Judge Orders Release of Witness in DEA Leaks Case, Gives Him Probation

A key witness against a police captain who leaked information about a U.S. anti-narcotics investigation will be released after helping in the case on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Juan Carlos Dávila-Bonilla's testimony assisted in a case about the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) overseas operations and helped convict Juan Pablo Mosquera, a former Colombian police officer.

Mosquera headed an anti-narcotics squad in the city of Cali overseen by the DEA's Sensitive Investigative Unit. He pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing justice and was charged with trying to sell information on narcotics indictments against an American who had left probation decades earlier and was believed to be in Colombia.

Federal prosecutors believed that Bonilla's assistance and cooperation merited a 40 percent reduction from sentencing, resulting in a 57-month sentence for obstruction of justice, but instead, the judge ordered he be freed immediately under supervised release.

Bonilla had already spent 33 months in custody since his January 2019 arrest in Colombia on a U.S. warrant after being caught as a previously convicted Colombian drug trafficker working with Mosquera.

Before the arrest, Bonilla had no previous criminal record in the U.S., although he had been convicted twice for distributing cocaine in Germany and Italy. Bonilla was thankful for the release and a second chance.

"I'd like to say to this honorable judge and court how much I apologize for this mistake," he said, adding that he hoped the court would give him an opportunity to "rebuild my life."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

A key witness against a police captain who leaked information about a U.S. anti-narcotics investigation will be released after helping in a case on Tuesday. Above, the defense table sits empty inside the courtroom of the Centre County Courthouse on June 17, 2012, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mosquera's police unit was one of many vetted by the DEA under a program meant to help conduct drug investigations in foreign countries where U.S. agents face more restrictions than local officers.

The program has led to the arrests of hundreds of drug capos in more than 20 countries.

But a scathing U.S. Inspector General report this summer blasted the DEA's leadership in Washington for failing to properly oversee its foreign law enforcement partners even in the aftermath of a string of well-publicized scandals.

The case against Mosquera arose from a tip that he was trying to sell information through his representative, Dávila-Bonilla to targets of U.S. law enforcement investigations.

When the DEA found out, it organized a sting in which it shared false information with Mosquera about an indictment out of Miami against an American fugitive identified in court papers as P.L.

Less than a week later, Dávila-Bonilla was recorded on a phone call with someone he thought was a drug-trafficking associate of P.L. but in reality was a DEA confidential source. Dávila-Bonilla told him that the Miami extradition request was imminent and that the American should leave Colombia.

Prosecutor Joseph Schuster said that Dávila-Bonilla's role in the conspiracy was minor compared to that of Mosquera. And he said that Dávila-Bonilla had also helped with investigations against two other drug kingpins, neither of whom were identified by name. He said one of those had already been indicted and the other was under investigation by prosecutors in New York.