Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Informants cutting deals to continue lives of crime

Murderers, con men, and thieves are just some of the people our government is paying to help fight crime, trading information in exchange for money or lighter sentences.
But some say the public is losing out as informants game the system, continuing to commit crimes while exerting too much control over government investigations.
One expert says Ronald Dardinski typifies the kind of career criminal that can dangerous to use as informants. His 17-page criminal record paints a picture of a career con man with convictions for larceny, forgery and other charges, dating back to 1985. His long record of lying for profit hasn't stopped the government from repeatedly turning to him to help fight crime, though.
FOX Undercover shared publicly available records about Dardinski with Alexandra Natapoff, a Loyola Law School professor and an expert on informants.
"His crimes that the government has prosecuted him for are all crimes about unreliability and lying, and yet the government is relying on Mr. Dardinski and thousands of other offenders like him for information," Natapoff said.
Natapoff has outlined her concerns about informants in testimony before Congress and in her book, Snitching, Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.
"There is almost no crime that a criminal informant cannot work their way out of," Natapoff told FOX Undercover. "Terrorism. Drug dealing. Murder. Child pornography. Nothing is off-limits. And because of that we send a terrible message in our criminal justice system that every crime is negotiable."
Negotiate is just what Dardinski has done in the 14 years he's been an informant.
He's worked out deals paying him nearly $100,000 even as he's committed serious crimes. He stands to collect even more for his latest case, working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration to help indict high-profile defense attorney Bob George for money laundering.
On George's case alone, court records show, he's already been paid him $12,100 and he stands to collect a 10 percent cut of $96,000 in forfeited money.
George claims in court papers that Dardinski targeted him to launder drug money, which prosecutors deny. The U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI and DEA all declined to comment on George's case or on informants in general. Messages left for Dardinski were not returned.
Regardless of what happened between Dardinski and George, there is increasing concern that informants are creating crimes that would not have existed without their involvement.
"It's very hard for the government to tell whether these crimes would have happened at all had the informant not been involved," Natapoff said. "Remember, the informant doesn't get a benefit unless somebody else is charged with or sometimes prosecuted for a crime. And we see time and time again informants who entrap innocent people, who gin up schemes in order to get other people to commit crimes, so that they can benefit themselves."
Not everyone is as quick to criticize informants. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan says they're needed to infiltrate secretive criminal groups like the Mafia.
"Particularly as you're looking at things like organized crime, they played a critical role with regard to putting matters together in order to infiltrate the organization," Sullivan said. "It took a long time for the government to penetrate these organizations, and they did it initially by using informants, finding people who had some vulnerabilities and then exploiting those vulnerabilities and getting them to become government cooperators."
But sometimes it's the informants who are using the government. That's the lesson from the FBI's use of mob leader James "Whitey" Bulger. Some say the FBI still hasn't learned its lesson.
Mark Rossetti is a purported mafia captain and a suspect in six murders. He is also a long-time FBI informant, a fact revealed only last year after he was charged in state court with heroin trafficking and other offenses -- crimes he allegedly committed while on the informant payroll.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch helped push the Justice Department to reform its informant guidelines after the Bulger scandal. As details about Rossetti's life of crime and relationship with the FBI come to light, he's pushing for more changes.
"Does this make you wonder if the government learned any lessons from the Bulger case?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked the South Boston Democrat.
"It tells me that they learned no lessons," he said.
Lynch has been meeting with the FBI about the Rossetti case. He has also filed the Confidential Informant Accountability Act, which would require the Justice Department to notify Congress when informants commit serious crimes.
"Do you worry that informants get a free pass to commit crimes?" Beaudet asked.
"It's worse than that. They get a free pass to continue their criminal enterprise. They get protection, basically amnesty," Lynch replied. "I just think there's a corrosive element to this confidential
informant program."



Post a Comment