A Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent has been indicted for allegedly tipping off a Syrian living in Dubai that the FBI was tracking him, according to court records.
Leatrice M. De Bruhl-Daniels, 45, was romantically involved with the man, Nadal Diya while she was assigned to a port security post in the United Arab Emirates, according to a September warrant for her arrest issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Federal investigators also suspect Diya spent tens of thousands of dollars to throw De Bruhl-Daniels a swank birthday party and she coached him up before an interview with law enforcement.
The Maryland woman was arrested without incident in Virginia on Sept. 28, according to NCIS spokesman Adam Stump. She has been with the agency since 2010.
NCIS suspended her without pay as the case percolates through the federal court system and her access to agency materials and her security clearances remain suspended, Stump added.
Her attorney, Joshua Lake, declined to comment for this story.
This month, she was named in an indictment for tampering with a witness, victim or informant, according to court records. The legal filings also accuse Diya of trying to sneak into the United States with fake Argentine and and Guatemalan passports.
Diya could not be reached for comment and no defense attorney was listed in online court records for the case.
Also tied up in the probe: Fadi Issa Issa, indicted for false tax returns and using a fake Guatemalan passport; Maximiliano Sandoval Remero, accused of obtaining and possessing a forged Guatemalan passport; and Labib Deeb Arafat, who also had a fake passport from Guatemala but also tried to bribe officials to release oil field equipment that had been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
De Bruhl-Daniels’ role in the case allegedly began when she was assigned as a port visit support liaison for the Jebel Ali port in Dubai.
She was tasked with handling all felony criminal investigations, counter-terrorism and counterintelligence matters involving transiting Navy vessels and she also trained sailors, Marines and Department of Defense officials on “OPSEC” — operations security, according to her arrest warrant.
Investigators believe that a friend introduced her to Diya in 2016.
“Diya told her he was seeking assistance with procuring a visa to the United States and wanting to find out why the U.S. State Department would not renew his tourist visa after his last trip to the United States in the summer of 2014,” the warrant states.
De Bruhl-Daniels began “immediately looking into the issue,” and discovered that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “had an interest in Diya,” according to the warrant.
She contacted an investigator in Texas in June 2016 and found out that “the Houston agent had an active investigation there into Diya regarding his possible involvement in the shipment of goods from the United States to Iran in violation of United States export laws,” the warrant states.
In February 2017, De Bruhl-Daniels asked State Department staff at the Dubai Consulate why Diya couldn’t get a visa and was told that DHS “has indicated adverse information on him” relating to terrorism and misrepresentation, according to the warrant.
Later that month, she reached out to the Houston agent again to see if they were still interested in Diya. The agent’s response “informed De Bruhl the criminal investigation into Diya involved classified information and that there was an impending federal prosecution of Diya,” the warrant states.
“Stay away from Diya because he is the target of an ongoing investigation,” agents warned De Bruhl-Daniels the following month during a secure video call.
But by then De Bruhl-Daniels had “entered into a personal relationship with Diya that ultimately became a romantic one,” the warrant states.
At her extravagant birthday bash in March of 2017, there was a DJ, special lighting and a custom birthday cake, plus "employees of NCIS and the State Department, active duty Navy personnel, and U.S. government contract personnel, as well as personal friends of De Bruhl who traveled from Dubai to the United States,” according to the warrant.
Prosecutors believe that she approached FBI officials at the Dubai consulate in May 2017 to see whether Diya would make a viable human intelligence source, offering details about the man’s business and source potential but not telling officials that she knew he was under federal investigation.
De Bruhl-Daniels sent a note to herself in June 2017, “which appear to be proclamations of love for Diya" and the next month FBI agents asked for documentation regarding “the chain of events” between the couple, according to the warrant.
“During this call, I informed De Bruhl that Diya was the target of an FBI counter-terrorism investigation," FBI Special Agent Jennifer Whitehurst wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.
Around the same time, De Bruhl-Daniels told Diya “that he was the target of an FBI investigation, and that if it’s the FBI, it’s either counter-terrorism or counterintelligence,” according to the warrant.
She later electronically communicated with Diya and warned him that “u hv some issues ahead,” the warrant states.
“U hv some associates that are well known to them which hv potentially placed u on the Feds radar,” she wrote, according to the warrant. “Recommend u get a lawyer when they call u for a meet at the EMB or Consulate.”
De Bruhl-Daniels shared this note with investigators in May: “I didn’t remember sending this or telling him this but this is pretty damn bad,” she told investigators, according to the warrant.
In addition to failing to disclose her romantic relationship with Diya to investigators, or that she had told him he was under investigation, De Bruhl-Daniels also neglected to disclose that her son worked for Diya for a few months, the warrant states.
After one interview with investigators, De Bruhl-Daniels met with Diya at his home and prepped him for his meeting the next day with U.S. federal agents, according to the warrant.
De Bruhl-Daniels transferred from Dubai to Hawaii in April and was set to be part of the personal security detail for a high-ranking Navy official at U.S. Pacific Command who is not identified in the warrant.
“Shortly after she arrived, however, her assignment was canceled and the reason she was given was for issues with her security clearance,” the warrant states.
When she asked a senior NCIS officials why her Hawaii assignment was getting canceled and why there were issues with her security clearance, she initially denied wrongdoing but eventually copped to having “an intimate sexual encounter with Diya,” according to the warrant.
She also admitted that Diya paid for her birthday party and several dinners and that he gave her the equivalent of $1,400, “which she claimed she later paid back in alcohol,” the warrant states.
De Bruhl-Daniels also admitted to informing Diya he was the subject of an FBI investigation, that his phones were likely being monitored and that he could be arrested if he tried to reenter the United States, according to the warrant.
“Upon her departure from Dubai to Hawaii, Diya gave her a gold Pandora bracelet and paid for her to get a massage prior to her departure from Dubai,” the arrest warrant states. “De Bruhl stated she sent the bracelet back to Diya as well as the money for the massage after arriving in Hawaii.”
What happens next in the case remains unclear.
U.S. Department of Justice officials did not respond to questions regarding when the next hearing is scheduled.
She was released from custody in early October and ordered to stay in the Washington, D.C., area but can travel to Texas for trial purposes, according to court records.
“De Bruhl repeatedly stated that her intention was to help the investigative agencies build a case on Diya,” the warrant states, “but it got personal and she made some mistakes.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.