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Trial Begins for DEA Official Accused of Embezzling Funds : Courts: Eddie Hill abused the power of his office, prosecutor charges. Supervisor allegedly stole money and paid an informant for work never performed.

April 06, 1991|RONALD L. SOBLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor was accused by a government prosecutor in Los Angeles Friday of abusing his power by stealing money and paying an informant-friend thousands of dollars in agency funds for work never performed.

The accusations by Assistant U.S. Atty. William F. Fahey came on the first day of the trial of agent Eddie B. Hill, 49, indicted in October on charges of embezzlement and filing false vouchers on behalf of the informant.

Hill, 49, a staff coordinator on the DEA's cocaine desk in its Washington headquarters, worked for the agency in Los Angeles between 1985 and 1988, when the wrongdoing allegedly took place. He was suspended indefinitely without pay after his indictment.

Hill's attorney, Robert Ramsey Jr., told jurors Hill is innocent.

Hill's trial is being held in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr., who has just finished presiding over the four-month trial of former DEA agent Darnell Garcia, charged with drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Garcia jury, which has been deliberating for a week, resumes working on Tuesday.

The magnitude of the corruption charges against Hill, a former Chicago Police Department officer who joined the DEA in 1975, cannot be compared to those against Garcia. In the Garcia case, two other former drug agents have pleaded guilty to stealing narcotics and cash and pocketing millions of dollars. DEA officials acknowledge the trial reflected an unprecedented corruption scandal.

Hill is charged with stealing $1,780 belonging to a defendant in a 1986 DEA trial, and of fraudulently paying $5,500 to an informant for information that was never provided.

Still, Hill's trial has caused consternation within the DEA because he was a supervisor in Los Angeles and had held a senior position in Washington since 1988.

The indictment also alleges serious ethical wrongdoing--including that Hill attempted to implicate another DEA agent in the alleged $1,780 theft.

The agent not only stole the money, Fahey said, but befriended the informant, Antonio Nieto Navaro, making him a "personal gofer." Hill's friendship with Nieto became "too close" and against DEA regulations, Fahey charged. Hill, he said, allowed Nieto to live with him in his Los Angeles apartment and, on another occasion, allowed his son to live with Nieto.

Hill tried to use Nieto in 1989 to anonymously return to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles money belonging to a defendant, Fahey said.

Hill discovered the money he is accused of stealing in a packing box after he had been transferred to Washington, Ramsey said.

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