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The Sting


Sting operations are fraught with ethical concerns over whether they constitute entrapment. Furthermore, in the process of such operations, the police often engage in the same so-called crimes, such as buying or selling contraband, drugs or soliciting prostitutes. Contrary to popular misconceptions, however, entrapment does not prohibit undercover police officers from posing as criminals. I have changed the names of those involved but the following story is a true one.

During the short time they had been in Quito, the three Americans, two men and a woman were in the habit of returning every evening to the Lord Byron, a bar which I owned at that time. They were staying two short blocks away, at the five star, Hotel Colon on Avenida Amazonas. During the day they would be out and about, allegedly visiting Quito’s colonial attractions and then, after a couple of drinks in the hotel bar, would turn up at the Byron for dinner. They generally kept to themselves, observing the comings and goings of the customers.
 
Todd, a mean looking six-footer, was the one in charge and always took care of the bills. He spent his time in the bar trying to cultivate a friendship with me. He showed a lot of interest in the drug trade in Ecuador; who were the big names in the business, were the police in their pay etc.  Evelyn, his  girlfriend, despite being an attractive, former cheerleader type with perfect teeth and legs, was withdrawn and always deferred to Todd. Mark, the third one of the trio, was a small and wiry, hard looking character who appeared to me as someone life had not treated kindly, acted the hard man and although friendly enough, initially treated me with some suspicion.

One evening, Todd drew me to one side and asked if he could speak in confidence. He said that he felt he could trust me and explained that they were really in Ecuador to buy cocaine, not just a couple snorts but kilos of it. He wanted to make contact with a prominent  trafficker and, in the short time he had known me, it occurred to him that I might have the right connections. Could I see fit to point them in the right direction? I played cautious and non-committal, promising to see what I could do to help.
What he had no reason to know was that I already had a special relationship with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) two of whose agents were also regular customers at the Lord Byron.

The following day, before meeting with the with the DEA Agent-in- Charge, I obtained the full names and addresses of the trio, from a friendly receptionist at their hotel, which I passed on to the AIC. After weighing  up the situation, the AIC thought the best way of handling the case would be through a sting operation and as the three were US citizens, there would be no need to involve the corrupt national police. I would offer to introduce Todd to a narcotics trafficker, whose role would be played by a DEA agent.  As the agent could not be one who was known around Quito, Pepé Alonso was brought in from the DEA’s office in Guayaquil to act the part of the narco. I, for my part, would insist in being cut in on the deal before any introductions were made.

Pepé Alonso, a tough, good looking,  Afro-Puerto Rican, was a very experienced agent, who had joined the DEA shortly after leaving college.  Not only was he Spanish-English bilingual but he would also prove to be a very competent actor, at times behaving and looking more like a narco than a narco. Before arrangements were made for me to present him to the trio, I briefed him on as much personal  information as I had been able to glean on the trio and he and I spent a couple of amusing hours, thoroughly rehearsing our parts.

We eventually agreed to meet in Todd's hotel room.  Evelyn was now introduced to me as a partner in the business along with Mark , who was to be in charge of future cocaine distribution in Saint Louis and New Orleans.  Pepé purposely kept us waiting for an hour before telephoning for the room number. Five minutes later he knocked at the door. Dressed in expensive fawn slacks, a black, Panamanian guabera shirt, sporting a gold Rolex, heavy gold wrist bracelet and a thick gold chain around his neck, he looked  more than convincing.

 Following the introductions, Pepé deliberately paid more attention to Evelyn than to the two villains,  He wandered around the room in a confident, self-assured manner, opening the sliding doors of the wardrobes and peering into the bathroom, checking the place out but without due interest. He addressed sarcastic comments to me in Spanish, watching for any reaction from them. He appeared  seemingly disinclined to talk business,  flirting with the attractive Anderson, with the sole object of provoking Todd, who was certainly not enjoying the situation but had no choice but to  accept.  Pepé spoke to them in broken English, occasionally asking me, "How you say that in English amigo?". He also made sure that they noticed that he had a pistol, tucked under his shirt into the back of his slacks.
 
Without committing himself in any way Pepé  agreed to meet with them again. Only a very stupid  trafficker would risk doing  business  on the evidence of a first meeting and Pepé said he would have to make some enquiries after which he would tell me whether he was still interested in further meetings.   Meanwhile the DEA who were already checking out the US records and backgrounds of the trio.

It was quickly established that Todd Everley, age 34 was divorced, owned two private nursing homes in Saint Louis and a yacht in Miami. His credit rating was good and he was, to all appearances, a relatively successful independent businessman.  Evelyn Anderson, age 26, college drop-out, was an unemployed barmaid and sometime dancer. Mark Sepio, age 38, no known employment, but had contact with known criminal elements in Saint Louis and New Orleans. None of the three had previous criminal records.

We kept them on edge for a few days before the next meeting was held.  I had spent most evenings with the three of them, building up Pepé’s  background as one of Ecuador’s most successful drug dealers and explaining how I had befriended him in the first bar I owned when I initially arrived in the country.  At the next  meeting, Pepé explained that he was only prepared to do business with them because I had recommended them and if anything were to go wrong, he would hold me personally responsible.

 Everely demanded to see some evidence of the cocaine but was informed that he could see and test the drug when it was delivered. Despite his insistence none was ever produced. It was eventually agreed that they should commence dealing with in a small way. Pepé would supply five kilos for starters and, if things went well,  increase the quantity with each future delivery. Pepé got Everley to write a cheque on his American bank for US100 thousand, which Pepé then ripped in half, giving one half of the cheque back to Everley on the understanding that he produce this half on delivery, plus US25,000 cash, for the five kilos. For my part, I would receive  US 5 thousand on each successful delivery.

Everley wanted the delivery to be made on his home ground, Saint Louis, Missouri, but Pepé insisted that the hand-over, for reasons he would not explain to them, would be made in fourteen days and in San Francisco. By this time, the arrogant, laid-back role Pepé was playing, had begun to rile Everley,  who had taken an instant dislike to him, insisted that I continue to act as the liaison between them, including my being there for the handover of the cocaine. He also confined in me that, they would be armed and have a back-up when they were in San Francisco.

To be continued.....

 

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