Hector Natal was beginning to suspect G-Money was working for the cops. Just as Natal was about to search G-Money for a wire, G-Money’s “cousin” appeared and whisked him away.
That’s the story that Fire Marshal Faustino Lopez told on the witness stand in U.S. District Court on Monday afternoon. He described going undercover for his first time ever to pull G-Money—a government informant—out of some dicey situations.
Natal was right to suspect G-Money, who was indeed wearing a wire. G-Money helped record key evidence in the government’s case against Natal and his father Hector Morales.
The father and son stand accused of setting a blaze that killed three people in Fair Haven in March 2011. Natal and Morales face a total of 11 charges related to the fire. They have pleaded not guilty to all.
After the fire, as police closed in on Natal and Morales as main suspects, they enlisted G-Money to help them collect evidence. G-Money began to wear a wire to record Natal, with whom he dealt drugs.
But Natal smelled a rat.
On the stand, Lopez described a sample of the high-stakes on-the-spot improvisation required when an informant gets into a tight spot.
Lopez took the stand on Monday wearing his dress fire uniform, complete with brass buttons and gold embroidery at the cuffs. He said he started working with cops to catch the person who started the fire, trading his fire gear for plain clothes.
On April 14, 2011, Lopez and other cops were staked out near Natal’s house on Poplar Street in Fair Haven. They were watching and listening as G-Money spoke with Natal outside the house.
G-Money was in trouble. Natal was about to check him for a wire, and he was wearing one. If Natal had found it, the whole case could fall apart and could G-Money could get hurt.
Faustino pulled up in an undercover car. He introduced himself as G-Money’s cousin and told him to get in the car. He told Natal they were just going to take a ride.
The next day, G-Money—wired for audio and video—went to court with Natal and Natal’s girlfriend. Again, Natal was about to search G-Money for a wire, when G-Money’s “cousin” appeared.
“I told him, ‘Let’s go,’” Lopez said.
All of them walked out to the street. G-Money tried to convince Natal he wasn’t wired. He pulled up his shirt to show him his bare chest.
Lopez told Natal he was a Meriden drug dealer, that he could vouch for his “cousin.”
Later that day, they spoke on the phone. Lawyers played a recording of the conversation.
“Growing up with my cousin, he’s always been loyal to me,” Lopez told Natal. “G-Money? I fucking knew him when he was G-Broke!”
G-Money hadn’t collected the $25,000 reward for information about the fire, Lopez said.
“If he wanted to, he could cash in, right?” Lopez said.
“Yeah,” Natal replied.
“He ain’t no fucking snitch, though,” Lopez said.
The phone call ended without an expression of confidence from Natal. But G-Money was safe and the case wasn’t blown.
Natal’s girlfriend, another key government witness, is expected to take the stand on Tuesday.
Past Independent stories on the trial: