Did the U.S. ratify a contract with a drug snitch?

May 5, 2016

HandcuffsThe U.S. Court of Federal Claims found many material facts in dispute on whether the government ratified an unauthorized contract with “confidential human source” Julio Villars. And so, Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby ruled against the government on that part of its summary judgment motion in Villars v. United States, No. 13–363C, 2016 WL 1688283 (Fed. Cl. Apr. 26, 2016).

Villars, a Honduran national, was detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Villars alleged that while he was in ICE custody, he met with FBI Special Agent William Roecker and was offered a deal.

No one disputed that following the meeting, Villars served as a confidential human source in support of the government’s investigation of drug trafficking organizations from 2008 to 2010.

What was in dispute was the nature of the arrangement and what Villars was to receive. He alleged that he was to be protected from retaliation, paid for expenses and relocation, receive a percentage of monies seized by the United States, and receive judicial assistance and a non-deportation commitment.

In October 2010, after ICE designated Villars for imminent deportation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois obtained a material witness warrant to detain him so that he could testify in criminal trials. He allegedly suffered mistreatment while detained.

After he was released, Villars sued, alleging that the United States breached an implied-in-fact contract with him for services as a confidential human source.

Judge Griggsby said the court lacked jurisdiction over Villars’ challenge to his treatment while detained as a witness, because he had already filed a separate District Court suit on that matter.

The judge granted in part the government’s summary judgment motion with respect to the breach of contract claim.

Villars demonstrated the first three elements of an implied-in-fact contract, the court said; i.e., mutuality of intent, consideration and lack of ambiguity in offer and acceptance.

But he failed to establish the fourth element: that a government official with actual authority to bind the United States entered into the alleged contract.

A government official possesses implied actual authority to do so when the official cannot perform his assigned tasks without such authority, and the agency’s regulations do not grant the authority to other agency employees.

Neither test applied to Special Agent Roecker.

But Judge Griggsby denied the government’s motion on the issue of ratification. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Maury Taylor’s declaration stated that he had the authority to individually ratify a contract with Villars, but did not recall having done so.

“The fact that Supervisory Special Agent Taylor cannot recall ratifying the alleged contract with plaintiff does not necessarily mean that he did not actually ratify the alleged contract,” the judge said.

There were also questions on whether the FBI or Department of Justice institutionally ratified by seeking and receiving benefits from an otherwise unauthorized contract, Judge Griggsby found.