Missing man was FBI informant, feds claim in court docs

Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- New clues have emerged in the disappearance of three men who left behind a bloody SUV abandoned on the street.

In court records, one of the missing men was revealed to have been a drug dealer and FBI informant. The revelation came as a result of a jewelry store owner's arrest on money laundering charges.

In a hearing for 27-year-old Justin Christopher on Tuesday, federal prosecutors revealed new details surrounding the disappearances of Danny "Kiko" Gallegos, Braden Emerson and Levi Collins. Prosecutors confirmed that Gallegos had not only been selling methamphetamine, but had become a confidential informant for the FBI.

"The confidential informant was a drug trafficker," prosecutors told the judge.

Christopher and his father, Richard, were arrested last week by SWAT teams in Salt Lake City in an RV. Inside that RV, federal prosecutors said, was 14 guns and nearly $70,000 in cash with notes attached in Gallegos' handwriting. Attached to the RV was a trailer containing Gallegos' 2005 Lamborghini.

Prosecutors accused Christopher of acting as a "straw buyer" for Gallegos to purchase the exotic sports car. They said he was also in the process of helping Gallegos purchase a house in Kearns.

Prosecutors detailed Christopher's connections to the missing man during a hearing over whether he should be released from federal custody. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Pead ultimately ruled he could be released -- with restrictions. He noted Christopher had no prior criminal history.

"These are very serious circumstances with an as yet undefined role for Mr. Christopher, at least as it relates to the disappearance of the confidential informant," the judge said.

Gallegos, Emerson and Collins disappeared in October. A bloody SUV was found on a street with a dog inside. Also inside, court records said, was a quarter-pound of methamphetamine.

After the disappearances, prosecutors told the judge, Christopher quickly shut his downtown jewelry store. The business remained closed on Tuesday. Missing persons posters for the three men were taped to the outside doors.

Salt Lake City police told FOX 13 on Tuesday they learned of Christopher while investigating the disappearances. Asked if he was considered a suspect, the department would only say it "remains under investigation."

Christopher's attorney, Loni Deland, told FOX 13 that his client knew Gallegos. However, he insisted that he was not involved.

"We found out today he (Gallegos) is a government informant," Deland said. "I would say whoever's involved in those (drug) transactions had a motive to make sure he disappeared. Certainly not my client."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said it planned to seek a grand jury indictment against Christopher next week.