Former drug informant faces uncertain future

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 17, 2009 at 11:39 PM

SEATTLE - Ernesto Gamboa sits on his couch tonight, facing an uncertain future.

"I did things nobody knows," says the former undercover drug informant. "I feel betrayed."

Gamboa illegally immigrated to the US years ago, and went to work as an informant for various law enforcement agencies. He traveled the country, and into Central and South America to help crack some major cases. He was a source in "Operation Arctic Chill," a major drug trafficking operation which resulted in the seizure of 19 pounds of meth, a quarter pound of cocaine, guns and cash. But earlier this year, he had enough.

Gamboa wanted a job with real money, and says he told his handlers he found one in Florida. He said he'd be willing to travel back to help other investigations if needed.

Instead, he went to the Federal Detention Center in Tacoma. After a fight, which included Senator Maria Cantwell in his corner, he was released after six weeks.

He's since been trying to get an "S Visa", which he says would allow him to work towards full legal residency. "I'd be able to work like a normal human being and after 3 years, I can apply for my residency," says Gamboa.

But his effort was rebuffed by the US Attorney's Office last week, and according to his attorney, other law enforcement agencies have been cool to helping Gamboa.

"Just to be able to live a different life, get to a point, I think I did enough," says the 41-year-old.

He now says he's ready to give up, and move back to El Salvador, where he'd be in the crosshairs of the very people he helped put away.

 "It's a risk I have to take. There is nothing else I can do," he said.

A spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in Seattle says it doesn't have the manpower needed to keep tabs on Gamboa, and that was a reason why it didn't want to help. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has never provided a full explanation on why Gamboa was jailed, or released.

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