Features May 4, 2011 at 4:00 am

Anatomy of a Two-Year Undercover Sting and What It Has to Do with Law Enforcement’s Habit of Wasting Large Amounts of Money on Investigating People for Their Social Habits and Political Beliefs

As originally printed. PHOTO BY ANDY PIXEL


I spent a few evenings at Cafe Corsair so at least I got something for the millions(?) of our tax dollars these tards wasted on this mess. Thanks SPD.
By the way, what can we do to get rid of John Diaz. Like the article says, "you have to put somebody up on that cross" and I think we should start with the Police Chief.

King Dro (who performed many nights at Cafe Unamerican) has a song called Shhh-Speakeasy that does it justice.
Finally got a chance to read the article Brendan. Very well written. Its not only a very good piece of investigative reporting, but as I state, it moves very well and held my interest right from the start. Obviously, we have both a police and FBI that are out of control, willing and eager to waste taxpayer dollars on frivolous "lifestyle" investigations, rather than chasing real crooks. Its scary to see the depths and entrapments they are willing to stoop to, in desperate attempts to arrest someone, anyone, for the crimes that the police and FBI manufactured for them.

At the very least we need to clean house with our local police force. Hopefully this article can help with that movement.
check out
for more discussions on the case.
Awesome job on this piece, one of the best researched yet by any local journalist. However, I want to dispose of the confusion over illegal gambling laws: Both the state and Seattle have laws that apply to playing poker, but neither outlaw "friendly" games of poker, no matter the stakes. The difference is weather the host of the game collects a fee. If you collect a rake or charge a door fee, you've crossed the line. The caption on the photo is obviously wrong- Unless we're talking play money, everyone needs a state license to deal blackjack- The drift on inn and other outside-of-Seattle casinos, and tribes like the Muckleshoot alike. If you don't have one, or if you do and you cheat players out of their money, you can go to prison. The defendants are quoted as describing how small-stakes the game was (which is a lie from my perspective, as a player in these games), but this is immaterial. The law is black and white on this issue. If you want to host a poker game, you are free and clear to do so at any stakes. There's at least a half dozen going on each weekend, just search on craigslist for a game with an open seat.
Does anyone else wonder if this kind of operation is necessary for the FBI to justify part of its existence because the CIA/whoever nearly totally controls the REST of the drug trade?
excellent article. thank you.
"This story fits into a national pattern of law enforcement going to great lengths to prosecute people who are perceived as serious threats to national security, but who are (for the most part) just people with big mouths and weird lifestyles." No doubt about it!

Government is the source of most societal problems but w/o enforcers - the ones in this report with legal authority to use physical force - all the regulations/edicts/mandates/laws/etc are merely words spouted verbally or written down.

Persuade enforcers to get truly productive jobs while using shame and shun on those who continue to be agents of force, government. Without enforcers, politicians words are just that and nothing more.
Truly, Pulitzer-level reportage (especially considering the crap they've been handing that out for the past 20 years)!

The Slacker PD (SPD) is even worse than many have suspected; chronically incompetent idiots and morons, making fantastic salaries all out of proportion to their abilities and intelligence (kinda reminds one of the banksters??) together with a completely dirty and compromised FBI.

While politics dictates a good deal of the corruption among the FBI, it is important to undertstand that its director, Robert Mueller, is a walking atrocity to justice.

First appointed to the DOJ by George H.W. Bush to head its Criminal Division, Mueller was brought in to intercede on Bush's behalf as the BCCI investigation was getting far to close to the Bush family.

And equally important, it is crucial to recall that those investigations -- prior to 9/11 which might have derailed it -- and those following it, were ALL conveniently quashed by the same two -- I repeat two and only two fellows in the FBI's counter-terrorism office, Frasca and Maltbie, later to be promoted for their perfidy.

Of course, the politics comes in because the FBI, by rights, should be investigating the bankster criminal class, instead of creating artificial crimes and keeping the privatized prisons in business by constantly sending them innocents to fill their profit-making operations.

Thanks to Mr. Kiley and others at The Stranger for outstanding investigative journalism -- a rare thing indeed in today's printed news.
you know... it finally occurred to me, what if this Bryan guy was actually subtly on the side of the hipsters. He went two years, and apparently only found a few people to arrest for drugs. Maybe he realized the police were going to send in an undercover officer, so it might as well be him. But then perhaps he chose to overlook or not report some other people he spotted doing drugs (or whatever they were after) out of some sense of sympathy, and in the end he picked this Rick guy because he had to produce some sort of arrest and Rick irritated him? I mean, when the Redmond police send undercover officers into their high school, they are always arresting at least 7-10 students. Of course, the anecdotes of him trying to bait people into violence or vandalism would run counter to this idea.
Mechthild, I think you may be on to something. I have been told that Brian was very manipulated and abused by the FBI supervisor and others during the investigation. Of course once he saw, recorded (or whatever), certain things he couldn't turn his back to it so...
Instead of wailing into the ether, write to the city council.
To everyone posting personal anecdotes as to whether anyone was a drug dealer or if the games were actually much higher stakes than the defendants are claiming based on their own alleged personal knowledge, I'd like to request that you refrain from doing so.

These kind of statements can only harm the defendants as they (possibly) will be used by the prosecution against them.
The SPD & LEIU both did their jobs. Too many of these underground gatherings will draw attention to real gang bangers who will go in with automatic weapons, shoot everybody and take the loot. It's understandable people want to cut loose and have fun, but they haven't seen the other side with the bodies on the ground. It's really a matter of protecting people from themselves.

US foreign policy in Central and South America has been a morbid disaster considering our government officially sanctioned SOA / WHINSEC and the CIA-backed Contras. Then it's doubly confusing seeing Catholic priests teaching the natives revolutionary Marxism and then also seeing Father Roy protesting SOA. Figure that one out ... Rick sounds like a good-hearted guy who made some bad choices. Sad story all around. The SPD budget is the biggest line-item for the City of Seattle. It's like 500 million dollars a year -- and they only clear a small fraction of reported crimes. In many instances I think they aid and abet organized crime.

Gotham Seattle.
Well thank god they are cutting education to help pay for future operations like this...

Nope; sorry; not here...
Thoren/Jumior, you're a jackass.
Thoren/Junior, you're a jackass. You're an idiot and you're making everyone look bad.

City Councilmember, Bruce Harrell

*Civil Rights Committee

Phone: 206-684-8804

Email: bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

Fax: 206-684-8587


City Councilmember, Bruce Harrell

*Civil Rights Committee

Phone: 206-684-8804

Email: bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

Fax: 206-684-8587
"The Stranger lost some credibility by giving up the cops true identity and undercover name. Where's the objectivity? Seems as if you are trying to place the undercover cop in harms way or thwart future undercover operations. Felt a little spiteful. Maybe I'm wrong, but food for thought none the less. If the mainstream media does pick this story up, the cops identity will undoubtedly be side-lined. Has no bearing on the case or story."

How does this affect credibility? You find this story less believable because it tells the facts you don't like told?

"or thwart future undercover operations." If this is in the least bit indicative of SPD and/or FBI undercover operations, thwarting future undercover operations would be a good thing. Put the clowns responsible for this clusterfuck back on the beat, hopefully doing something productive. Police departments around the country are pretty much not even responding to reports of crimes because they claim lack of funding, and yet it sounds like several million dollars went into this sting.

As for this guy Rick, it's hard to feel sorry for someone when you want to hit them for being so fucking stupid.

I don't think most people in the country have a CLUE about the extent of corruption in this country. The take away from this story is assume the cops and the criminals are pretty much the same. Assume anyone involved in any crime, no matter how petty, may be a cop or someone working with the cops. And assume any cop is crooked and possibly has ties to organized crime. Because the cops have demonstrated time and again that they cannot or will not discipline bad cops who break the law and kill innocent people out of their roid rage. And once you have a system that cannot correct itself, it doesn't take long for it to be corrupted to the core.

Thanks to BK. Much braver than I am. I worry for your safety and the reprisals that you and the Stranger will surely be the target of one day.
Sweet jesus, I wonder how much time and money was spent sifting through all of the Slog comments, what with the Stranger operating as a front/propaganda organization for... well, I'm not even sure for whom. Still, cover for FBI agents would go a long way toward explaining the tenacity of some of the trolls here, but perhaps I'm being too kind to our troll population.

Is the Period Hive Mind really an FBI surveillance operation? If the levels of intelligence and analytical depth displayed are characteristic of the FBI as an institution or its individual agents, then all of this makes a lot more sense.
I am hoping some of you may be able to use your public position, your connections, your voice, and your actions to help shed a light on something big brewing right here in Seattle between SPD, the FBI anti-terrorism objectives, and the local artists, creative, and activist communities in this city and other cities across the country.

I am no activist and I can hardly be called an artist, but I feel so strongly that what is being done here in this report is so wrong and is against our rights that I am willing to reach out to those who have bigger voices than I do so it can be heard and so there can be change.

This article is probably the most truthful of all the articles and reports out there about the case of a "speakeasy" and illegal gambling ring right here in Seattle that took almost 3 years and tons of tax payer money to investigate. I am an honest citizen, I pay my taxes, I know these people, and this is an ENTRAPMENT case like none other and yet there are cases and cases like this towards activists and artists all over the country!

Some of the people in the story are my close friends. Not criminals but artists, dreamers, musicians, and adults with big imaginations. People who were bold enough to live life outside of this ever confining box.

The bottom line is, FBI is stuck in a world that is better left for the movies but our art community is at risk of being silenced forever if we do not act on this today. I think it would be good for a community of artists, friends, and dreamers to share their frustrations over stories like this in a loud, open, and public way. If we do not speak out now about it, we may find that we will not be able to speak later and I do not want to lose my right to be different.

I respect police and detectives for the hard work they do everyday, (my father was a detective, my grandfather was a sheriff) but when they fuck-up and go the wrong way in a case....like in this case....they should own it and not find a way to "fix" it by putting good people away. Why do these people get the highest penalties under the law when the violent criminals get put back on the street? This is their job (SPD & FBI) to protect and serve the community, but they are forgetting who the "community" is and once a cop looks at everyone like an enemy, it creates a bigger problem.

I don't want to just sit back and let this happen to someone else. FBI should focus on serious dangers, not artists.This is their job, this is what they get paid (LOTS) of money to do. There needs to be standards like in any other job and it is time we demanded this.

I am not a violent person and I don't want people to start a riot, but I do want people to express their disappointment over where this case went, what our FBI agents are focusing on, how our tax money is wasted every day on stuff like this, and hopefully get the FBI to stop watching bad cop movies and start supporting the beautiful art communities and rich culture we bring to this city and others everyday.

Post this article everywhere you possibly can!
I like the way that Stranger writers & editors see fit to wait until they're about 90% of the way through a 9,000 word article before they casually mention that the subject of their story has an "unrelated" track record of smuggling guns for foreign revolutionaries. Other than that, he's totally harmless. Totally innocent. Totally harmless. Just another international arms smuggler with ties to domestic terrorist organizations. Like you and me. Totally harmless.

Oh: and members of The Stranger staff may or may not be coke buddies with the accused.

Other than that, well done. It's a fascinating story and a relatively well-researched article that was totally fucked up by the The Stranger's complete lack of journalistic ethics.
Please write/email these Councilmen:

*Bruce Harrell: bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

Tim Burgess: tim.burgess@seattle.gov

Sally Bagshaw: sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov

Committee Staff member, Betsy Graef: betsy.graef@seattle.gov


The Police State ain't cheap,is it?!?Pfft!
All those high-paid coppigs were White men?Did they vote for McStain in '08?
@132: It WAS an unrelated crime; he committed it years before the investigation started, you silly bint. Further, at no point does the article suggest that he's totally innocent. The point is that the level of effort and amount of money spent on the investigation totally disproportionate to the criminal merit of the suspect(s). That's even ignoring the entrapment issues. And, further, "international arms smuggler with ties to domestic terrorist organizations" is an incredibly childish and obtuse way to describe this guy. His crimes were far more nuanced than that, son.

I believe that the heading for the article describes the police actions as: "...Investigating People for Their Social Habits and Political Beliefs."

Did law enforcement officials know that this guy had previously been involved in supplying firearms to revolutionaries? Did they have evidence that he interacted with individuals who identified themselves as the Earth Liberation Front (or other self-identified "eco-terrorsits")? These would be pretty-fucking-important questions to address right off the bat if you're going to try to make the case that the government was persecuting him simply because he didn't like George Bush and threw a lot of parties.

Now - did the police go too far? Did their investigation turn out to be a waste of time? These are darn good questions that are worth answering, but they're difficult to answer when the person providing us information has ruined his own credibility by going to such silly lengths to intentionally obfuscate the facts that would have initially justified an investigation.

PS - Are you retarded? Do you need me to explain to you why counter-terrorism investigators might look at a person who has supplied weapons to revolutionaries and think: what else might this dude be up to?
@138... Um so if law enforcement knew this guy, rick, donated guns to the zapastistas, why didn't they prosecute him then and there? If they had evidence that rick performed acts of 'domestic terrorism', why not charge him and get it over with? Most likely, as the reporting points out, law enforcement probably wasn't aware that rick had performed such actions but was targeted and set-up because of his beliefs and not actions. Is it debatable that rick and his attorney went 'charge shopping' to relieve themselves of the minimum mandatory federal sentencing guildlines? If it is, do the research. Otherwise, it seems like what you're saying are assumptions and you know what they say about that...
@138: I don't see how saving that information for the end ruins credibility. It's there. You know this, because you read it, there, in the story. Obfuscation would have been, say, not mentioning those facts. You realize that was an option, right?
@ 138. No. Nobody on the law-enforcement side seemed to have any idea that Rick had been involved with sending medical supplies and a small number of firearms (at his own expense—dude was donating them, not playing arms dealer) to Mexico several years ago.

Rick and his lawyer had to TELL them that during the "charge shopping" stage of the negotiations, as it says in the transcript of Rick's sentencing hearing: The prosecutor admits that he never would have charged Rick with that crime if Rick and his lawyer hadn't deliberately told him about it.
Great article. My highest compliment is that it made me write on my blog commondebate.blogspot.com

"Simple career self interest of FBI agents mandates that they try to create terrorists in places that are good places to live and work for them and their families. If there aren't any terrorists in Seattle, then they risk being transferred to someplace like Pakistan where there really are terrorists. Good luck convincing the wifey that its good news that you are being transferred to Pakistan. Thus, better find some terrorists in Seattle."
Yes, this is a good article, but if anyone is surprised it is b/c he or she has not worked in/on/around the so-called justice system. I suggest that all of you read "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander. Best new book on what the USA is, at home and abroad, in the 21st century.
Hey, great article, but what blew me away is that the average detective is paid over a $100K ? i.e
"The officers named in the police report are Sergeant Ryan Long (who made $133,339 in 2009, with $28,805 in overtime), Sergeant Jim Kelly ($120,503, with $14,196 in overtime)" and so on...
Have a look at: http://www.worldsalaries.org/usa.shtml
for US salaries. The police seem to be earning wages at the level of the second highest paid workers in the US -- Dentists.(would you believe doctors are 1st ? No !)
Some will say "what about overtime?" & yes that does put it up, yet most of them are still over a $100K.
Anyway, the price of malicious incompetence sure seems high in the great state of Washington.

None of those cops in the article would dare take on a criminal like those in the gang that brought us the attacks of 9/11. Read Christopher Bollyn's book 'Solving 9-11: The Deception That Changed The World' and you'll see who this police farce, along with the CIA, FBI et al, is truly committed to protect and serve.

This is painful to read. I how much damage two years and millions of dollars worth of police resources could have done to a real criminal enterprise. Of course that would require police to do police work, which requires a man who isn't a coward. A coward doesn't hunt down bloods and crips, a coward hunts down hippies playing cards at after parties. Detective Bryant please turn in your man card, you can pick your panties up on the way out.

Although I may not agree with the merits of the investigation, I find your post rather childish. This is the same detective that purchased the 9 Kilos of drugs from ranking Honduran cartel leaders. Also, rumor has it that this detective has purcahsed assault rifles and other stolen weapons from Mexican Mafia members and skinheads.
Thank you for this article. Its obvious to me that this SPD investigation was a fumbled ideological hit job by the right wing against the arts and environmental communities and two of our most out-spoken progressive city councilmen. It is unnerving that in ultra-liberal Seattle, we are paying the salaries of a police force that holds the majority political beliefs of their community in such contempt. No more complacency. Whomever authorized and engaged in this pernicious use of our tax dollars needs to go. I am calling the Mayor's office first thing Monday morning to register my disgust over this incident and I'm willing to agitate and march in the streets to make sure no right wing jackass fascists ever think they can pull a stunt like this again in our city. Please keep us informed about any planned protests or plans of action.
I don't believe any Radical evironmentalists artists or leftist were responsible for 9/11. Doesn't the FBI have a clue?
I will commend this to others. Well done and infuriating.
The only thing I could think about as I read this was of the multiple books, pamphlets, and newspapers I bought or received for free, at ¡TCHKUNG! shows, where Rick was performing, that said how to spot a narc (a narc would do pretty much exactly what the narc in Rick's case did), and what NOT to do in the event that you ran into a narc (pretty much everything that Rick did). It's textbook -- literally. Ecodefense has a whole chapter on this.

I mean, bummer that he got set up and popped, and bummer that he fucked his whole social circle in the process, but Jesus. He really should have known better. He did know better. Fuck sake.
I was actually one of the people being unwittingly tailed during this two year long operation, and the thing that makes me shake my head the most is, the money in the pot, in any given game, cost less than the salary of the guy watching us play poker. It's ridiculous-ness on the highest scale.

And to the guy above saying Rick should have noticed it, I say... they are probably watching you for something too. just wait.
This story could make a good movie if done right
It is an absolute shame that Brendan chose the LEAST credible and most criminal of Cafe (Un)American contacts to interview. As someone who was at the Cafe every single week, I know exactly who "Junior" is: an attention hungry, desperate for recognition, and pathetic methhead. He's an addict. His brain doesn't function correctly. He's wasn't even around for most of the project until he forced himself in during the last few months. The story was grand, but you chose the one rotten apple out of the bunch.
Meth heads are people, too.

And Brendan interviewed a ton of people for this story. Junior was one voice in a chorus.
I read a lot of comments saying how this was a complete waste of taxpayer money, but didn't they take something like 20 pounds of drugs off the streets of Seattle? Didn't this Rick guy, by his own admission, buy guns for a revolutionary group that has declared war on it's own government?

I don't think i would call that a complete waste.
By the way, the name of that undercover cop—whose shit poker-playing is not even mentioned in the article, (losses undoubtedly coming from taxpayer dollars) is a matter of public record and can be found all over the charging documents. They can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/51835633/Speak…
@158: They were being hyperbolic, yes. It wasn't a complete waste, but, to put this in economic terms, the return-on-investment is pretty obviously dismal, to such a degree that you could reasonably call this mission a waste of taxpayer money.
Regarding the FBI's raids on activists...this article was just published in City Pages (Minneapolis):
It is a sad irony that Rick sent guns to Zapatista revolutionaries in Chiapas to aid them against the same type of authoritarian police state that he would eventually fall victim to.

Why are cops paid so well? This is because the primary role of police is to protect the rich and prevent the poor from organizing, whether it's in Central or North America. Capitalist goons for hire. Everything else they do is just Brownie points. Well, after reading this article I'm afraid, so I guess they must be doing their job.
What is an appropriate level of government resources to spend on investigating someone who illegally runs guns to terrorists?
@ 163.

a) That is a mischaracterization of the situation. To repeat myself:

During the activist phase of his life, Rick sent aid to the Zapatistas, starting with medical supplies. He says it was "stupid" of him to buy guns for them but that he was moved to do so after hearing stories of government paramilitary soldiers killing women and children in Zapatista villages and men marching into combat with wooden facsimiles of guns. They didn't have the guns to defend themselves.

During Rick's sentencing hearing, even the prosecuting lawyer—US Attorney Andrew Friedman—pointed out that Rick "was not trying to make money" but was moved to help out of a sense of altruism. "In fact, he spent money doing this."

b) The government spent zero resources investigating Rick for that Zapatista moment. The government didn't even know about it until Rick told them in a charge-shopping deal after the investigation was finished. What the government spent its resources on was investigating people who appeared to be odd and threw parties.

And the appropriate level of government resources to spend on that is: zero. Not a single damned dime.
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The "good news" is we won't be seeing such a waste of tax money on fruitless investigations from now on thanks to the NDAA 2012 signed by Obama on 12/31/2011. Indefinite military detention for suspected terrorists makes detectives, judges, and public defenders a thing of the past. Guilty until proven innocent (and no means to do the latter) has been codified into US law. Murray and Cantwell both voted for it. I suggest you contact their offices and request an explanation.
any word on what is going on with Rick?
This is a good article. Most of this was addressed fairly clearly. TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor all year because their resumes were not the same (apparently) until Baylor played the last quality opponent in KS. Then, the head to head mattered and they flipped over them.

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