Vega's worldBy Time Staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2003
1. For more than three decades, fashion photographer Baruch Vega accepted a variety of assignments for U.S. law enforcement. Said one agent: "We regarded Vega as our prinicipal weapon."
2. Late in 1997, the supervisor of DEA Group 43 in Miami, David Tinsley, asked him to recruit Colombians to work as informers to help penetrate a cartel suspected of enjoying Colombian police protection.
3. Through his contacts in Colombia, Vega spread the word that if traffickers came up with cash, his crooked U.S. law enforcement friends would get them sweet deals. To demonstrate his influence, he would smuggle fugitive traffickers into Miami on a private jet.
4. The "Colombian Traffickers Rehabilitation Program," as it came to be known, proved such a success that Vega held six "conventions" in Panama, where he and his DEA and FBI handlers held off-the-record meetings with traffickers. The meetings led to deals under which many turned themselves in.
5. Some of these traffickers also were targets of an unrelated investigation, Operation Millennium, run by DEA Group 9 in Fort Lauderdale. Neither group knew precisely what the other was up to, or that their investigations were on a collision course.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times wire desk
Nation in brief
World in brief
From the AP