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Written by Mark Nichols   

Here’s the thing about using bad guys to catch other bad guys- it’s a trade off. Ask anyone familiar with the Whitey Bulger debacle in Boston about how things can go south when an informant flips his handlers. Joshua Allan Jackson is bad news.

According to authorities Jackson is a career criminal with a lengthy history of violence against women.

Jackson was sentenced to 10 years in prison April 13 for sexually abusing an 18-year-old woman and holding her against her will for days on end. As part of the deal he struck with prosecutors, Jackson also admitted to criminal impersonation on multiple occasions when he told his victims and others that he was a federal agent or a police officer.

According to an article from the Seattle Times, Jackson told a motel manager he was a federal agent after a fight with an alleged drug dealer.

The incident resulted in a citywide "help the officer" call. Cops in the city raced to the motel where they found the heavily tattooed Jackson.

Crooks claiming to be cops is nothing new. But this case is complicated by the fact that the 34-year-old Jackson is a paid informant for the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The agency made Jackson an informant even though he had come out of prison with a documented reputation as a violent, mentally unstable inmate. Jackson’s not your average criminal. He’s been arrested in nearly every state and nearly killed a lot of cops.

Even these days with Colombian prostitution scandals ensnaring the Secret Service and the DEA, Jackson’s case is wild.

The ATF paid for the motel room where the woman was sexually abused, according to police records obtained by The Seattle Times.

Just months before the assault of the woman at the motel, a concerned Seattle police officer spoke to an ATF agent on the phone after Jackson had reportedly flashed a badge during the "help the officer" incident. The agent backed up his informant.

The agent's first words to the officer were, "What did Josh do now?"

Jackson told Times reporters in an interview at the King County Jail that he had worked the streets for the ATF to “identify criminals.”

He went on to say he thought he'd "like to make a little cash, and I thought I could help those guys."

A Times review of nearly 800 pages of prison and prosecution documents revealed the Bronx, N.Y., native had been jailed in 43 states. His convictions date to the 1990s and include breaking and entering, robbery and larceny.

It isn't clear when Jackson moved to Washington, but records show he was arrested in Spokane in 2007 after a 25-year-old woman he had been dating reported he had assaulted her.

After getting out of jail, he told the woman he was going to torture her parents in front of each other before killing them. He also sent threatening emails to her parents.

Jackson's 400-page prison file is filled with disciplinary reports, most notably for smearing himself with feces, attacking guards, chewing through restraints and making lewd comments to female officers. He spent 11 of the 18 months in isolation for breaking rules.

While working for ATF, Jackson says agents gave him cash, drugs and cigarettes to sell "to build some street cred," but he denies ever saying he was an ATF agent.

"I always just said, 'I work with ATF,' not that I was an agent. People hear what they want, you know?" he said.

It’s clear that ATF didn’t look to closely into Jackson’s history before hiring him.

ATF agent Jim Contreras, identified in police reports as Jackson's handler, declined to comment. Contreras referred questions to the ATF spokeswoman in Seattle, Cheryl Bishop, who said.

"We do not discuss informants."

An ATF spokesman in Washington, D.C., Drew Wade, said only that the agency follows U.S. Department of Justice guidelines on informants.

As a result of cases like Jackson’s, and more importantly Bulger’s, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., has introduced legislation that would require federal law-enforcement agencies to semiannually report to Congress all serious crimes committed by their confidential informants.

Lynch, whose bill has been referred to committee, said more oversight is needed in light of the Bulger case and subsequent disclosures involving a reputed New England Mafia figure, Mark Rossetti, identified as an FBI informant suspected in six homicides.

Legislation could force agencies to explain their protocols and how they spend taxpayer dollars, Lynch said, noting agents use informants in hopes of making the "big pinch."

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