Ex DEA agent who hunted Noriega charged in $7 billion fraud

MIAMI — The former chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami office who led the agency's cases against infamous Panama strongman Manuel Noriega and Medellin cartel kingpin Fabio Ocho, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for ordering the shredding of records once belonging to disgraced banker Allen Stanford.

Tom Raffanello, who emerged as Stanford's worldwide security chief after leaving the DEA five years ago, was charged with ordering workers to destroy thousands of documents just days after government agents shut down the banking empire in a massive fraud case.

Prosecutors say the records, once kept at Stanford's security office in Fort Lauderdale, were hauled away in a 95-gallon bin in February after a federal judge ordered that no company paperwork be destroyed.

The 61-year-old former DEA chief said he was prepared to turn himself over to federal agents Friday on charges of conspiracy and obstruction.

"No one is sorrier than me that it came to this -- after spending 32 ½ years working for the government,'' he said. "But I'm prepared to fight this. I still believe in the system.''

The indictment of the highly decorated former agent is the latest in a series of charges against Stanford and top lieutenants accused of stealing more than $7 billion from investors in a spectacular Ponzi scheme.

Investigators say most of the money was diverted to support failed business ventures and Stanford's extravagant lifestyle, which included mansions, luxury cars and sports sponsorships.