LOS ANGELES -- Three former Drug Enforcement Administration agents stole more than 150 kilograms of cocaine from a drug hide-out in 1985 and sold the narcotics for $1 million in profits, a witness has testified.
The testimony of Mahlon Steward, a convicted drug dealer from Brooklyn, N.Y., was presented yesterday via videotape to a U.S. District Court jury hearing evidence against Darnell Garcia.
Mr. Garcia, 43, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for about 10 years, is charged with six felony counts alleging that he stole narcotics seized from drug traffickers and then laundered the proceeds from their sale through foreign bank accounts.
Former DEA agents John Jackson, 41, of Claremont, Calif., and Wayne Countryman, 47, of Walnut, Calif., have pleaded guilty in the case and are expected to testify against Mr. Garcia.
Mr. Garcia also is accused of providing narcotics suspects with insider information in what authorities say is the largest case of corruption in the DEA.
In August, Steward gave a five-day deposition on videotape in which he admitted selling drugs mailed to him in New York by Jackson.
Steward testified that he subsequently mailed profits of the sales via Federal Express back to Jackson.
Steward gave his testimony on videotape because ill health prevented him from appearing in person in front of the jury. He underwent a heart bypass operation in 1988.
Jurors listened intently yesterday as Steward recounted conversations with Jackson in which he related the theft in 1985 of 150 to 200 kilograms of cocaine from a condominium in Pasadena, a Los Angeles suburb.
"They kept the place under surveillance for some time and then they took it," Steward said.
He testified that he sold the cocaine in New York for $1 million and then sent money to Jackson after taking his one-third share.
In 1986, Jackson introduced Steward to Mr. Garcia in a parking lot near the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, Steward said. He testified that he met Jackson there to give him $9,000 from the sale of drugs.
"[Jackson] handed it [the envelope with the money] to Mr. Garcia. He put it in his pocket [and said] he liked getting Federal Express packages," Steward testified.
He said that Mr. Garcia, Jackson and he vacationed together in Hawaii with their wives after all the cocaine from the Pasadena theft had been sold.
"We didn't need any more money at that point -- we had finished selling the [cocaine] from the rip-off," Steward said.
Attorneys for Mr. Garcia said they will attempt to discredit Steward, who admitted in August he had lied before a federal grand jury. The defense also has maintained Mr. Garcia never made money by selling drugs.