" Andrew Chambers says he sees himself as a
government agent without a gun or badge -- one man on a mission to put
hundreds of drug dealers behind bars.

Chambers is a high school dropout from University City who became the
government's top undercover informer. For risking his life to play a
narcotics dealer, the government paid him $2.2 million.

To critics, Chambers has become the symbol of a war on drugs that is
out of control and that will do anything -- even commit perjury and
cover it up -- to get the bad guys.

Now, under pressure, the government has taken its star off the streets
- -- and off the payroll.

For the first time, Chambers is speaking out. He relished his
adrenaline-pumping role as an actor for the government, comparing it
to being a spy.

In an interview to be televised nationally on Wednesday, he admits
that he was a liar: he repeatedly swore before judges and juries that
he had no arrest record.

Chambers says that in court he was "a little embarrassed" to admit he
had been convicted of soliciting for prostitution and arrested on
suspicion of assault, forgery, writing bad checks, impersonating an
agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other charges.

On TV, Chambers says his lies were no big deal.

He tells Connie Chung on ABC's "20/20" program:

"You want to get mad because of a solicitation? You want to get mad
because I said that I ain't never been arrested?"

Chambers also lied in court when he testified that he had paid his
income taxes -- he didn't report his earnings from the drug agency. He
lied about not lying in past trials. Three federal courts have called
him a perjurer.

The lying not only has ended Chambers' career, it threatens the agents
he worked with, perhaps some of their bosses at Drug Enforcement
Administration headquarters outside Washington -- and the integrity of
the judicial system.

The agency is investigating its agents who worked with Chambers on the
street and walked him into court. Did they know he was lying? How
could they not when some even intervened to get him out of jail? Did
the agency lie to prosecutors? Or did prosecutors know about Chambers'
history but ignore the legal requirement to tell defendants?

Chambers spoke only briefly to the Post-Dispatch. After a four-month
investigation, the newspaper disclosed on Jan. 16 Chambers' genius as
an undercover drug informer - and his history of lies.

Attorney General Janet Reno read the story, and Chambers was suspended
- - pending the results of the Drug Enforcement Administration's
still-uncompleted investigation.

Since then, federal and state prosecutors have dropped charges against
15 accused drug dealers rather than risk letting Chambers testify
again. And at least a dozen drug dealers he put behind bars are
demanding to be released.

"Public enemy No. 1"

"You would think I was public enemy No. 1," Chambers tells ABC.

He says he doesn't think of himself as a "snitch":

"To tell you the truth, I think I'm really an agent without a badge
and gun. The only thing I haven't done is raise my hand and say, 'I

Chambers says his critics will be sorry if his lies cause the prison
gates to swing open: "What happens when the dope dealer comes and
grabs your son? Then what do you call me now?"

Richard A. Fiano, the drug agency's chief of operations, calls
Chambers a hero - although one the agency reluctantly no longer wants
on its payroll.

Fiano says he's genuinely "befuddled" about Chambers' lying.

Normally, if an informer lies, he will lie about everything, Fiano
explains. But, as far as anyone has proved, he says, Chambers only
lied about himself.

"I would rather have seen him do maybe more crime - you know, a worse
crime - but admit to it, than do lesser crimes and not admit to them,"
Fiano said in a recent interview at his office near the Pentagon.

It isn't just Chambers who is on the hot seat - Fiano is there with

The agency chief insists that he knew nothing about Chambers' lies
until August.

But the agency's own records show that its chief counsel's office knew
no later than May of last year, when it sent a memo to field agents
warning that Chambers' credibility has been "thoroughly impeached."
The memo cited court rulings criticizing Chambers dating to 1993.

The agency's lawyers sent their memo to Fiano's subordinates in field
offices across the country - including St. Louis.

The Post-Dispatch reported May 28 that the Drug Enforcement
Administration has been covering up a 15-year cover-up of Chambers'
lies: a report of an internal investigation into Chambers is riddled
with false statements that play down the agency's role.

Says agency spokesman Terry Parham: "There is no cover-up; that's

"A lot to hide"

The DEA only admitted that Chambers had an extensive arrest record
after Dean Steward, a federal public defender in California, sued the
agency for Chambers' records. The agency fought him for two years
before a court ordered Chambers' records disclosed.

Steward says the drug agency had a lot to hide.

"Chambers has been arrested 16 times - they admit that now," Steward
says. "I'm a defense attorney, and I don't know many people who have
been arrested that many times. And many of his cases have been
fraud-related, things that go to his credibility."

Steward maintains that Chambers will say anything to get a

What will happen to Chambers now that the agency won't use him?

He hopes to change their minds so he can go back to the streets
playing his undercover role. If Chambers ever does that he'll need no
rehearsal. He's a natural thespian whose talents led federal agents to
call him a "master manipulator."

"Can't nobody else do this like I can do it," Chambers tells ABC.

Now Chambers is working on a book about himself; a publicist calls him
"the black James Bond." Chambers hopes his next career is as a
Hollywood star.

Andrew Chambers

Age: 43 Reared: University City Education: Attended the old Mercy High
School, where he played football and dropped out in his junior year.
Former occupation: Star government drug informer. He was considered
the best of 4,500 DEA informers.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Chambers is the most
active undercover informer in the agency's history.

During his 16-year career, the agency credits Chambers with:

Responsibility for the seizing of a ton and a half of cocaine. Putting
445 criminals behind bars. Helping seize $6 million in assets from
drug dealers.

In calculating the figures, a DEA spokesman says the agency credited
Chambers with full responsibility for every arrest and recovery of
drugs in each case in which he worked.

ABC's "20/20" can be seen locally at 9 p.m. Wednesday on KDNL (Channel
30). After the show, ABC plans to make Andrew Chambers available live
to answer questions on an Internet chat room. The site is:
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