FBI arrests 2 in alleged inmate release scheme

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, December 10, 2009

A convicted felon from New Orleans convinced federal prison officials in Mississippi that he was a DEA agent and later told an undercover FBI agent he could get prisoners released early for $200,000, court records said.

Monterro Paul, a 36-year-old former DEA informant with a long criminal history, allegedly told the undercover agent he could get prisoners released early through a scheme that involved setting up drug dealers for arrest, according to court records.

Paul, whose criminal record includes counterfeiting and drug charges, was arrested at the Jackson airport along with convicted drug dealer Mark Amos after an undercover sting on Dec. 4, according to court records.

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The men were charged with one count each of impersonating a federal officer. A hearing was scheduled Friday in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

This is how the FBI describes the alleged scheme. Paul claimed he would use a $15,000 down payment to arrange a drug deal. The drug dealers would be arrested and the inmate would be given credit for tipping off authorities, which would result in a sentence reduction.

It’s not clear from court records if authorities believe Paul’s alleged claim that he could get people out of prison early or if they think he was just scamming inmates’ families.

Paul allegedly convinced an official at the federal prison in Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta that he was a DEA agent and was allowed with speak to several inmates by phone, according to court records. It’s not clear what was said in those conversations.

Paul, who has also used the names Monterro Brown and Alex Monterro, was once a confidential informant for the DEA but is no longer used by the agency, court records said.

Amos allegedly participated in the scheme by telling the undercover agent that Paul helped him get released early from prison in 2005. Court records said Amos had been released early after his nearly 20-year sentence was reduced to 12 years in March 2005.

Amos got nearly seven years knocked off his sentence under what is called Federal Rule (35)b, the FBI affidavit says. Paul’s alleged scheme was based on the same rule, according to court filings.

Paul’s attorney, Matt Tyrone, said it’s premature for him to comment other than to say no indictment has been issued. At this point there’s just a criminal complaint, he said.

Amos’ attorney, Hugh Tedder, said his client will plead not guilty.

“We don’t have enough information to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case so we’re going to gather information … and see where we go from there,” he said.

Paul and Amos were being held in the Madison County jail.

Calls Thursday to the FBI and U.S. attorney weren’t immediately returned.

Tracy Billingsley, a spokeswoman for Federal Bureau of Prisons, said she could not comment due to the investigation.