Ex-soldier pleads guilty to snitch-for-hire scheme

Former soldier Sandeo Pablo Dyson had already committed some of the most bizarre federal crimes prosecuted in Atlanta. But before being sentenced to five years in prison, he hatched an innovative snitch-for-hire business from behind bars that netted him thousands of dollars.

While in custody at the Atlanta City Detention Center, Dyson gathered information from fellow inmates about a number of unsolved crimes. He then sold that to other inmates so they could share it with authorities. Grateful federal prosecutors could make new cases and also ask that the inmates' prison sentences be reduced in return for their cooperation, Dyson reckoned.

It almost worked. Dyson made at least $20,000 off the scam, but he was ultimately done in by inmates who turned snitch against him.

On Tuesday, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and standing before a federal judge, Dyson pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting another inmate make false statements to prosecutors. Prosecutors learned from some of the inmates that they did not tell the truth about how they got their information -- that they had purchased it from Dyson -- Assistant U.S. Attorney Shanya Dingle said.

In one instance, Dyson shared information to a fellow inmate who then got his relatives to make four $5,000 deposits into bank accounts controlled by other inmates or their relatives, who then transferred the money to Dyson, Dingle said.

Dyson, 48, who served four years in the Marine Corps and almost 14 years in the Army, is to be sentenced Feb. 9.

He first got into trouble with the law in 2006 when he was training Army Rangers during the daytime in Dahlonega and working security at night for the Platinum 21 strip club on Piedmont Road.

When splashy Club Onyx opened its doors around the corner, drawing business away from Platinum 21, Dyson was recruited to shut down Club Onyx. He first dumped rats inside the club and then infested it with roaches, but neither tactic worked.

Just before dawn on Jan. 2, 2007, Dyson broke into Club Onyx and started a fire that closed the club for six months.

A year later, before being charged with arson, Dyson was ensnared in an undercover scheme orchestrated by federal agents in which he recruited fellow soldiers to stage a commando raid on a drug stash house. The plan was that the soldiers would steal 25 kilograms of cocaine and then sell the drugs, with each soldier getting an expected cut of  $15,000, prosecutors said.

Except there was no real stash house. The heavily armed soldiers recruited by Dyson to raid the house were arrested at a staging area in Sandy Springs before they could launch the concocted raid.

Dyson was not there because he had just been transferred to Fort Carson, Colo. But one of his soldier buddies turned snitch on him, telephoning Dyson that the raid was a complete success, according to testimony. Ecstatic, Dyson said he planned to rent a car and drive to Georgia to get his share, but instead he was arrested in Colorado by federal agents.