Dominicans & Dems: Part One
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First Published in the July, 1999 issue
- Drugs and Campaign Fundraising
Joe vs. The Volcano
and The Avalanche
and The Steamroller and The Machine and City Hall and
Michael C. Ruppert
According to a "law enforcement
sensitive" 1997 DEA report entitled "The Dominican Threat
- A Strategic Assessment of Dominican Drug Trafficking," Dominican
Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are responsible for as much as one-third
of all the cocaine entering the Continental United States. In the same
report, DEA estimates total annual U.S. cocaine consumption at close
to 500 metric tons (1,100,000 lbs.). The same report also states that,
"The only reason the Dominicans do not dominate the U.S. heroin
market as well is that South American production is unable to meet U.S.
demand." The Dominicans are buying less expensive [than Asian]
Colombian heroin and totally control heroin distribution throughout
the northeast. [See related story on Colombia this issue]. Piecing together
various sections of the report prepared by DEA's National Drug Intelligence
Center, it is safe to estimate that 20-25% of all cocaine and heroin
revenues inside the U.S. are controlled by Dominicans. The smuggling
is centered around New York City, Philadelphia and, to a lesser extent,
Last month FTW documented how approximately
two hundred and fifty billion dollars a year in drug money is laundered
inside the U.S. It is therefore safe to assume that DTOs launder, conservatively,
$30 billion a year through the United States. [Figures are not available
on Dominican control of marijuana sales in the northeast but credible
estimates range as high as fifty per cent]. Using a standard cash multiplier
of six, this means that approximately $180 billion in cash transactions
take place each year as a result of Dominican drug trafficking in the
northeast. How many jobs does $180 billion represent? Remember that
in the summer of 1998 The Russian Federation begged for only $18 billion
to save its entire national economy.
Eighty per cent of all U.S. Presidential
campaign donations come from New York, California, Texas and Florida.
The Bush family governs Texas and Florida. Hillary Clinton is going
all out to become a Senator from New York. Against all of this, as it
was developing ten years ago, came a single intrepid and incorruptible
INS agent Named Joe Occhipinti. In his twenty-two years
he had earned 78 commendations
and awards. He had solved the murders of two NYPD officers and, in 1989,
he thought he had found a way to weaken the grasp of Dominican drug
lords in the Washington Heights section of New York City.
The Snake Pit
Like all really great plans, Project Bodega
was very simple. Senior INS agent Joe Occhipinti knew that most of the
drug trafficking and money-laundering by Dominicans in New York City
relied upon an ecosystem centered around tiny family owned markets,
known as bodegas. Throughout the Washington Heights section of New York,
bodegas were everywhere, seemingly too many to be sustained in a normal
environment where they sold cigarettes, bread, beer and toilet paper.
Joe knew that the bodegas were being used to launder drug profits, as
stash pads for drugs, as under-the-counter gun stores and as neighborhood
pawn shops. Joe knew that many of the bodega owners had borrowed heavily
to open these family run markets and were making heavy cash payments
to "irregular" lenders to stay afloat.
Joe also knew that Dominican political
and business organizations which had donated heavily to the campaign
of Mayor David Dinkins were connected to the bodegas. But what he didnt
know as he began the simple and straight forward process of approaching
bodega owners and asking for consent to search their premises, was that
he had taken on the Democratic political machine of New York City, the
Dominican drug cartel, the Dominican Revolutionary Party and the Central
Project Bodega was hugely successful. In
one bust alone Occhipinti and crew came across a duffel bag containing
more than $130,000 earmarked for a mysterious legal loan sharking operation
out of Greenwich Connecticut called Sea Crest trading. Sea Crest has
since been linked by a number of law enforcement sources, to the Central
Intelligence Agency. In an additional head-scratching irony, other bodegas
connected both to Sea Crest and Islamic terrorists were suspected of
raising money to build bombs through fraudulent food coupon schemes.
One of those bombs blew up at the World Trade Center in 1993. Sea Crest,
according to published reports, has accepted food coupons as interest
payments on its loans. Working closely with special prosecutors, including
Assistant DA John F. Kennedy, Jr., Occhipinti began to make a real dent
in some well established business operations in New York City.
When, after more than forty arrests and
the seizure of more than a million dollars in drug cash, Project Bodega
threatened the cash stability of the Dominican cartels and their relationships
in the ecostructure of the northeast, a Dominican front group of businessmen
(many with DEA documented links to the cartel) turned on the heat with
Mayor Dinkins. In April, 1990 Dinkins, who had benefited from Dominican
largesse, started accusing Occhipinti of engaging in a Republican backed
conspiracy to interfere with the voter registration and civil rights
of Dominicans. Federal Civil Rights complaints followed, along with
investigations by the U.S. Attorney's office. By March of 1991, after
tremendous pressure and harassment, Occhipinti was indicted on 25 counts
of violating the civil rights of 12 plaintiffs.
Occhipinti's trial was a sham and the abuses
of law were so egregious as to arouse widespread support for the beleaguered
agent. Exclusionary rules were ignored. Defense witnesses were intimidated.
As Joe struggled to stop the eight hundred pound gorilla bashing him
around the zoo, and friends came to help, one lawyer and one journalist
were brutally murdered. Conflicts of interest were overlooked. Perjured
affidavits were allowed and, after Occhipinti's lawyer suffered a mental
breakdown, the judge publicly humiliated the attorney and refused to
allow him to withdraw from the case.
Joe was not without support from fellow
law enforcement professionals. According to Joe, one staunch supporter
who suffered was retired FBI Assistant Director Jim Fox, who ran the
World Trade Center bombing investigation. According to Occhipinti, "Fox
publicly stated that there was evidence of my innocence. When he refused
to recant his public statement he was suspended two months before his
retirement. He was a real stand-up guy!" But the result was a foregone
conclusion. Joe was going to jail. Get out of the way.
What was interesting was that the civil
rights violations alleged at trial did not include a single act of brutality,
violence, corruption or dishonesty. The sentence was unheard of. In
June of 1991, Occhipinti was sentenced to a 37 month prison term for
civil rights violations and thrown into a prison housing many of the
Dominican drug lords he had once investigated. Sleep tight.
As public pressure from political figures,
mostly Republican, and journalists including Mike McAlary of the New
York Post mounted, President George Bush commuted Occhipinti's sentence
in January, 1993. Savaged by the ordeal, a graying law enforcement hero
moved to New Jersey with his wife and three daughters and tried to clear
The Truck That Hit Him
After reviewing more than two hundred pages
of documents supplied by Occhipinti, conducting our own interviews and
speaking with Joe directly several times it is apparent that Joe walked
right into a buzz saw from which he had no real hopes of escape. In
this writer's opinion the only thing that really let Joe get out of
prison alive was the fact that, if he did not, the myth of the rule
of law in this country would have been forever shattered. Every law
enforcement officer in the country who heard Joe's story would have
had no reason to go to work and, with good reason, probably would have
refused to do so.
The way the drug ecosystem works is that
Dominican immigrants, whether legal or not, using forged ID papers regularly
enter the U.S. and congregate in communities like New York's Washington
Heights. Those who can pass muster as legal residents are often encouraged
to open local bodegas. The first problem they encounter is that they
can obtain no credit. In steps one of the loan shark lenders like Sea
Crest who charge rates of as high as fifty per cent a year on the loans
necessary to get started. Payments too high? Not selling enough Bud
to pay $2,000 a week interest? No problem. The Dominican drug lords
can fix you up. All you have to do is launder money from drug sales
and take your cut off the top. Sea Crest accepts payments in cash (or
food stamps) and it can even transfer money back to the Dominican Republic.
If you don't want to launder drug money
you can serve as a stash pad for drugs, or guns, and get paid for that.
You can also become a contracted wire service outlet that sends money
back home to your family and the drug lords there.
How much money is involved? Well, according
to one DEA report, released under a Freedom of Information Act Request,
Sea Crest has been the lion in the documented moving of as much as $500
million in bodega booty. Not bad for a few 7-11 stores. DEA is quite
emphatic that this is only what they have documented. The DEA report
[File GFCT-92-4001] also states quite clearly that Sea Crest, which
has been targeted by a fistful of agencies then laments that investigations
are routinely "hampered and legislatively fought by certain interest
groups and not a single case has been initiated."
Every news story we reviewed, every interview
reported and Joe Occhipinti himself says that the "interest group"
is the CIA. That's largely because, no one else would have the clout
to keep law enforcement away from Sea Crest's ongoing operations.
Dominican drug bosses hurt by Occhipinti's
investigations were also no strangers to politics. One group, The Federation
of Dominican Businessmen and Industrialists, was, on the one hand, full
of documented drug traffickers and, on the other hand, giving generously
to local Democratic politicians - including Dinkins. Any industry moving
more than a half billion dollars through one borough of the city has
clout. And the Dominicans are no strangers to the ways of corruption.
They vote too. But more importantly it is imperative to understand what
happens to the hundreds of millions of dollars sent back to the impoverished
island which the DR shares with Haiti.
A quick check with a couple of sources
confirmed my suspicions. The Dominicans dont stuff the money in
their mattresses, nor do they put it all in Swiss bank accounts. As
FTW described last month, off shore banking washes drug money a second
time before sending it right back into New York banking and investment
operations where it buys even more power for Dominicans by giving them
status as investors and board members.
What does the CIA get out of this? Lots
of cash. Absolute economic and political control of a poor country close
to home. They get a kind of sting operation that attracts all sorts
of shady characters who know they can get away with schemes at the local
bodega. (This was probably how CIA was tracking some of the Islamic
terrorists it had helped to create). But there is yet another twist
and that takes us back to HUD and ethnic cleansing in America.
In the May issue, From The Wilderness
printed an exclusive article by Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant
Secretary of Housing under George Bush and previously a Managing Director
of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon Read. In that article, Fitts
described a pattern of home loan mortgage defaults which she connected
to the crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged Los Angeles in the 1980s.
Then she made a strong case that the destruction of property values
was an intended program of ethnic cleansing which made millions of dollars
in profits for people who later came along and scooped up abandoned
homes for pennies on the dollar.
A retired NYPD detective who has worked
on several major narcotics and corruption cases, which later connected
directly to the CIA, has told FTW that in the late seventies and early
eighties he conducted investigations leading to real estate scams allegedly
run by political allies and contributors to, that's right - David Dinkins.
In those cases, pertaining to upper Manhattan and the Bronx, certain
minority owned neighborhoods were specifically targeted for drugs and
prostitution to drive down property values and force people to move
so that speculators could buy the property, clean it up and make millions.
The speculators would, of course, then "donate heavily to Dinkins'
various campaigns." According to Occhipinti, "The illegal
use of bodegas, travel agencies etc has expanded into the black community."
Joe basically ticked off everybody there
was to tick off. And when it came time to take him out, nobody objected.
Remember who was President in 1989, 90, 91? It was George Bush, whose
CIA was protecting the traffic. Everybody had something to lose in
New York if one dedicated and talented cop - with the big heart he has
- was allowed to do his job. And there's a good reason why George Bush,
leaving office in 1993 with the horrible stench of Iran-Contra cocaine
would love to have a guy like Occhipinti in his debt. Joe's investigations
led more closely to the Democratic machine of New York than the White
House. Regular readers of FTW will recall that Bill Clinton blackmailed
his way out of the impeachment by blackmailing the Republicans with
a finished document on their deeds in Iran-Contra. The concept is just
like nuclear war and it's called Mutually Assured Destruction. I assure
you that George Bush is familiar with it.
Both before and after Joe's sentence was
commuted a number of state, local and national political figures went
to bat for him. Some, like Congressman Jim Trafficant (D), Ohio are
still working on Joe's behalf today. They have had little success. "We
have gotten nowhere with the current Administration," said Paul
Marcone, Washington Chief of Staff to Traficant. Not only is Traficant's
office continuing in its attempts to secure clemency for Occhipinti,
it has sponsored legislation in the last three Congresses to enable
the appointment of an Independent Counsel in cases of misconduct by
U.S. attorneys. According to Marcone, "Reno sides with the career
attorneys every time because if they admitted they were wrong, just
once, the whole thing would come apart. The Occhipinti case is just
the tip of the iceberg." Expressing frustration over the years
of fruitless efforts on Occhipinti's behalf Marcone added, "The
only thing Joe was guilty of was putting bad guys in jail. If it can
happen to Joe it can happen to anyone. But even with all of the Congressman's
work we have gotten nowhere. It just wears you down after a while."
Hundreds of pages of DEA
and other law enforcement files, including affidavits and investigative
reports suppressed at trial were read into the Congressional Record
by Traficant - including a statement suggesting that Traficant had ulterior
motives in assisting Occhipinti. Resolutions were passed, local politicians
signed on and a serious drive was underway to get Joe a new trial. Joe
persisted in that effort, with heart, until 1995. But his lessons did
As became apparent to him
over time, not all who came to his aid with assistance and advice were
purely altruistic. Some sources have alleged that Trafficant, who was
allegedly trying to escape from an indictment from Janet Reno's Justice
Department, used the information gleaned from Joe's case to end the
investigation. Marcone emphatically denied that assertion and pointed
to a flawed prosecution by the FBI, which resulted in an easy acquittal
on corruption charges stemming from Traficant's service as a
sheriff in Ohio. The source who made the
allegations against Traficant is, however, directly related to an attorney
in the Rose Law firm who was prosecuted by Ken Starr. No wonder Joe
A great irony of this story is that in
a 1994 story on Joe, The New American reported on the relationship
between Occhipinti and John F. Kennedy, Jr. "He [JFK, Jr.] knew
and occasionally conversed with Occhipinti's wife Angela, and on one
occasion sent a handwritten note to the children." The New American
story added that Occhipinti was saddened because JFK, Jr. had not come
forward to protest Joe's obvious innocence and how his legal team was
considering issuing a subpoena if a new trial were granted. That issue
was rendered moot, not by John-John's death but by Joe's own decision.
Joe told FTW, "Please realize that
in 1995 I decided to discontinue my efforts to expose the drug cartel
conspiracy after it became evident that there were very powerful special
interest groups that were stonewalling our efforts for Congressional
hearings and the designation of a Special Prosecutor." Asked if
"special interests" meant CIA, Joe responded, "CIA and
politicians at the highest level are the only ones who could have contained
these investigations and where they might lead."
Joe has since founded the National Police
Defense Foundation, supported by Traficant as Honorary Chairman, which
is dedicated to protecting honest cops who find themselves in the similar
predicaments. One of his first cases was that of a Pennsylvania State
Attorney General narcotics investigator named "Sparky" who
is every bit as tough as Joe. In next month's issue we will bring you
John "Sparky" McGlaughlin's story which will take the Dominican
Drug lords, an allegedly Communist Dominican political party, the CIA
and lots of money directly to the doorstep of Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
This time, CIA agents actually surfaced in attempt to kill investigations.
They, showed ID, left memos, evidence and nearly destroyed the life
of another dedicated cop who, to this day, refuses to give in.
[For more information on the tax exempt
National Police Defense Foundation contact Joe Occhipinti at 1-888-SAFECOP
or e-mail him at email@example.com. I sure wish I had had someone like Joe
around for me in 1977.]
New York Post - Oct. 9,10,11, 1991
Hartford Courant - 8/16 & 17/98
The New American - Feb. 21, 1994
New York Daily News - 7/4/94
Gloucester County Times - 10/16/95
New York Post - 4/26/95
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Michael C. Ruppert
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