ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The family of a man who was gunned down near his South Valley home has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration claiming the man accused in Jason Estrada’s murder was an active DEA informer at the time who was improperly supervised by federal agents.
Edward Quintana, 31, has been charged in state District Court with killing Estrada, and is charged in a second indictment with criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13, among other charges. He has trials pending in both cases and is being held on a $600,000 bond.
The lawsuit claims that at the time of both Estrada’s killing and the sexual assault of the child, Quintana was an active DEA informant who had worked on several cases for federal narcotics agents.
According to media reports, Estrada apparently confronted Quintana over the sexual assaults of the child, leading to the confrontation that allegedly led to his death.
The day after Estrada was killed, DEA agents “deactivated” Quintana as an active informant, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit and attached documents show Quintana became an informant for DEA in 2011 after Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on his home and seized nine ounces of heroin, $12,000 and three loaded semiautomatic handguns.
According to the lawsuit, DEA agents took over his case shortly after his arrest by deputies.
The lawsuit claims Quintana was debriefed by agents and became a “confidential source” despite his criminal background, which included two prior felony convictions that showed a history of violence.
Quintana was issued a DEA cellular phone when he became an informant and was in possession of the phone when he was arrested two days after Estrada’s death, according to the lawsuit. Allegedly Quintana used the phone in planning to assault Estrada.
Estrada family attorney Erlinda Johnson said the complaint shows federal agents violated state laws and 16 separate requirements of federal guidelines for handling informants.
Johnson said Estrada “suffered horrible wounds and an agonizing death” in front of his young son.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which will defend the agents, had no comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Quintana was used as an intelligence asset, identifying suspected heroin and crack cocaine dealers and apparently was only directly involved in the purchase of a small amount of heroin.
Federal agents told local prosecutors that Quintana aided in the arrests of 26 individuals in a yearlong investigation called Smack-City in the Las Vegas, N.M., area, but the lawsuit says that was a misrepresentation and that only a handful of people were actually charged in that case.
The agents and supervisors named in the lawsuit filed Tuesday were named in a separate lawsuit stemming from the Smack-City investigation filed last month. That lawsuit claims agents were responsible for reigniting another’s man’s crack cocaine addiction to use him as a broker without his knowledge.