A former supervisory agent in the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has pleaded guilty to a single felony count of making a false statement in a plea deal in which 30 other counts were dismissed.
Former special agent James Contreras resigned in 2012
when the agency opened an investigation into his relationship with an ATF confidential informant who was arrested and sent to prison for sexually abusing a woman.
According to a grand jury indictment
handed up in November, Contreras was alleged to have taken $19,700 from an informant fund between March 2010 and April 2012, often falsifying the signatures of other agents. Money that was supposed to be paid to 12 informants was never given to them, according to the charges.
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Contreras, 52 of Maple Valley, entered the plea Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida. Sentencing is set for May 23 before U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman.
He could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Prosecutors dropped 29 other false-statement charges and an embezzlement count that carried a 10-year penalty.
The charge he pleaded guilty to involves Contreras forging the name of another agent on a voucher for $700 to give to a confidential informant.
Contreras resigned amid an internal ATF investigation over his relationship with and his handling of a paid informant who posed as a federal agent and sexually abused a woman while working for the ATF, a federal source told The Seattle Times at the time.
Contreras came under scrutiny after a May 2012 Times story about the informant, Joshua Allan Jackson, who was hired despite a lengthy history of violence against women. While working for the ATF, Jackson engaged in criminal activity that included sexually assaulting a young woman in a Seattle motel room paid for by the agency.
In a jailhouse interview with The Times in December 2011, while awaiting trial in that case, Jackson alleged Contreras was taking money from the agency. Jackson said he often met Contreras in a bar.
The case was presented to a grand jury in Seattle by the prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, apparently because federal prosecutors in Seattle recused themselves. The indictment identifies one informant by the initials “JJ,” but it wasn’t clear whether that was Jackson or whether he cooperated with the investigation.
At the time Contreras resigned, an internal investigation of his dealings with Jackson remained under review, including what the federal source described as allegations of improper conduct.
Contreras had worked at the agency since October 1999.
Jackson was sentenced to 10 years in prison April 2012 after admitting he sexually abused an 18-year-old woman who was held against her will for days inside a South Seattle motel that was being paid for by the ATF.
As part of his guilty plea in King County Superior Court, Jackson also admitted to criminal impersonation for telling several people — including the woman — he was a federal agent or a police officer.
In the jail interview, Jackson said he came in contact with the ATF through a Seattle police officer he had met on the streets.
Jackson said that he was “really cool with” Contreras and that Contreras would fill out expense forms several at a time and give him money.
Mike Carter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-3706
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.