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Imprisoned Drug Snitch Wants His Reward

(CN) - A prison inmate claims the United States owes him a $1.75 million reward for helping it capture and extradite a Colombian drug lord.

Jose Miguel Aguirre-Pinzon sued the Departments of State and Justice and their top officials, in Miami Federal Court.

Aguirre, an inmate at Moshannon Valley Correctional Institution in Philipsburg, Pa., claims he "furnished key information in late 2006 leading directly, and nearly immediately, to the arrest and extradition from Spain to the United States, and subsequent conviction and incarceration in this country, of an individual recognized as one of the world's major drug traffickers and purveyors of drug-related violence, Orlando Sabogal Zuluaga ('Sabogal'), of Colombia's notorious Norte Valle Cartel. Notably, the capture of Sabogal pursuant to the furnishing of information is featured on the State Department's Narcotics Rewards Program website."

Aguirre adds: "The current reward requested was approved by [ICE] agents Romedio Viola and John Tobon in light of the crucial nature of the assistance provided by the plaintiff, which resulted in Orlando Sabogal Zuluaga's expulsion from Spain within only three weeks of the plaintiff's affording information to the agents, in approximately December of 2006, and the accompanying severe danger to which the plaintiff and his family were subjected as a result of his furnishing this information to our government. The information provided by the plaintiff included not only the city in which Sabogal was located, but also his specific personal information and data, including even the identity cards being used by him, all of which enabled law enforcement to track and capture Sabogal. ...

"The reward proposal on behalf of the plaintiff, which complies fully with the reward offer and procedures set forth by the Narcotics Rewards Program, details the crucial significance of the plaintiff's contribution in apprehending a major criminal sought by our government, as well as the consistently helpful track record of both the plaintiff and of the federal law enforcement agents to whom the information was provided. Despite this, the defendants, in violation of the established procedures for evaluating reward proposals, failed to address the proposal for payment of a reward to the plaintiff."

Aguirre-Pinzon claims he has received rewards from the U.S. government before, including "a $1 million reward for information resulting in the capture of drug trafficker Davinson Gomez Campo, another leader of the Norte Valle Cartel. ... The plaintiff was paid this reward following a meeting at the headquarters of the defendant Department of State in Washington, D.C. attended by ICE agents Viola and Tobon and the written approval, obtained in late 2006, of the Secretary of State and Attorney General of the United States," according to the complaint.

He seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the Department of State Rewards Program, the Administrative Procedures Act and due process. And he wants the $1.75 million.

He is represented by Richard Klugh in Miami.

The complaint does not say why Aguirre is in prison. The Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that he was charged with paying $109,000 in bribes to a U.S. Customs agent to let Colombians into the country without inspection.

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