LOS ANGELES -- An undercover FBI agent denied accusations that he spent U.S. taxpayer dollars on prostitutes in the Philippines for himself and others during an international weapons trafficking probe last year, according to court documents filed Monday.
The agent, whose name wasn't made public, said he didn't pay for sex while posing as an arms broker for Mexican drug cartels at two nightclubs.
"At no time did I pay to have sex with any employee" of the two clubs, according to the declaration filed by federal prosecutors. "I was never told by any manager that the bill included prostitution, nor did I ever see prostitution, in any term, listed on any bill."
The allegations were made last month by a defense attorney for Sergio Santiago Syjuco, who along with two other Philippine nationals have been indicted for conspiracy in the weapons case and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Deputy Federal Public Defender John Littrell said the indictment against the three defendants should be dismissed because of outrageous government misconduct.
Court documents filed by Littrell contend the FBI agent paid bills up to $2,400 each time he went to the clubs with Syjuco and others to reward them for their work to secure weapons to ship to the U.S. without a license.
Federal prosecutors have acknowledged the agent sought nearly $15,000 in reimbursements for "entertainment" and other expenses. However, authorities said customers were expected to buy drinks and food at inflated prices for female employees who sat near them. Customers also were charged a "sitting fee" for the time accrued by the women.
Littrell said in court documents that the two clubs are suspected brothels. He said one was raided in May by Philippine authorities, with 60 victims of sex trafficking rescued. Some were underage girls, he said. At least seven people were arrested.
Littrell and an investigator visited the Philippines earlier this year and interviewed several workers who claim the agent, using the alias "Richard Han," paid for sex for himself and others.
Federal prosecutors said fellow FBI agents and other law enforcement officials who provided protection and support at the two clubs never saw the undercover agent enter a private room alone with a woman. Two agents also said in declarations that they weren't approached by women in the clubs seeking sex.
Syjuco, Cesar Ubaldo and Arjyl Revereza, a Philippines customs official, pleaded not guilty earlier this year to violating arms import laws by selling a grenade launcher, a mortar launcher and other weapons to the undercover agent who said he was interested in buying high-powered weapons that could be used by drug cartels in the U.S. and Mexico.
The case was part of a federal investigation of Asian organized crime groups involved in the illicit trafficking of firearms.
Weapons were eventually loaded onto a ship that arrived at the Port of Long Beach in June 2011, and the items were seized by authorities.
A hearing to consider dismissal of the charges is set for Oct. 15.