Earlier this month, Carlos Toro revealed himself for the first time via The Huffington Post as a former Medellín cartel official who became an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration 27 years ago. Now 65 and ailing, Toro decided to go public, believing it might be the only way he could get out of the drug war.
Over the past five years, Toro has been required to work for the DEA or face potential deportation back to Colombia, his country of birth, where he says he would be killed by remnants of the cartel. The agency has kept him in this position, he says, and in fact leveraged his immigration status to coerce him into continuing to work -- a tactic used by federal law enforcement agencies.
On Monday, however, the DEA agent who recruited Toro as an informant in 1986 said Toro has "paid his dues," and that he should be allowed to retire in the U.S. with his family.
"It is government bureaucracy at its worst," Michael McManus, a former DEA agent and high-ranking supervisor who retired in 2004, told CBS News of Toro's situation. "He deserves to live life ever after in the United States. He's paid his debt. He's paid his dues. He's done his service."
McManus worked closely with Toro throughout the late 1980s, when they were both starting their careers at the DEA. McManus offered Toro a chance to work for the agency after Toro was charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Toro eventually pleaded no contest and agreed to work for the DEA instead of serving time in jail, helping to bring down legendary figures such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and Medellín cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, a childhood friend of Toro's. Though he earned his freedom with these missions, Toro continued his service for years -- often without compensation -- because he enjoyed being an informant and found that he was good at it.
But recently, Toro hasn't had much choice in the matter. Despite his continued cooperation and many contributions, the federal government considers Toro a terrorist because of his past involvement with the cartel, which is classified as a terrorist group under the Patriot Act. Toro is now facing an immigration crisis with few long-term solutions.
For the past five years, he has served the DEA in hopes that the agency would help him secure a green card or U.S. citizenship. This would give him access to federal benefits he has earned over his almost 50 years in the U.S., and let him remain with his wife, two children and grandson, who are all American citizens. Instead, Toro said, he received only vague assurances and a final warning that the agency would cut ties with him if he went public.
"Twenty-seven years of service, and I have to beg," Toro told CBS News.
The DEA, which denied HuffPost's earlier request for comment and typically doesn't speak publicly about specific informants, also refused to comment on CBS's story. While McManus doesn't currently represent the DEA in any official capacity, he's still respected by the agency. In one of the highlights of his career, McManus took down George Jung, the drug trafficker portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2001 film "Blow." He is now a highly sought-after public speaker on issues of drug enforcement.
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