By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Jan. 23, 2013
LOS ANGELES – Tuesday was originally scheduled as the start of the jury trial for Sergio Syuco, Cesar Ubaldo, and Arjyl Revereza, the three Filipino men accused of illegally selling and exporting weapons to the U.S.
But instead, it was a Filipino American FBI agent on the stand, getting grilled about his integrity, after allegedly engaging in outrageous government misconduct.
With Ubaldo’s family present in the court room, prosecutors claim Filipino-American FBI agent Dennis Lao, who was the case agent in charge of the operation, knowingly brought his team to strip clubs where agents spent U.S. tax dollars to engage in prostitution as they purchased weapons from Ubaldo and Syjuco through another agent posing as a weapons broker for the Mexican drug cartel.
Lao denied prostitution took place and explained that they conducted their operations at Philippine brothels after informants and the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation, whom they were working with, recommended the places.
He says the $250,000 budget they were given for this case all went to the operations which eventually nabbed the three suspects.
The U.S. Senate is now involved in the misconduct allegations, with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley now demanding that the FBI explain their activities in the Philippines and the use of taxpayer money on this case.
In court, lawyers also questioned why agents had to make arrangements for Syjuco, Revereza, and Ubaldo to come to the U.S., where they were arrested two days after their arrival, instead of being arrested in the Philippines and extradited to the U.S.
They also questioned why other suspects who may have had a bigger involvement in the alleged weapons exporting conspiracy were not arrested with the three suspects.
Federal prosecutors and Ubaldo’s family declined to comment on the case.
The jury trial, involving the three Filipinos’ alleged weapons smuggling business, has been postponed and will most likely begin next week.
You may contact Steve Angeles at email@example.com for more information.