ATF Special Agent Jim Contreras came under scrutiny after The Seattle Times reported that a paid informant had committed various crimes, including holding a woman as his sexual prisoner.

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A supervisor in the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has resigned while under internal investigation over his handling of a paid informant who sexually abused a woman while working for the agency, according to a federal source who has been briefed on the matter.

Special Agent Jim Contreras came under scrutiny after The Seattle Times reported in a May 13 story that the informant he oversaw, Joshua Allan Jackson, had been hired despite a lengthy history of violent behavior toward women and, while working for the agency, engaged in criminal activity that included holding the woman as his prisoner.

The internal investigation within ATF, as the agency is commonly called, is continuing, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the inquiry.

All of Contreras’ dealings with Jackson remain under review, including “policy issues” and allegations of “improper activities,” the source said.

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Contreras, reached by telephone Monday, disputed that he had resigned, saying he had retired. He said he was too busy to elaborate.

Contreras left the ATF on June 7 after working at the agency since October 1999, said Cheryl Bishop, the agency’s Seattle spokeswoman.

Bishop said she couldn’t comment further because the agency is not allowed to discuss personnel matters.

Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Seattle office, declined to comment.

Jackson, 34, was sentenced to 10 years in prison April 13 after admitting he sexually abused an 18-year-old woman who was held against her will for days inside a cheap South Seattle motel last September and October.

Impersonating officer

As part of his guilty plea in King County Superior Court, Jackson also admitted to criminal impersonation. On various occasions last year, he told people — the woman or seven others — that he was a federal agent or a police officer.

In one incident, Jackson triggered a high-priority, citywide “help the officer” call in June 2011 when, during a fight with an alleged drug dealer, he told the manager of a North Seattle motel he was a federal agent. The manager called 911, prompting officers to rush to the motel only to discover Jackson was not a federal agent.

At the time he committed the crimes, Seattle police and prison records show, Jackson was working as a paid informant for the ATF even though he had been released from a Washington state prison in early 2011 with a documented history of violence toward women and a reputation as a mentally unstable inmate who had been arrested in 43 states and posed a serious threat to law-enforcement officers.

In a December interview at the King County Jail, Jackson told a Seattle Times reporter that he came in contact with ATF through a Seattle police officer he had met on the streets. From memory, he produced the name of Contreras as his main handler and provided the ATF supervisor’s cellphone number.

Jackson said he was “really cool with” Contreras and that they met regularly at a bar and often would drink together. He said Contreras would fill out expense forms several at a time and give him money.

Jackson also claimed that Contreras let him into the evidence room at the ATF offices and gave him drugs and cigarettes to sell on the street to gain credibility.

Contreras expressed concerns that their dealings would get him in trouble with the special agent in charge, Jackson said.

Crimes against women

Before arriving in Seattle, Jackson’s most recent criminal history included cyberstalking and unlawful-imprisonment convictions between 2007 and 2009 involving women in Spokane County. In addition to jail sentences, he served time in state prisons for violating the terms of his community supervision.

ATF officials declined to discuss Jackson before the May 13 story in The Times, citing their policy of not providing information on informants.

But in a response to an inquiry from CNN after the Times story, ATF spokesman Drew Wade in Washington, D.C., released a statement:

“As a general matter, the ATF does not confirm or deny whether an individual serves as a confidential informant. However, ATF special agents must always adhere to the strict Justice Department and ATF policies regarding the use of confidential informants. ATF officials take very seriously the allegations reported in The Seattle Times and are investigating this matter to ensure that employees are complying with all applicable laws and policies with respect to informants. Ensuring the safety and well-being of the public is the first priority of ATF in fighting violent crime.”

Department of Justice guidelines require case agents to conduct an “Initial Suitability Determination,” which requires a supervisor’s approval. Among factors to be considered are a potential informant’s criminal history, as well as an evaluation of “whether the person is reasonably believed to pose a danger to the public or other criminal threat.”

Under the guidelines, agents must make every effort to supervise informants closely and tell them to refrain from violent acts.

Seattle Times news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302


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