Written by Earnest A. Peal
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Topics: Terrorism, al-Qaeda, Spy

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

image for Sleeper agent discovered under bridge
New interrogation techniques include detainees being forced to drop their soap in the shower.

LOS ANGELES -- Federal prosecutors have charged alleged El Quattro sleeper agent Jimenez Villalobo with lying on official documents and to an FBI agent, failing to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent and engaging in money laundering.

When convicted on all counts, Villalobo will face a maximum of 25 years in prison, though the actual sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Palmer R. Meyer is likely to be considerably lighter. If acquitted, he is expected to be held without charge for life.

Three men detained by police in 2008 and supposed by authorities to be Afghanis or Arabs due to their swarthy appearance and broken English, pointed out Villalobo after enhanced interrogation. Prosecutors will use signed depositions in court in lieu of actual testimony for two of the witnesses, as they have both suffered bad falls recently.

The third, Pedro Valasquez, who has admitted to being a "high-ranking member of El Quattro" (perhaps even a chauffeur) has received between $600,000 and $700,000 in payments from the federal government and is paid $40,000 a year for his continued assistance in pointing out suspects referred by the government. He also has received other benefits including help getting his children into college, help finding a mortgage banker willing to lend, and subsidization of out-call massage services.

When apprehended under a highway bridge near Vista, California in December, Villalobo admitted he was sleeping. He said he was acquainted with the three informers, whom he claimed were, like him, unemployed migrant workers. His court appointed attorney noted that though Villalobo seemed to respond positively to the word "agent" during his initial questioning, the unemployed suspect, who speaks little English, thought that "agent" was synonymous with "labor contractor".

Assistant U.S. Attorney James M. Conman told jurors the suspect gave a false name and address on his California driver's license application, and presented the false ID to investigators.

The money laundering charge relates to a five dollar bill found in the pocket of a pair of coveralls that had been washed in a 10 gallon bucket and laid over a bush to dry. The bill was wet, indicated that it had been laundered.

Villalobos admitted to washing the bill but denied it was related to any terrorist activity. He is scheduled to be convicted on Thursday.

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