Veteran Criminal Defense Attorneys Vicki Podberesky and Richard Hirsch Expose Tainted FBI Informant
The use of tainted informants by federal and state law enforcement authorities needs to stop. On November 14, 2017, the Los Angeles Times revealed the use of yet another informant with a checkered past by the FBI. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-informant-captain-america-20171114-htmlstory.html
Relying on representations from the FBI and testimony from an FBI informant, working under the FBI code name “Captain America,” the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged three deputy sheriffs with bribery and theft. After making discovery requests to the FBI, Vicki Podberesky and Richard Hirsch discovered that “Captain America” was anything but an upstanding American citizen. At the preliminary hearing, veteran criminal defense attorney Richard Hirsch exposed the informant’s secret past. On cross examination“Captain America” admitted that his real name was in fact “Albino Manuel Mendoza” and that he had come to the United States illegally, has assumed the false name of “Damian Castillo,” and had committed a multitude of crimes including burglary, fraud, and drug related offenses.
Of greater concern is the fact that the FBI knew about Mendoza’s criminal past and illegal status in the United States, continued to use him in an undercover capacity, and then failed to provide his tainted history to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office prior to the charges being filed against the deputy sheriffs.After defense attorney Richard Hirsch unveiled the truth about “Captain America,” the case against the deputies unraveled, and the depth of the deception within the ranks of the FBI came to light. Not only did Mendoza’s FBI handler know about his criminal past, the agent also advised his superiors of Mendoza’s criminal history and illegal status. Rather than blocking the use of this informant, the case agent was instructed by his supervisors to continue using Mendoza despite his criminal background and lack of credibility. Most disturbingly, no effort was made by the FBI to advise other prosecuting authorities or defense attorneys of Mendoza’s true past.
Law enforcement officers, including FBI agents, are not above the law. The case of “Captain America” illustrates the need for courts to exercise greater scrutiny over the use of informants in criminal cases, and for defense attorneys to be vigilant in seeking pretrial discovery. Law enforcement agents, and their supervisors, who knowingly use tainted informants and then fail to reveal their criminal pasts to defense counsel must be held accountable and should not be tolerated.