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FBI agent accused of spending thousands at brothels in weapons case

September 24, 2012 |  1:34 pm

An undercover FBI agent investigating weapon smuggling in the Philippines spent thousands of taxpayer dollars at brothels and clubs known to offer prostitution, including one that local authorities later raided for hiring underage girls, according to court filings. 

Federal prosecutors on the case conceded in court filings that the government reimbursed the agent for $14,500 for entertainment, cocktails and tips over a period of less than a year in 2010 and 2011 in relation to the case. The expenses included $1,600 on a night in September 2011 at a club known as Area 51 in Manila. 

In May, Filipino authorities targeted Area 51 on suspicion of trafficking minor sex workers and discovered 19 underage girls at the club. In a press release, the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation said minors danced in full nudity and offered “sex services” for a fee. 

A public defender representing the lead defendant in the weapon-smuggling case last week filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the case based on “outrageous government misconduct,” citing the agent’s actions.

Based on a defense investigator's interviews with witnesses in the Philippines, attorney John Littrell alleged that the undercover agent paid for sex for himself as well as the suspects in the case. 

Littrell alleged the agent took his client and others to the clubs to induce them to participate in a weapons-smuggling scheme.

“The government’s actions in this case, if committed by a private citizen, would be serious federal crimes. These crimes were not victimless,” Littrell wrote in the motion. “The government’s conduct in this case went far beyond any standard of decency, and warrants dismissal of the indictment.” 

A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman said in an emailed statement: "We will contest the factual assumptions and legal significance of the defendant's challenges in due course." Prosecutors have not yet filed court papers responding to Littrell’s allegations. 

Littrell represents Sergio Santiago Syjuco, one of three men who were arrested and indicted in January on suspicion of illegally importing a laundry list of high-powered weapons and explosives from the Philippines to the U.S. Syjuco, Cesar Ubaldo and Filipino customs official Arjyl Revereza were charged with smuggling assault rifles, grenade launchers and mortar launchers in June 2011. 

In a press release at the time of the indictment, the U.S. Department of Justice said the Philippines National Bureau of Investigations provided “significant assistance” in the case. 

The undercover agent approached the men under the name Richard Han, posing as a broker looking to obtain weapons for use by Mexican drug cartels in the U.S. Syjuco and Ubaldo are accused of selling weapons to the agent for tens of thousands of dollars; Revereza is accused of accepting $3,000 in a bribe to facilitate the shipment of the weapons to the U.S.

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-- Victoria Kim

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