A former supervisor in the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of embezzling money from a fund for confidential informants and making false statements.
The one-time agent, James Contreras, 52, of Maple Valley, entered the plea through his attorney in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Contreras was indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle last month on one count of embezzlement and 30 counts of making false statements. The indictment alleged he repeatedly took money from a cash account he supervised.
If convicted, Contreras could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on the embezzlement count and five years for each false-statement count.
The indictment alleged Contreras improperly took $19,700 from the ATF’s confidential informant fund, often falsifying signatures of other agents, between March 2010 and April 2012. Money to be paid to 12 informants was never given to them, the indictment said.
Contreras resigned in June 2012 amid an internal ATF investigation over his handling of a paid informant who sexually abused a woman while working for the ATF, a federal source told The Seattle Times at the time.
Contreras came under scrutiny after a May 2012 Times story about the informant, Joshua Allan Jackson, who was hired despite a lengthy history of violence against women. While working for the ATF, Jackson engaged in criminal activity that included sexually assaulting a young woman in a Seattle motel room paid for by the agency.
The embezzlement case was presented to the grand jury by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco. Federal prosecutors in Seattle were recused from the case to avoid a conflict of interest.