Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where the Jobs Are: Government Informant

Associated Press writers Larry Neumeister and Stephen Braun ran a fascinating profile yesterday which is, to say the least (and with a bit of a pun intended), informative.  The subject of the profile is 40-year-old Guatemalan Carlos Sagastume, who seems to have made a profitable career out of being a government informer.  Consider this itemization of his earnings:

Sagastume made most of his millions through the State Department's Narcotics Rewards Program, collecting $7.5 million from two rewards for work he did for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Another $1.6 million was earned through work on 150 investigations, though some of the money covered expenses.

He was paid $250,000 for the [ex-Soviet officer and gun-runner Viktor] Bout probe. In all, the State Department has paid more than $62 million in rewards since Congress established the program in 1986 to reward individuals who provide information to help arrest and convict drug dealers.

One wonders if the University of Phoenix should introduce a new curriculum for those who aspire to be government informers.  However, when you consider how Sagastume acquired his skills, it becomes clear that this is unlikely to happen in any of our for-profit training institutions.  It turns out that he spent five years in the Guatemalan Army, where he specialized in gathering intelligence on subversive activity and guerilla activists.  After leaving the military he applied his skills to both dealing and transporting drugs.  Here is how Neumeister and Braun then pick up the story:

He [Sagastume] said that after he was kidnapped by federal police in Mexico and a $60,000 ransom was paid to free him, he contacted the DEA in Guatemala, looking for a new line of work.

By 1998, he had moved to the United States and was steadily delivering successful results in DEA investigations.

There you have it, folks, the ultimate alternative to flipping burgers, with no college degree required (not to mention an example of the salary difference between consultants and staff employees)!

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