ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about Rachel Hoffman and the unsupervised informant system.
On the evening of May 7, 2008, a twenty-three-year-old recent Florida State graduate named Rachel Hoffman got into her Volvo sedan and headed north to a public park in Tallahassee, Florida. On the passenger seat beside her was a handbag that contained thirteen thousand dollars in marked bills. She was not a trained narcotics operative. Perhaps what put her at ease was the knowledge that nineteen law-enforcement agents were tracking her every move, and that a Drug Enforcement Administration surveillance plane was circling overhead.
Three weeks earlier, police officers had arrived at the door of her apartment after someone complained about the smell of marijuana. The cops seized slightly more than five ounces of pot and several Ecstasy and Valium pills. Hoffman could face serious prison time for felony charges.
The officer in charge, Ryan Pender, told her that she might be able to help herself if she provided “substantial assistance” to the city’s narcotics team. She believed that any charges against her could be reduced, or even dropped.
The operation did not go as planned.
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