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Honoring DEA Alumnus

DEA Agent Nate Fountain earned national awards for his efforts in stopping a drug cartel from assassinating a Saudi Arabian ambassador.

DEA Agent Nathaniel “Nate” Fountain, a 2009 SHSU alumnus, and his partner were awarded the highest law enforcement honor in the Drug Enforcement Administration for their role in thwarting an assassination attempt of the Saudi Arabian ambassador by a Mexican drug cartel.

Agent Fountain was presented the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for his role in uncovering an assassination plot of Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in 2011, which was backed by the Iranian government. Fountain, an agent in the DEA’s Houston Office, worked with a government informant from the Los Zetas cartel, who posed as a hitman hired to murder the ambassador by planting a bomb as he dined at a Washington, D.C. restaurant. The investigation revealed that other targets for subsequent attacks included the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Israeli and Saudi Arabian embassies in Argentina.

“This award is a tribute to your commitment to live up to our Nation’s founding ideals, to protect the rights and safety of our fellow citizens, and to ensure that the Department’s long tradition of excellence continues,” U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Fountain. “You should take great pride in the fact that your work has made a positive and lasting impact on the citizens we serve, and will leave an enduring imprint on the Department’s work for years to come. I am grateful for the dedication and passion that you bring to your work, and I am honored to recognize you for your outstanding contributions to the Department.”

Agent Fountain and his partner, who did not want to be identified, also received an Honorable Mention for 2013 Top Cops from the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO). The annual Top Cop awards, which are the result of nominations by previous winners, pay tribute to outstanding law enforcement officers across the country for actions that go above and beyond the call of duty.

Agent Fountain and his partner led the investigation into Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran, who was plotting terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other countries purportedly on behalf of the government of Iran. The two DEA agents worked with a confidential informant, who posed as a hitman in the case, and spearheaded contact and coordination with other federal agencies. During undercover meetings and telephone conversations, Arbabsiar and the confidential informant approved a price of $1.5 million to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar returned to Iran and transferred a down payment of $100,000 to undercover bank accounts.

Arbabsiar was arrested when he returned to New York. Arbabsiar pled guilty in October 2012 to three counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries and two counts of murder-for-hire, and was sentenced to 25 years is prison in May.

“The scope and impact of this investigation positively reflected on the combined efforts of law enforcement and the intelligence community,” said the Top Cop award. “This case garnered international media attention and altered the diplomatic policy between the U.S. and the government of Iran. In addition, information identified during the course of this investigation revealed the terrorist threat to the international community posed by members of the government of Iran. The investigation also provided significant intelligence and insight into the inner workings of this terrorist organization.”

In the fall, Agent Fountain shared his experience in the case with students from Sam Houston State University during a presentation by Javier Pena, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Houston Office. Pena was on campus to discuss his role in the case of Pablo Escobar, an infamous drug lord who led the Medellin Cartel during their reign of drug trafficking, terrorism and murder.

The most recent case also illustrated the ongoing connections between drug trafficking and terrorism. The DEA was widely praised for its actions in both cases.

“As the DEA has repeatedly shown, terrorists often look to drug trafficking to finance their violent, deadly pursuits,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Our intelligence capabilities and our vast network of informants across the globe enabled us to thwart this terror plot before it could materialize. As a result of DEA’s decisive action and the work of our partners, we are safer here and abroad and Mr. Arbabsiar’s terror scheme will never become a reality."

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