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FBI agent denies sex allegations in arms-smuggling probe

The undercover agent rejects a defense claim that he paid for sex for himself and for suspects in the Philippines with government funds.

October 10, 2012|By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times

An undercover FBI agent on a case of weapons smuggling from the Philippines to the United States denied a defense attorney's allegation that he paid for sex for himself and the suspects using taxpayer dollars.

The agent, a 16-year veteran who was not identified by name in court documents because he is working undercover in a separate investigation, in a sworn declaration strongly denied allegations of what a public defender contended was "outrageous government misconduct" and should be grounds for the case to be thrown out.

Federal prosecutors have acknowledged that the government paid for $14,500 in expenses incurred by the agent for entertainment, cocktails and tips over the course of the investigation. Deputy federal public defender John Littrell said in court filings that one of the clubs the agent visited was later raided by local authorities for employing underage prostitutes, alleging that "some of the girls solicited by the undercover agent on behalf of himself and others were likely minors."

Prosecutors responded in court papers that the suggestion was "as false as it is inflammatory."

"At no time did I pay to have sex with any employee of either Area 51 or Air Force One," the agent wrote, referring to two Manila nightclubs where he met with the suspects and spent thousands of dollars. "At no time was I alone with any female employee."

The agent wrote that other undercover agents and local investigators were always present at each of the meetings as "cover" teams providing security. He said that club patrons were expected to buy drinks and food for female hostesses who sat near them and pay a "sitting fee," and that he would loudly negotiate the bill, then pay in cash for the sake of his undercover persona as a "weapons buyer-broker for wealthy Mexican drug cartels."

The agent said he met with suspects on three occasions at Area 51, which the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation raided in May. Local authorities said that minors danced in the nude and offered "sex services" for a fee at the club and that they rescued 19 underage employees at the time of the raid.

The allegations were filed in the case of three Filipino nationals who were arrested and indicted in January on suspicion of illegally importing high-powered weapons and explosives from the Philippines to the United States. Sergio Santiago Syjuco, Cesar Ubaldo and Filipino customs official Arjyl Revereza stand accused of smuggling assault rifles, grenade launchers and mortar launchers into Long Beach in containers labeled "Used Personal Effects." The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Littrell, Syjuco's attorney, alleged in a motion to dismiss that the agent's actions "if committed by a private citizen, would be serious federal crimes."

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for November.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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