SAN DIEGO (CN) - The Department of Homeland Security fired an agent for stealing $700,000 but didn't tell his informant, who continued transporting drug money for the now-phony agent, the informant claims in court.
In his July 17 federal lawsuit, John Doe says he began working as an informant for Homeland Security in 2007 under the direction of Don Rodmel. Rodmel began working for the agency in 2002, but was fired in 2008 for keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars he'd seized from John Doe during a money-laundering sting.
Rodmel pleaded guilty in September 2013 to impersonating a federal officer. Six counts of wire fraud were dismissed in a plea deal. He was sentenced in June 2014 to five years probation and fined $50,000.
Doe claims Rodmel seized $700,000 from a car in which Doe was present in 2008, while Rodmel was still working for DHS. Several weeks later, Doe says in the complaint. Rodmel gave him $30,000, "which he represented to be payment to John Doe for his services" and authorized by DHS. But Rodmel had kept the $700,000, for which he was fired, though no one told Doe about it, so he kept carrying large sums of cash across the Mexican border at Rodmel's request, according to the lawsuit.
Doe points out in the complaint that this "involved a high degree of risk and danger" to him.
He claims that Rodmel promised him the government would relocate him and his family, provide him with a new identity and protect him from retaliation if things got hot. He says Rodmel also promised he would arrange for Doe's immediate release if he was arrested by law enforcement officers, and would get the government to pay him 30 percent of all future seizures.
He claims that with his help, Rodmel illegally seized about $450,000 in the next four years, while impersonating a federal agent.
The charade ended in November 2012 when Doe was arrested near Fresno with $50,000 he thought was part of an investigation. He was released more than 24 hours later after officials realized he had been the victim of Rodmel's fraud. Doe's arrest led to Rodmel's indictment and guilty plea. Doe testified to the grand jury in that case, according to court records.
Doe claims government had a duty to tell him Rodmel had been fired when it happened.
"John Doe expended hundreds of hours of work engaged in the transporting of money, reporting to Rodmel and subjecting himself to a risk of physical injury or even death by investigating persons who were involved in conveying money involved in the drug trade," the complaint states. "As a result of his reasonable and foreseeable reliance on [the government's] promises, John Doe suffered an arrest by state officials and imprisonment for more than 24 hours. John Doe is due reasonable compensation for his lost time, being subjected to danger and risk, which continues to this day, and arrest and imprisonment."
Doe seeks punitive damages from the United States for negligence, breach of contract, breach of faith and promissory estoppel under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
He is represented by Eugene Iredale and Julia Yoo of Iredale & Yoo, in San Diego, who could not be reached for comment after hours Tuesday.
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