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December 16, 2022Houston, TX, United StatesNational Security

Former federal agent sentenced for crimes tied to illicit relationship with target of counterterrorism investigation

HOUSTON — A former special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, commonly called NCIS, was sentenced to prison Dec. 15 for various crimes related to her illicit relationship with the target of a U.S. counterterrorism investigation. The woman’s conviction and sentencing follow an investigation conducted by NCIS, Homeland Security Investigations Houston, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

A judge in the Southern District of Texas sentenced Leatrice Malika DeBruhl-Daniels, 49, to nine years in federal prison to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release for obstructing justice, making false statements, and accepting money and gifts for official acts. In handing down the sentence, the court cited DeBruhl’s breach of trust and deterrence.

DeBruhl-Daniels was convicted of the crimes June 13 by a federal jury sitting in Houston following a six-day trial.

“Leatrice DeBruhl-Daniels betrayed her badge and our country by revealing sensitive and classified information to the target of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in exchange for money, gifts and affection,” said NCIS Director Omar Lopez. “Holding her accountable will make it clear that NCIS will not tolerate corruption within our ranks.”

DeBruhl-Daniels was a veteran NCIS special agent working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There, she met Nadal Diya, a Syrian businessman living in Dubai looking for help in securing a U.S. visa. At that time, Diya was the target of several federal investigations.

At trial, the jury heard from 16 government witnesses, including numerous agents and Diya himself. Testimony revealed that in 2017, DeBruhl-Daniels used her position to get certain benefits from Diya in exchange for providing information to him about his visa status. The gifts included an expensive birthday party at Diya’s home, approximately $1,400 in cash and the promise of a job for her son in Diya’s company.

The relationship with Diya eventually became sexual. During that relationship, she revealed he was a target of an FBI counterterrorism investigation — information that was classified at the time. She also told him that if he came to the U.S., he would likely be arrested.

In late December 2017, federal agents questioned Debruhl-Daniels about Diya. However, she failed to disclose their intimate relationship, the gifts he had given her, the job he offered her son and the classified information she provided. Following her interview, she visited with Diya and coached him on what to say in a subsequent interview.

Several months later, in May 2018, Debruhl-Daniels left Dubai for a highly sensitive and coveted job in Hawaii. However, she soon learned she was not getting the new position. It was only then that Debruhl-Daniels confessed the illicit relationship, money, birthday party and gifts, and the classified information she had revealed to her superiors and investigators.

Debruhl-Daniels testified in her own defense at trial. She claimed, among other things, that the classified information she revealed to Diya was public information. She further attempted to convince the jury she did not have a duty to reveal any of the details of her personal relationship with Diya nor her disclosures to him.

The jury found her guilty.

Diya, 50, of Dubai, was previously sentenced and has been removed from the United States.

Debruhl-Daniels will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani and Assistant United States Attorney Arthur R. Jones prosecuted the case.

For more news and information on HSI Houston’s role in the global counterterrorism mission and how the agency defends the country against threats to national security, follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.

Updated: 12/16/2022