WASHINGTON -- For 27 years, Carlos Toro assumed many false identities as an undercover operative for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The intelligence he gathered helped in the prosecution of cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder of the Medellin Cartel, and Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama.
But at 66 years old and in declining health, Toro wants to quit. He says the DEA agreed, but has reneged on a promise to help him legally stay in the United States. Without legal status, he faces deportation back to his native Colombia.
"I was loyal to them. I worked for them. I risked my life for them and this is how they pay me?" said Toro. "The United States government has sentenced me to death."
That's because in the 1980s, Toro was a high-ranking member of the cartel.
"My job was to meet with heads of state, the president of Nicaragua, Panama, members of the Cuban government, and convince them to let us land in certain airstrips so we could make the second leg of the trip to the United States," explained Toro.
After he got arrested for cocaine trafficking, he turned informant and became one of the DEA's most important assets around the world.
"He can walk the walk and talk the talk," said retired DEA agent Mike McManus, who was Toro's handler for two years. "It's not that often that you have a confidential source who can work undercover for nearly 27 years all over the world and still maintain a cover."
McManus says Toro risked his life for the DEA and deserves better. The DEA would not comment for this story, but McManus is urging the government to recognize Toro's contribution.
"It is government bureaucracy at its worst," said McManus. "He deserves to live life ever after in the United States. He's done his debt, he's paid his dues, he's done his service."
With his visa now expired, Toro is asking for the government's help in getting a green card or a passport. Without either of those documents, he can't even collect the social security benefits that he earned during the years he worked in the U.S.
"Twenty-seven years of service and I have to beg," said Toro, with tears in his eyes. "I put my life on the line for them."