Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was moonlighting as a police informant for a while

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When Enrique Tarrio was arrested in Washington, D.C., just days before the right-wing Proud Boys street gang he leads helped orchestrate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, it was not (perhaps unsurprisingly) his first run-in with the police. Indeed, Tarrio, who assumed control of the violent, right-wing group two years into Donald Trump's presidency, is no stranger to law enforcement at all — in no small part, we now know, thanks to his years of service as an informant for both state and federal officials.

According court documents obtained by Reuters this week, Tarrio's career as a police informant began following a 2013 conviction for stealing and reselling more than a million dollars' worth of diabetes test strips. By 2014, Tarrio's attorneys were asking for lenience on his sentence due to his role in helping prosecutors make cases against more than a dozen people on a wide variety of serious criminal charges.

Tarrio's attorney at the time described his client in the transcripts as a "prolific" informant who "at his own risk, in an undercover role, met and negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of [a smuggling] ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country."

Speaking with Reuters, Vanessa Singh Johannes, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio's case, additionally claimed "he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes."

Tarrio denied his role as an informant to Reuters, telling the outlet "I don't know any of this," and adding he couldn't "recall" the specifics confirmed in the court transcript.

Tarrio's journey from crook to federal snitch to leader of a national fascist street gang is a strange one, and Reuters notes that there's no reason to believe his informing has continued since 2014. However, it's also perfectly emblematic of the sort of elevation of violent grifters that occurred under the former president: From his ignominious beginnings as a small-time criminal, Tarrio's star rose considerably in the far-right, thanks in large part to his role with the Proud Boys, and their association with Trump. Like fellow right-wing extremist Laura Loomer, Tarrio also embarked on an abortive run for Congress in 2018 and worked closely with Trump confidant and since-pardoned fellow felon Roger Stone. In addition to being the leader of the pro-Trump gang, Tarrio also served as director for the grassroots "Latinos for Trump" group in Florida, further enmeshing his legitimate and illegitimate lives in the service of Trump's MAGA agenda.

It's a unique concoction that surprised even the woman who initially prosecuted him in 2013. "I knew that he was a fraudster," Johannes told Reuters, "but had no reason to know that he was also a domestic terrorist."

Tarrio now stands barred from Washington, D.C., ahead of a June court date for his arrest earlier this year.