For at least 16 years an apparently psychopathic federal agent named John Carr has been framing innocent men.
In his memoir Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, former ATF agent William Queen describes Carr as one of the ATF original gangsters who was recruited in 1998 to rid the west of motorcycle clubs by any means necessary. Queen wrote that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Ciccone was tasked by his supervisors with “targeting the growing outlaw motorcycle gang problem in Southern California.” Consequently, Ciccone “developed a ‘gang’ of his own; ATF Special Agents John Carr, Eric Harden, and Darrin Kozlowski, fondly referred to as Koz, were the core. They’d all started with the Bureau together.”
Carr was one of four ATF undercover agents who infiltrated the Mongols Motorcycle Club during what would eventually be called “Operation Black Rain.” Working with a contracted snitch named Steve “Kaos” Veltus, Carr tried to criminalize the Mongols in Southern Nevada. After essentially buying a “P-Patch,” or probationary patch, Carr was influential in starting a chapter in Nevada. He entrapped club members into providing “security” for two, bogus, 25-kilo, cocaine deals and he was expelled from the club after trying to entrap yet another Mongol at the club funeral for a man named Manual Vincent “Hitman” Martin. Martin, himself, was probably murdered by or with the foreknowledge of ATF agents.
Carr also worked as a case agent handling contract snitches during a lengthy and mostly fruitless infiltration of the Vagos Motorcycle Club. Details of his uncover work with motorcycle clubs remains officially secret. It is secret because his career is shockingly duplicitous and most citizens would be appalled and disgusted by it. Rather than candor, the public record on Carr’s career is concealed by a thick coat of red, white and blue.
When Carr was given a Federal Bar Association Medal of Valor Award in 2002 his commendation read: “Special Agent Carr earned his award for working undercover to catch violent gang members staging a series of home invasion robberies. Carr transformed his look, acquainted himself with the criminals, and pretended to help them in their operation. Carr gave the criminals false information, which led them to traps planned by the ATF. Thanks to Carr’s work, many dangerous criminals were caught and taken off our streets.”
“John Carr risked his life working on this assignment,” the commendation continues. “There are not many people who would make such a great sacrifice for others to feel safe in their homes. Through his courage, bravery and steadfast dedication, Carr prevailed in the face of danger.”
Carr seems to have perfected one particular entrapment by doing it over and over. His song and dance goes about like this.
He always promises easy money, usually $1,000, for less than three hours of virtually risk free work. Some sources have suggested that his specific victims are selected from a pool of candidates based on the victims’ credit scores and their desperation for immediate cash.
The entrapments are always videotaped and calculatedly theatrical. A federal prosecutor involved in the prosecutions that resulted from Operation Black Rain described one of the Mongols entrapments as “guerilla street theater.” These “stings” are always videotaped and Carr and his contract snitches always know where the cameras and microphones are so they can theatrically and cynically adjust the volume of their voices and their body language to give performances that will seem most damning of their victims.
Carr always requires his victims to bring guns and bullet proof vests and when his targets don’t own guns or bullet proof vests Carr supplies them. Victims of these stings are frequently misled about the nature of the crime they are about to commit on camera until mere seconds before Carr starts pulling out guns, cash or dope.
No real crime is ever committed. All the participants in these dramas except Carr’s victims are cops or contracted employees of the ATF.
Carr’s career exemplifies the Sadistic State – a dysfunctional polity that can barely govern but which jealously retains its unique power to control and punish. The less capable the Sadistic State becomes of accomplishing basic governmental tasks the more preoccupied it becomes with asserting its power over its citizens as an end in itself.
Not every public defender – and most of Carr’s victims are dependent on public defenders – placidly accepts his client’s entrapment and counsels him to sign a plea deal. Some defenders describe these stings as “outrageous.”
For example, a Carr “sting” in May and June of 2006 eventually became a federal case titled United States v. Mausali. Uiese Mausali’s codefendants were men named Diego Osuna-Sanchez, Juan Okamoto and Mokey Mose. Mausali appealed the conviction on the grounds “that the Government violated his right to due process by…directing the entire criminal enterprise from start to finish and by promoting a crime of violence.”
Carr had talked the men into robbing a drug safe house. He supplied the drug house and talked them into the crime during a string of conversations over the course of more than a month. The men demonstrated their predisposition to committing the robbery by “meeting with Carr,” putting on “bullet proof vests” and “possessing firearms.” When they were arrested during their final meeting with Carr they were charged with “conspiracy to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine,” “conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery” and “possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.”
In its ruling on Mausali’s appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court wrote: “Defendant contends that the district court abused its discretion by failing to sua sponte dismiss the indictment in the face of the Government’s purportedly outrageous conduct. Defendant claims that the Government violated his right to due process by supposedly directing the entire criminal enterprise from start to finish and by promoting a crime of violence. We do not reach the merits of Defendant’s outrageous government conduct claim, because Defendant has waived this claim for purposes of appeal.”
The legal technicality for which Mausali’s appeal was rejected was that his lawyer had screwed up. The lawyer should have raised the issue that his client had been entrapped before the trial instead of on appeal. “We hold today,” the Court wrote, “as have the Second, Third, and Eighth Circuits, that a defendant waives his claim of outrageous government conduct of which he is aware if he fails to assert it in a pretrial motion to dismiss.”
Still At It
All of this serves merely as a prologue to another case that resulted from one of John Carr’s entrapments. This one, like most of Carr’s shenanigans, was reminiscent of the Mongols case six years ago. Carr split his time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He employed the same ATF owned warehouse in L.A.
The official ATF title of Carr’s most recent entrapment was the “Joe Home Invasion Crew” investigation.
As is typical, this entrapment employed two confidential informants indentified in public documents only as “CI-1 and CI-2.
“CI-l has been working for the ATF since 2010 and is working for monetary compensation. CI-l was paid $2,500, which included expenses and subsistence, for his/her work on this case. CI-l was introduced to ATF by CI-2 as someone who was interested in working for money.”
“CI-2 has been working for the ATF since 2001. Prior to 2001, CI-2 was working for LAPD, and was introduced to the ATF through his/her LAPD handler. CI-2 also works for monetary compensation. CI-2 was paid $6,100, which included expenses and subsistence (CI-2 was living outside the area at the time and had to travel), for his/her work on this case. CI-2 has one felony conviction for possession of controlled substance from before 2000 and one misdemeanor conviction for petty theft from before 1995.” (The Aging Rebel believes that the official description of CI-2 transcribed here contains a lie that is intended to further conceal the informant’s identity.)
One obvious indicator of the cynically contrived nature of this case is betrayed by its official summary in an ATF “Report of Investigation.” This single report (ROI 8) summarizes the narrative of the case from July 1, 2013 through September 18, 2013. The ROI was not written by Carr but rather after the fact by a case agent named Ioannis C. Douroupis and is not dated. The ROI was reviewed and approved by Carmine N. Downey, the current Resident Agent in Charge, Glendale V Field Office and Steven J. Bogdalek who is the Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division. Like most ATF ROIs it is bogus evidence. It is not a step by step record of the events of an investigation but rather a mendaciously edited summary written with hindsight and after the fact that is intended to prove whatever a prosecutor intends to tell a grand jury.
In this case the prosecutors were two Assistant United States Attorneys named Vicki Chou and Carol Chen.
The Crime Of Conspiring
The criminal complaint filed last September 19 begins:
“Count One: Beginning on an unknown date and continuing to on or about September 18, 2013, in Los Angeles County, within the Central District of California, and elsewhere, defendants Joe Roberts, Rene Flores, Randy Garmon, Richard Castillo aka “Bad Boy” and Arturo Cortez aka “Chive,” conspired and agreed with each other to knowingly and intentionally (1) possess with the intent to distribute, and (2) distribute at least five kilograms, that is, approximately 20 to 25 kilograms, of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, a Schedule II narcotic drug controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 (a) (1) and 841 (b) (1) (A) (ii).
“Count Two: On or about September 18, 2013, in Los Angeles County, within the Central District of California, defendants Joe Roberts, Rene Flores, Randy Garmon, Richard Castillo aka “Bad Boy” and Arturo Cortez aka “Chive,” knowingly used and carried firearms during and in relation to, and possessed those firearms in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime, namely, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, as charged in Count One of this Complaint.”
A month later, as is the custom in federal justice, a grand jury returned an indictment that added a count. That indictment alleged that the men had “(1) conspired to possess with intent to distribute approximately 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine; (2) conspired to interfere with commerce by robbery; and (3) possessed firearms in furtherance of a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.”
As he has done dozens, if not hundreds, of times before, Carr had imagined a stash house robbery. The serpent enticed and the sinners were encouraged to try to bite the forbidden fruit.
“On September 18, 2013, defendants Joe Roberts (“Roberts”), Rene Flores (“Flores”), Randy Garmon (“Garmon”), Richard Castillo (“Castillo”), and Arturo Cortez (“Cortez”) were arrested after they showed up with guns and ski masks at a pre-designated location in order to carry out the armed robbery of a stash house that they believed contained 20-25 kilograms of cocaine.”
The case followed a predictable course. On the advice of counsel, Cortez, Flores, and Garmon pled guilty to counts two and three of the indictment and were scheduled for sentencing March 10 before Judge Manuel L. Real. Then the case took an unexpected and ironic turn.
Apparently Judge Real, who was appointed to the federal bench by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and who is now 90, somehow just fell off the turnip truck. After almost five decades of wallowing in the outrages that lend federal justice its distinctive stench, Real had second thoughts about sentencing Roberts, Flores and Garmon. So he rudely asked Chou and Chen, “Hey, what’s that smell?”
“Before sentencing,” Real wrote last Friday, “this Court ordered, on March 10, 2014, the government to provide briefing on the nucleus of events that led to the committing of the crimes, the nexus of the creation of the crimes by the government, how the reverse sting came into existence, and how and why the confidential informants came into this case and targeted the defendants. The government’s brief on these issues, filed on March 31, 2014, was wholly inadequate because it did not address these questions or provide any information about the confidential informants. The government filed a reply brief to the defendants briefing on these same issues, which included a calendar of events that was created for this Court. None of the entries in this calendar of events are signed or dated. Because of this, the Court ordered, on April 28, 2014, the government provide further briefing with all the information available to it regarding the confidential informants, the entire history of the creation of the reverse sting, and why these defendants were targeted. The government filed a supplemental brief on May 5, 2014.
“The government, despite being specifically ordered to provide such information, has not provided any contemporaneous signed and dated reports from when this matter was being investigated. To the extent the government’s calendar of events provides the history of this case, the accuracy of those reports is seriously called into question as they were not made contemporaneously or signed by the author.”
Real responded to the government’s stonewalling by dismissing the indictment against Roberts, Flores and Garmon.
Although most citizens do not know it, entrapments are legal. But in order to make an entrapment stick, government prosecutors must first prove that the entrapment’s victims were “predisposed” to commit such crimes anyway.
In his interesting, ten-page long dismissal, Real argued that it was laughable to assume that the three defendants were predisposed to commit the crime Carr invented and he called the investigation racist. He wrote: “Before recruiting these defendants, the government knew two things about them: that they were from a poor neighborhood and minorities. This was ensured by how the government used its paid informants to try to lure these men into the government’s scheme. To be clear, the government was not trying to infiltrate a preexisting criminal organization nor approaching individuals already contemplating robbing a stash house.”
“While the government has averred that the defendants are violent narco-traffickers, this is hard to countenance with a straight face. For instance, defendant Cortez had three prior misdemeanor convictions: driving with a suspended license, possession of under an ounce of marijuana, and criminal threats. These offenses hardly arise to the level of violent ‘recidivist career criminals’ that the government argues.”
“More importantly, the government was not even aware of Cortez’s criminal history until after he was arrested for the crime. The other defendants also have no history of armed robbery or drug trafficking. If we were to accept the government’s absurd proposition that prior drug possession was proof of a propensity for drug trafficking, then the current President of the United States, at least one former President, and at least one judge being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States would ostensibly, according to the government’s theory, be just the types with the propensity to be narco-traffickers.”
Then Real lambasted the role of agents provocateur like Carr and his anonymous CIs in federal prosecutions like the one that had come before him.
“Just as important as the government’s complete lack of a basis to target the defendants, the government created the fictitious crime from whole cloth,” Real wrote. “Agent Carr was the only integral part of the conspiracy to rob his fictitious stash house from the beginning. Agent Carr invented the amount of cocaine present, making his planned robbery worth approximately $600,000. He invented the two old men guarding the fictitious stash house, that they were armed, and thus the need for the defendants to bring guns. Although Agent Carr may never have said the phrase ‘make sure you bring guns,’ he told the defendants that the two men guarding the stash house were armed and that he could not get the guns. When the defendants brought guns to the warehouse, they merely did so as part of Agent Carr’s plan. Agent Carr was to provide the getaway car and be at the fictitious stash house to let his coconspirators through the door. Despite the government’s argument that the defendants planned the crime, Agent Carr controlled all the details, communicating that the defendants would need to bring guns, detailing how they would enter the fictitious stash house, and how they would get away. Agent Carr insisted that he would be at the fictitious stash house during the robbery and that he would open the door for the defendants. When Agent Carr said he wanted to meet everyone at the warehouse to plan the robbery, Roberts said that there was no need and he would just show the others Agent Carr’s photograph, but Agent Carr insisted that he meet everyone to go exactly over the plan. Once at the warehouse, Agent Carr insisted on running through a script to ensure there was a conspiracy. Moreover, none of the defendants even knew of the location of the fictitious stash house. Without Agent Carr there could have been no agreement at all. The government’s crime is a lie and a falsehood. Agent Carr was lying to the defendants the whole time. Everything Agent Carr said was part of his fraud on the defendants. If Agent Carr was not acting on behalf of the government, he could be charged for fraud for his scheme. Agent Carr for all purposes planned the robbery and the conspiracy from beginning to end. The government argues he did not tell the defendants how to do their part, but their part was only agreeing to go along with Agent Carr. Agent Carr told them the details of the targeted fictitious stash house, that he would let them in, provide the vehicle, and told them of the obstacles they would encounter. The only thing Agent Carr did not provide them with was guns. However, Agent Carr and the ATF needed to have the arrests for guns, and it was not the defendants who asked about the need of guns. But the crime that the defendants were indicted for was conspiracy, which Agent Carr was most definitively an active conspirator, the ring leader, and orchestrator of the whole agreement. But despite Agent Carr’s integral part as the mastermind of the conspiracy who was in charge of all the details, the government did not indict him. Agent Carr encouraged all the defendants to agree to his fictitious plot; at the warehouse, Agent Carr’s carefully orchestrated script ensured he would get the defendants to agree. Thus the government’s role in creating, encouraging, and participating in this conspiracy was pervasive from beginning to end. Moreover, had the defendants actually robbed a real stash house, regardless of their aspirations, and there was only one kilogram of cocaine at the real stash house, they could only be charged with possession of that one kilogram of cocaine. That Agent Carr was able to lie about all the details of the crime – the 20–25 kilograms of cocaine, the necessity to bring guns – then use those fictitious details so that the government can indict the defendants for a crime with a much greater mandatory minimum sentence, is outrageous. It would be unconscionable for this court to condone and sanction the government’s fraud in this case.”
“It is unclear,” Real continued, “why the ATF, which has no authority over illicit drugs, is trying to ensnare citizens in its fictitious stash house robberies. Further, the government has provided no evidence that there have been any stash house robberies in Southern California nor any evidence of the necessity of trolling poor neighborhoods to ensnare its poor citizens.”
About the ATF Report of Investigation described above, Real wrote: “Agent Carr goes back and forth between telling the defendants there will be 20–25 kilograms and 20–25 pounds of cocaine. This is indicative of the inaccuracy of these reports as a whole, and further highlights the true arbitrariness of the amount of drugs charged in the indictment.”
Real’s dismissal became national news. Brad Heath who writes for USA Today, has already reported on this case. You can read his coverage here.
But admirable though it is that a journalist with a national voice has noticed this one entrapment Heath still seems blind to what is really going on here and what Carr and the ATF have been doing since at least 1998 when John Ciccone first put his biker busting “gang” together. The sting that outraged Judge Real this time epitomizes the stings that have already put a hundred or more men in jail following ATF “operations” with public relations names like “Black Biscuit,” “Twenty-Two Green” and “Black Rain.”
The current government prosecution of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, a case officially titled USA v. Mongol Nation, an Unincorporated Association, is built on the same sorts entrapments, embellishments and lies that Real found so obnoxious last week. And that is a notable irony because of the part Judge Real has played in USA v. Mongol Nation.
As Heath points out in his USA Today piece, there was a similar dismissal in March by Real’s crony and fellow judge, Otis D. Wright. In that case Wright wrote that a “reverse-sting operation like this one transcends the bounds of due process and makes the Government the oppressor of its people.” Wright is the judge who presides over the current Mongols case. In fact, the legal argument that underlies USA v. Mongol Nation was actually invented by Wright and suggested to prosecutors in open court as a way to get the Mongols – because, based on the “evidence” agents including Carr gathered, the Mongols must be a criminal enterprise.
Wright And Real
Based on that “evidence,” Wright has already decided that the Mongols Motorcycle Club is a racket.
Wright made it clear that he had prejudged the Mongols case in a hearing last October. When shown a set of Mongols bylaws that forbid club members from criminal conduct, Wright told the Mongols attorney, “Those bylaws are a joke, and you know it. I am surprised you even mentioned it. This is a criminal enterprise as evidenced by the admissions of same by no fewer than 40 people who appeared before me. I can’t speak to the other 40 who appeared before Judge Carter. This is a dangerous enterprise.”
The “40” to whom Wright alludes are all men who took plea deals like the deals taken by Cortez, Flores, and Garmon. In most cases, the admissions – or statements of fact – made in those plea deals is considered hearsay. So what Wright has done in Mongols Nation is to treat ATF hearsay as evidence.
When the attorney tried to argue that the Mongols might not be a criminal racket, Wright hectored the lawyer like this: “…you are saying that it is no different than them having perhaps having been Lutheran and they are of doing all these criminal things and it is just coincidental that some of them were Lutheran; right? It is not the same thing, is it? They are operating under the banner of the Mongols. It is that name, that reputation, that intimidation factor which enables them to do what they do, isn’t it?”
LAWYER: I can’t….
WRIGHT: Go like that.
LAWYER: I can’t answer that, your Honor.
WRIGHT: I can. I have seen them. Alright. They have all been here. I have seen them.”
The men Wright had seen were all men entrapped by members of Ciccone’s gang including John Carr. The evidence used to coerce guilty pleas from the Mongols defendants sentenced by Judge Wright was no more truthful than the evidence in the cases Wright and Real have recently dismissed.
And when the Mongols current attorney, Joe Yanny, moved to remove Judge Wright from the Mongols Nation case that motion was heard by Judge Real, who rejected it out of hand.
There is some progress in the fact that these two judges have noticed that ATF Agents lie to secure prosecutions for the Sadistic State. It would be better if more federal judges recognized that the ATF lies to make virtually all its cases. And it would be best if all federal judges began to dismiss all the cases based on obvious lies told by agents like John Carr.