Proud Boys leader went undercover to help police after 2013 arrest

The leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group involved in the Capitol riot, went undercover to assist Miami police and cooperated with the FBI in multiple drug and illegal gambling investigations, a court transcript shows.

The man, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, began working with the FBI after he was arrested in 2013 on federal fraud charges related to a scheme to sell stolen diabetic test strips well below market value, according to the transcript, which was reviewed by NBC News.

“From day one, he was the one who wanted to talk to law enforcement, wanted to clear his name, wanted to straighten this out so that he could move on with his life,” a prosecutor told the judge at a hearing after Tarrio pleaded guilty.

In arguing for a reduced sentence, the prosecutor said Tarrio had helped federal law enforcement agencies prosecute 13 other people in two separate indictments.

“He has in fact cooperated in a significant way,” the prosecutor said at the 2014 hearing.

The judge agreed to reduce Tarrio’s sentence from 30 months in prison to 16 months, the court documents show.

Messages left at the listed numbers for Tarrio, who was arrested in Washington, D.C., two days before the storming of the Capitol, were not returned. In an interview with Reuters, which first reported his role as a law enforcement cooperator, Tarrio denied working with the police.

“I don’t know any of this,” he said when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Tarrio was charged Jan. 4 with possessing two high-capacity gun magazines and destroying a Black Lives Matter sign at a historic church in the nation’s capital.

Multiple senior law enforcement officials said the FBI tipped off police to Tarrio’s presence in Washington. At least five members of the Proud Boys have been charged with participating in the Jan. 6 riot.

Tarrio’s role as a police cooperator predated the rise of the Proud Boys, which formed in 2016. He became the national chairman of the group, which describes itself as an organization of “Western chauvinists,” in 2018.

There is no indication in the public filings or transcripts that law enforcement officers were aware of any involvement Tarrio may have had in extremist groups. There is also no indication that he has recently cooperated with federal or local law enforcement officials.

Tarrio’s role was not limited to helping federal authorities, according to the transcript of the so-called Rule 35 hearing, which was held to allow the government to make the case for a reduced sentence given his assistance in other investigations.

FBI Special Agent Rod Novales told the judge that he was aware of Tarrio’s work with a Miami police detective on an illegal gambling operation.

“In fact, I had a drive-by surveillance with Henry Tarrio where he showed me the two locations that were engaged in illegal gambling,” Novales told the court.

Tarrio’s attorney at the time, Jeffrey Feiler, said in court that his client had worked undercover in multiple investigations involving human smuggling, the sale of anabolic steroids and prescription narcotics.

Feiler said Tarrio was a “prolific” cooperator who put himself at risk in the smuggling case and “negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of that ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country.”

The FBI said nothing came of the smuggling investigation.

Tarrio also worked with police in Miami and Hialeah to break up a marijuana ring, Feiler said in court. Tarrio’s cooperation led to several arrests and the raiding of marijuana grow houses, which generated 100 pounds total of marijuana, Feiler said.

The prosecutor in the 2012 fraud case acknowledged that Tarrio cooperated in the grow houses case, but she said prosecutors never heard back from police about the status of the case, so he was not given credit for it in their effort to reduce his sentence.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Feiler said he does not recall many of the particulars of the case. But he said, “What was represented to the judge was true to the best of my knowledge and the information provided to me.”