Pubdate: Tue, 15 May 2001
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Lenny Savino


Reports Of Higher Numbers Meant More Funding For The Branch

WASHINGTON -- The Drug Enforcement Administration's Caribbean office
routinely falsified its claims of drug arrests and seizures for at least
three years, according to five present or former agents who worked

Agents in the DEA's office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, claimed credit for
hundreds of arrests that were in fact made by local police, the agents

``It got so bad,'' said the former supervisor, ``that agents were
checking the newspapers every day to see who was arrested so they could
go get the information and transfer it onto DEA arrest cards.''

Top DEA officials use arrest figures to measure an office's performance;
higher numbers can lead to more resources. In the San Juan office, for
example, arrest numbers tripled in the late 1990s and the staff size

All the agents said that many of the arrests DEA agents claimed in San
Juan involved only a few grams of cocaine or an ounce or two of
marijuana. At the time, the San Juan office was supposed to pursue only
cases involving more than 11 pounds of cocaine or more than 50 pounds of

The five agents, who all spoke on the condition they not be identified,
said they were reprimanded, demoted or transferred after they complained
about inflated reports to their superiors.

In a brief interview May 3 in a congressional hallway, DEA Administrator
Donnie Marshall said an internal investigation of ``all the issues''
involving questionable arrests in San Juan was under way.

The agents who made the allegations of falsified records said veteran
DEA agent Michael Vigil, who headed the San Juan office at the time,
demanded more impressive arrest statistics.

In November 2000, Vigil moved to Washington to head the DEA's
International Division.

In February, the Mercury News Washington bureau reported that the San
Juan DEA office couldn't verify hundreds of arrests it claimed in the
Caribbean's biggest-ever drug trafficking dragnet.
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