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FBI Wiretap Estimate Cut

The San Diego FBI office Tuesday scaled back by $8.5 million the previously reported cost for wiretapping in the investigation of a North County cocaine smuggling ring.

FBI spokesman Gary Laturno said that the actual cost of the court-approved wiretaps was $1.2 million, rather than $9.7 million.

Laturno attributed the error to an unidentified FBI agent who estimated the cost on the basis of hours spent on the wiretaps instead of calculating the number of days.

According to Laturno, the error was not caught by FBI officials in San Diego who reviewed the agent’s report before submitting it to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Laturno said that the error was caught after The Times reported the story and his office received inquiries from the media about the wiretap costs.

This marks the second time in the case that the FBI has scaled back figures. Previously, federal officials said that the ring was responsible for smuggling between 20% to 25% of all the cocaine used in the United States.

The FBI later admitted that the figure was exaggerated and that they do not know exactly how much cocaine was smuggled by the group or how the drug was brought into this country.

The ring allegedly is headquartered in Miami, Fla. and San Diego, and the cocaine originated from South America. An exhaustive federal investigation of the ring’s activities resulted in 98 indictments.

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