“I will be vindicated”: DEA Colombia Regional Director fires back at allegations of misconduct

Following the publication of an AP report about an investigation into allegations of misconduct within the Drug Enforcement Authority’s (DEA) Colombia office, Regional Director Richard Dobrich spoke to The Bogotá Post about the “categorically false” accusations against his name.

Last week The Associated Press ran a story on an investigation against DEA Regional Director Richard Dobrich for allegedly using drivers to procure sex workers in Colombia. Following our own publication of the investigation, Dobrich reached out to The Bogotá Post to give his side of the story.

“The allegations are 1000% false. I have not engaged in any misconduct whatsoever,” the DEA chief in Colombia said, adding that the allegations of misconduct don’t square with his “strong track record for zero tolerance for any misconduct.”

Dobrich met with investigators last week. As he’s in the top post within the region, investigations of misconduct are always covered by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Dobrich said that he received a phone call from an AP reporter at the same time that the investigators were in his office.

According to Dobrich, the reporter had an actual copy of the allegation which would have come from “a very limited number of sources”. He doesn’t know the source of the initial allegation–whether it came from an employee within the DEA’s Colombia office or not–but believes the letter was leaked but from further up the chain. In Dobrich’s opinion, such a authoritative letter can only come from DEA Internal Affairs or the DEA front office.     

Dobrich is a former Navy SEAL who had tours of duty in Afghanistan. Picture courtesy of Richard Dobrich

 “That’s a big deal,” Dobrich said about the possibility that the leak was coming from within the DEA itself. “Someone who is entrusted with a security clearance to do important work to then leak information; that to me is a big problem.” Dobrich was also told that the AP didn’t know the author of the anonymous letter that led to the investigation.

As a result of the leak, Dobrich believed that “the investigation of the allegation severely lacked integrity.”

Dobrich attempted to dissuade the AP reporter not to run the story, even offering to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence. “But they were determined to print a salacious story that they didn’t really care about the truth in this particular case.”

“I did not engage in any misconduct. I’ve never really started a fight, but every fight I’ve been in I’ve finished.”

Dobrich has been the Regional Director in Colombia for over three years and his office of 140 staff members covers counter-narcotic strategies in Venezuela and Ecuador as well. He has been with the DEA for a total of 28 years and believes his service to the organisation (as well as his record as a navy seal) has suffered a diversion as a result of these allegations.

Dobrich with his wife of 28 years Lisette. Photo courtesy of Richard Dobrich

“My biggest regret, one which I can’t control, is that it is a perversion and distraction from the outstanding work that all the men and women in the DEA do.” And although the damaging allegations have been printed, Dobrich believes that it has in no way affected the organisation in Colombia. He stated that the “cowardly” allegations have not derailed the agency’s continued collaboration with the Colombian national police and the Fiscalia (Attorney General’s Office) in its counter-narcotic strategies.

In 2015, the DEA was hit by a larger scandal whereby an investigation found ten agents had attended sex parties funded by Colombian cartels. Dobrich had been brought into the fold following that scandal and he understands why the story received extensive coverage within Colombian media given the agency’s history in the country.

In this case however, Dobrich believes that he will be exonerated and has been told that the investigation itself has been completed and that the report will find no evidence of misconduct. He remained adamant that he’d remain within the DEA, an agency in which he has served nearly three decades.

“I will defend myself to my last breath on planet earth. I did not engage in any misconduct. I’ve never really started a fight, but every fight I’ve been in I’ve finished. I will finish this one and I will be vindicated.”

In reaction to our publication of the AP’s report, Dobrich wrote to The Bogotá Post, outlining fully his views on the investigation and the decision to publish the story based on the anonymous leak. The full unedited text of the letter is published below:

 

This is my side of the story which is based on FACTS, not salacious FICTION.  My biggest regret – one which I have no control over – is how this absurdly false tale has distracted the public’s attention from the outstanding work that DEA does in Colombian working alongside the Colombian National Police, Fiscalia, and Fuerzas Militares.   I’m very proud of the work my team continues to do.

  Warm Regards,

  Richard Dobrich

—–

Cowardly Anonymity, False Accusations, Betrayal, “Lost Leadership” and Tabloid “News”

Don’t confuse my situation with the current upheaval in Washington D.C. related to the U.S.Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Bret Kavanaugh.  Mine is not a battle between Red versus Blue, nor He Said versus She Said, nor Accuser versus Accused. Mine is a story of absurd and unfounded allegations, official leaks, leadership vacuum, and tabloid press from a supposedly responsible news organization.

I find myself as the subject of a now-debunked anonymous and maliciously false letter which was sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). I was accused of engaging in the Colombian sex trade, i.e., soliciting prostitutes while serving as the DEA Regional Director. More specifically, the allegation stated that I directed my local staff to assist me in this despicable conduct. I was not accused of this phantom behavior by anyone involved in the sex trade – no victims have accused me of any such abhorrent behavior – and let me be clear here, I fully recognize that the sex industry in Colombia has nothing but victims – usually young women with severe economic hardships or deplorable histories of sexual abuse at home during their adolescence.

DEA OPR and DOJ OIG routinely receive allegations of misconduct. The unimpeachable moral conduct of DEA personnel (all U.S. government personnel) form the pillars upon which the Public Trust is built and there is zero tolerance for non-compliance – this is something I have always strongly subscribed to. Some allegations are confirmed as accurate while others are discredited – in either case there is supposed to be a firewall of confidentiality and neutrality so that DEA OPR and/or DOJ OIG investigators can do their important jobs, in relative secrecy, of uncovering the truth of what has, or has not, happened.

In my case, a copy of the totally false and anonymous letter was provided to the Associated Press (AP). The AP didn’t get hearsay from someone “in the know”, no, the AP received an actual copy of the letter from “DEA Sources” (as told to me by the AP). The AP told me they didn’t know the identity of the anonymous author – presumably the AP knows their “DEA Sources”. Therefore, one can deduce that the AP’s “DEA Sources” are somewhere between DEA Executive “Leadership” or within DEA OPR.

So that’s the scene-setter. The AP gets a hot lead on a scandalous story – “the Senior Executive Regional Director (me) who was sent to Colombia in 2015 in the wake of a sex trade scandal just couldn’t resist the temptation”. The “story” would have you believe that DEA in Colombia (or maybe it’s just me) can’t behave responsibly and ethically. Let me be unequivocally clear – the AP’s sensational storylines are categorically false and the AP was provided clear FACTS before going to print but they just couldn’t resist their own temptation to sell “print”.

To me, there is nothing more cowardly and pathetic than someone who would author anonymous and patently false accusations which attack the moral character of someone else without one shred of evidence, not one victim’s voice, nothing other than absolute fiction. As if a false allegation isn’t enough, I am sickened by the prospect that a “DEA Source” would leak an uncorroborated and wildly unbelievable story to the media before it had been appropriately and properly investigated. That would sting me more than getting shot again. A leak would also constitute a serious breach of the DEA Standards of Conduct and possibly be a violation of the law. Before you form an opinion, allow me to clarify the allegation – I was accused of using my locally employed staff (all of whom are outstanding by the way) to drive me around town in Bogota, Colombia and solicit prostitutes. The anonymous letter didn’t specify where I took these prostitutes – did I utilize the backseat of my car while the driver was in front? take them to a sleazy hotel? or heck, maybe I just went to a city park? I mean really, could the anonymous author at least respect my intelligence enough to allege that I did this alone? I obviously did not do what has been alleged – not with the help of others nor by myself. The anonymous author is most probably a disgruntled employee.

I am used to being able to detect where enemy fire is coming from in order to protect myself and teammates — I fought the Taliban in Afghanistan alongside some of the bravest heroes within DEA and Special Operations Forces. I am not accustomed to confronting the cowardice of anonymous and fictitious allegations.

When a salacious and patently false accusation is completely discredited, as mine has, where do I go to restore unjust damage done to my life-earned reputation? I have demanded that DOJ OIG investigate the leak to the AP as a murder investigation because there has been an assassination on my reputation. The anonymous author of the allegation is a coward and a liar; the leak(ers) are criminal(s). As a Christian, I would actually forgive the author if they have the courage to come forward and ask for it. As for the leak(ers), I would do the same – after they are punished by the competent authority.

I am the recipient of the U.S. Congressional Badge of Bravery, the DEA Valor Award, the DEA Purple Heart, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Bravery Award and many other prestigious domestic and international awards and citations — I will give back every single award bestowed upon me if there is one person on planet earth who can substantiate the sick allegation levied against me.

DEA has almost 10,000 committed employees who do incredibly important work in the fight against transnational organized crime, the opioid epidemic, and the diversion of pharmaceuticals, among other vital missions. It has been my absolute privilege to work alongside some of the brightest and most dedicated servants during my 28-year career within DEA and across many branches of government during all of my assignments. My faith is undiminished and the truth has set the record straight – and I’m damn proud of my record which was built alongside incredible teammates.

What about DEA “Leadership”? Since the AP story ran, I haven’t heard a peep from DEA “Leadership”- not an email or phone call from DEA Headquarters. That is not a nice feeling after 28 years of honorable service, but I didn’t become a DEA Special Agent in order to receive accolades or assurances. I did it because it was a calling. Simply stated, I believe in DEA’s mission with every fiber of my being and I have loved every minute of it.

If there is a silver lining to this ordeal it’s the outpouring of love, belief, and support that my family and I have received from hundreds of friends and colleagues. I am inspired, humbled and rejuvenated – the support has been impactful and deeply appreciated.

Richard Dobrich

SES Regional Director, DEA Andean Region

former U.S. Navy SEAL

FOOTNOTE: This can be a great blue print for a disgruntled employee to wreak havoc in an office. All they need to do is send an outlandish, totally false allegation to DEA, OPR and DOJ OIG and hope that someone leaks their letter to the media. Brilliant.

 

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