A Colombian police captain who led a unit that worked closely with US counternarcotics agents has pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to betray the DEA with the same drug traffickers they were fighting together.
Juan Pablo Mosquera changed his agreement with the prosecution in federal court in Miami on Wednesday just as he was about to go to trial on two counts of obstruction of justice.
Mosquera’s arrest in 2018 and his subsequent extradition to the United States was another embarrassing act abroad for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which for years has had problems with corrupt agents and deadly leaks of drugs. information between police units in other countries to which it provides support and training.
Mosquera was assigned to a unit under tight controls and overseen by the DEA’s “Sensitive Investigation Units” (SIU) program, its most reliable standard of operation for its foreign associations.
Mosquera was charged with trying to sell information about what he believed would be an imminent drug trafficking indictment against an American who had been released from parole decades earlier.
According to the three-page evidence that accompanied Mosquera’s agreement with the prosecution, a relative of the 37-year-old police officer put him in contact with Juan Carlos Dávila Bonilla, a Colombian who had been convicted twice of distributing cocaine in Germany and Italy.
The two met near the Colombian city of Cali in 2018 and Mosquera showed Dávila Bonilla text messages and shared information about a DEA investigation into an American, identified in court documents with only his initials PL, who was facing a Arrest warrant for hit and run in Arkansas in the 1990s.
When DEA agents learned that Mosquera and Dávila Bonilla were trying to sell information about the investigation, they traveled to Cali to meet with Mosquera and falsely told him that a formal indictment and an extradition order against PL in Miami were imminent.
“Shortly after learning this information, Mosquera told Dávila Bonilla that PL was ‘hot’,” said the former policeman in his evidence brief.
Less than a week later, Dávila Bonilla was recorded calling someone who he believed was a PL partner drug trafficker, but was actually a confidential DEA source, to whom he told that Miami’s extradition request was imminent and that the American should leave Colombia.
PL was never mentioned in any formal drug trafficking indictment in Miami, according to Mosquera’s brief, although his record of abandoning probation appears to coincide with Patrick Liljebeck’s criminal record. Another man, Kylan Patrick Liljebeck, was arrested months earlier for his alleged link to the seizure by Mosquera’s unit of 49 kilograms of cocaine from a Colombian sailboat. Shortly after Mosquera’s arrest, indictments were filed against Kylan Patrick Liljebeck and two other individuals in Miami. PL’s whereabouts unknown
As part of the agreement with the prosecution signed with Dávila Bonilla, prosecutors appear to have merged the two Liljebecks, an apparent error that will possibly be raised when Mosquera is sentenced in January. Mosquera, in his brief – which was not signed by prosecutors – said he had not provided any information on the identities of the DEA’s confidential sources.
Before his arrest, Mosquera had risen steadily through the ranks of Colombia’s national police, earning praise from his superiors on his journey to becoming the head of a unit in Cali that worked closely with US agents.
The DEA declined to comment on the case.
The DEA’s highly supervised units program was established to conduct investigations in foreign drug-producing countries, but where US agents are guests and face more restrictions. These units have made some of the largest seizures in the world and arrested hundreds of drug lords. Since it began in the late 1990s, the program has expanded to more than 20 countries, including Thailand and Kenya.
However, the US inspector general criticized the DEA leadership in Washington in a harsh report this summer for failing to adequately supervise its foreign law enforcement partners even after a string of scandals that made headlines.
Among them was the case of a former DEA agent who worked with highly supervised units in Colombia and pleaded guilty last year to 19 counts of conspiring to launder millions of dollars from accounts controlled by the DEA and spending his profits on vehicles of luxury and Tiffany jewelry. The inspector general also found that two members of the SIU accompanied DEA agents to “sex parties” organized by a cartel with prostitutes, a scandal for which the head of the DEA, Michele Leonhart, was forced to resign in 2015.