Police informant: My reward? A death sentence

Police informant: My reward? A death sentence »Play Video
Northwest Detention Center
TACOMA -- A man made a career of catching criminals around Seattle but says his reward now amounts to a death sentence.

The drug informant says his life is now in danger because of his quest for citizenship.

Ernesto Gamboa is an undocumented immigrant but has spent the last 14 years helping police bust narcotics operations and exposing their ties to foreign cartels.

A detective, who asked to be anonymous, says Gamboa caught more bad guys as an informant than some officers do in their lifetimes.

"In my experience as a narcotics detective, he was probably the most effective informant that I had ever seen in my law enforcement career," he said.

But Gamboa is now behind bars at the Northwest Detention Center. His lawyer says he wanted a break from being a snitch, so Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him, and are trying to send him back to El Salvador.

"It's now clear that the government that he's been helping is now trying to deport him to a place where he's going to be in danger," said Jorge Baron, Gamboa's lawyer.

Gamboa figures drug lords he put away will kill him in El Salvador. He hoped to stay in the United States. ICE agents never made any promises, but they apparently kept the citizenship conversation going.

"There was never a sense like 'no, we're not going to give you legal status,' " Baron said. "There was always the sense that that was certainly a possibility."

While Gamboa awaits a hearing, his case could discourage other undocumented immigrants from coming forward to solve crimes, fearing they could be deported too.

"Is it better to welcome those individuals to come forward and to provide that information?" Baron wondered. "Or are we, in a case like this, put that person in danger and potentially sentence them to death because of his cooperation."

The detective added: "(Gamboa)'s not getting the consideration he deserves for all the years of work that he's done."