Bush in Barry Seal's Plane
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George W. Bush Fly in Drug Smuggler Barry Seal's Airplane?
Daniel Hopsicker and Michael C. Ruppert
It has all the makings of a major box office thriller: Texas Governor
and Republican Presidential contender George W. Bush and his brother
Jeb, allegedly caught on videotape in 1985 picking up kilos of cocaine
at a Florida airport in a DEA sting set up by Barry Seal
An ensuing murderous cover-up featuring Seal's public assassination
less than a year later by a hit team
the members of which, when
caught, reveal to their attorneys during trial that their actions were
being directed by then, National Security Council (NSC) staffer - Lt.
Colonel Oliver North
And a private turboprop King Air 200 supposedly caught on tape in
the sting with FAA ownership records leading directly to the CIA and
some of the perpetrators of the most notorious (and never punished)
major financial frauds of the '80s.
Greek shippers paying bribes
to obtain loans from American companies that would never be repaid.
American executive snatching the charred remains of a $10,000 payoff
check from an ashtray in an Athens restaurant
Swiss police finding
bank accounts used for kickbacks and bribes
Add to this mix the now irrefutable proof, some of it from the CIA
itself, that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was a decision maker
in illegal Contra support operations connected to the "unusual"
acquisition of aircraft and that his staff participated in key financial,
operational and political decisions
All these events lead inexorably to one unanswered question: How did
this one plane go from being controlled by Barry Seal, the biggest drug
smuggler in American history, to becoming, according to state officials,
a favored airplane of Texas Governor George W. Bush?
Three months into an exhaustive investigation of persistent reports
dating to 1995 that there exists an incriminating videotape of current
Republican Presidential front-runner Bush caught in a hastily-aborted
DEA cocaine sting, the central allegation remains unproven
But some startling details have been confirmed, amid a raft of new
suspicions emerging from conflicting FAA records. Those records, along
with other irrefutable documents, point to the existence of far more
than mere happenstance or dark "conspiracy theorist speculations"
in the matter of how George W. Bush came to be flying the friendly Texas
skies in an airplane that was a crown jewel in the drug smuggling fleet
of the notorious Barry Seal. Those documents reveal - beyond any doubt
- that in the 1980s Barry Seal, with whom the CIA has consistently denied
any relationship, piloted and controlled airplanes owned by the same
Phoenix Arizona company, Greycas, which in a 1998 bankruptcy filing,
was revealed to have been a subsidiary of the same company that owned
the now defunct CIA proprietary airline Southern Air Transport.
The investigation started with a lead into the history of the aircraft
(a 1982 Beechcraft King Air 200 with FAA registration number N6308F
- Serial Number BB-1014). The handwritten tail number was found in records
kept by Seal's widow and later linked to other "hard paper"
records left by Seal after his 1986 assassination by "drug traffickers"
who were subsequently connected to Oliver North. Those records, including
leasing agreements, insurance policies and maintenance records, exhibit
a deliberately-confusing "paper trail" of convoluted ownership
recalling the 'glory' days of the Iran Contra hearings, where the machinations
of American covert intelligence operators were unmasked before a disbelieving
Combined with revelations in a 1998 CIA Inspector General's report
of Contra-era cocaine trafficking in which the CIA admits to "briefing"
then Vice President Bush on how it lied to Congress about cocaine trafficking
by its agents, it becomes clear that father and son have common secrets
to conceal from the American public. That report, Volume II of the CIA
Inspector General's report into allegations of Contra cocaine trafficking
can be viewed at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/cocaine2/index.html.
A detailed discussion of that report, along with relevant excerpts is
available at www.copvcia.com.
Unraveling the plane's tangled and colorful history requires, first,
a brief look backwards at the momentous year of 1982, when President
Reagan first introduced the public version of "Project Democracy,"
in which he called for a "crusade for freedom."
What it became instead was a license to murder, loot and steal. This
climate was the nursery into which N6308F was born.
"The War of '82"
The detonations had rumbled like Armageddon along the rocky course
of the Rio Negro in Nicaragua throughout the night of March 14, 1982...
Concrete bridges groaned suddenly under their own weight, crashing in
avalanches of black dust in a dark landscape seen through night-vision
In Washington D.C., it was time to break out the champagne.
War was breaking out in Central America. Just two days later Barry Seal
took possession of the first of many planes supplied to him through
CIA Director Bill Casey's "off-the-books" Enterprise.
There were more than 100 U.S. advisers in Honduras by March of 1982.
In April, the chief of the Honduran Army, General Gustavo Alvarez, said
that his country would agree to U.S. intervention in Central America
if it were the only way to "preserve peace."
"Up to March 1982 you could still change your policy," recalled
a member of the NSC Core Group In Charge as he spoke to reporters later.
"The issue was still the question of support for El Salvador's
rebels. If that ended, so could pressure on Managua. But once the first
forces of Nicaraguan exiles were trained and set in motion, any real
negotiating became much harder. The blowing of the bridges was an announcement."
Throughout 1982, Democrats, fearing that President Reagan was pushing
the United States into another Vietnam-style quagmire, tried to cut
off aid to the Contras. It was precisely at this time, the height of
CIA Director Bill Casey's frenetic efforts to ward off these Congressional
efforts, that Barry Seal acquired use of not one but several brand
new Beech Craft King Air 200s. Ownership of the planes had been deliberately
obscured through a number of convoluted transactions involving Phoenix-based
corporations suspected of being "fronts" for General John
Singlaub's "Enterprise" activities. Based in Phoenix, Arizona,
Retired Major General Singlaub organized in early 1982 an American chapter
of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), called the United States
Council for World Freedom (USCWF), with a loan from Taiwan. Funding
for Seal's planes would come from sources close to those efforts.
"Jack" Singlaub had a long history of involvement in covert
operations, beginning with service in the World War II Office of Strategic
Services (OSS). He had served as CIA Desk Officer for China in 1949
and Deputy Chief of Station in South Korea during the Korean War, and
during the Vietnam War he commanded the Special Operations Group Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam--Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG),
which participated in the CIA's Operation Phoenix assassination program.
Singlaub's efforts, and Seal's as well, had been necessitated by the
shocking scandals of the 1970s combined with drastic reductions in "official"
CIA capabilities in the Carter years. Until then, the CIA. had controlled
a huge network of planes, pilots and companies for use in paramilitary
situations. But with the end of the Vietnam War and the public revulsion
at disclosures of out of control CIA covert operations, many of those
assets (such as the infamous Air America) were dissolved or sold off.
Consequently, when the Reagan Administration sought to expand covert
paramilitary operations in Central America and elsewhere, the Agency
was forced to rebuild much of its capabilities illegally, relying frequently
on outside assets, usually retained under contract, like Barry Seal.
The Contra war put everything into high gear.
The CIA and the Army jointly agreed to set up a special aviation operation
called "Seaspray," New York Times reporter Seymour
Hersh revealed in 1987. [This was old news to local and state police
in affected areas. Cops had already seen the cynical (and perhaps intentional)
manipulation of this operation flooding America with a river of drugs.
When law enforcement authorities debriefed convicted "drug smuggler"
Seal in late 1985, one of the cops present brusquely began by stating,
"We already know about Seaspray."]
Everybody Will Be There.
The "boys" were getting ready to go to war in the Spring
-- CIA agent Dewey Clarridge put a proposition to Contra leader
Eden Pastora. "He would become the star of the second revolution
as he had been the star of the first," -- John Hull, whom
Congressional sources said worked for the CIA since at least the early
1970s, rented a Contra safe house in San Jose, Coast Rica at CIA request.
-- Retired Air Force Major General Richard Secord began managing
an operation in which Israel shipped weapons captured in Lebanon to
a CIA arms depot in San Antonio, Texas, for re-shipment to the Contras.
-- Felix Rodriguez drew on his Vietnam experience and wrote a
five-page proposal for the creation of an elite mobile strike force,
called the Tactical Task Force (TTF), that would "be ideal for
the pacification efforts in El Salvador and Guatemala."-- And at
this exact same time, in the Spring of 1982, Barry Seal began
flying private planes into a then-obscure airport in the secluded mountains
of western Arkansas known as Mena. He moved his base of operations from
Louisiana to hook up with the CIA, which was anxious to use Seal's fleet
of planes to ferry both legal and illegal supplies to Contra camps in
Honduras and Costa Rica.
Rodriguez dubbed the search and destroy units "Pink Teams"
and advocated using napalm and cluster bombs to give them "more
destructive power." Rodriguez's proposal included a map of Central
America which indicated that Nicaragua would be a target of Pink Team
operations (based in El Salvador and Honduras).
Favorably impressed, Vice President George (Poppy) Bush's National
Security Advisor Donald Gregg sent Rodriguez's Pink Team plan to then
Deputy National Security Adviser Bud McFarlane on March 17, along with
a secret one-page memo on "anti-guerrilla operations in Central
This was also, according to later Iran-Contra testimony of Medellin
Cartel money man Ramon Milian Rodriguez, when he began to launder, at
Felix Rodriguez' request, $10 million from the cartel for the Contras.
In secret, sworn testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee
on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, Milian Rodriguez
claimed that he had been solicited by his old friend Felix Rodriguez.
Also early in 1982 a new covert unit of the Armed Forces was set up
by General Richard Stilwell. Known as the Intelligence Support Activity
(ISA), it became a separate entity in the Army's secret world of special
operations, with its own commander, a Col. Jerry King. The army's involvement
in secret operations would first became known to the House and Senate
intelligence committees in early 1982, when they discovered a project
known as Yellow Fruit, which ferried undercover Army operatives
to Honduras, where they trained Honduran troops for bloody hit-and-run
operations into Nicaragua.
Through private front companies, like the ones that supplied Barry
Seal with his fleet of smuggling aircraft, Operation Yellow Fruit
ferried weapons like rapid-fire cannons to CIA operatives. It was these
same operatives who later mined Nicaragua's harbors and raided oil depots,
all in violation of Congressional legislation barring the Defense Department
and the Agency from taking any action aimed at overthrowing the Sandinistas.
The Army went to outside businessmen and arms dealers to make off-the-books
airplane purchases, with funds that had been "laundered" through
secret Army finance offices at Fort Meade, Md. More than $325 million
was appropriated for the Special Operations Division of the Army between
1981 and the autumn of 1983. Had any of these operations become public
then it would have caused enormous political damage to the Reagan Administration's
campaign in Central America, according to a 1987 New York Times report
by Seymour Hersh.
"Enter CIA Agent Adler Berriman Seal"
The flight plans for Seal's drug enterprise provided the perfect cover
for the illicit resupply missions. Seal's planes would fly from Mena
to Medellin Cartel airstrips in the mountains of Colombia and Venezuela,
make refueling stops in Panama and Honduras, and then return to Mena,
where, en route, the planes would drop parachute-equipped duffel bags
loaded with cocaine over Seal-controlled farms in Louisiana.
"His well-connected and officially protected smuggling operation
based at Mena accounted for billions in drugs and arms from 1982 until
his murder four years later," said Dr. Roger Morris and Sally Denton
in their book Partners in Power. They also reported that
coded records of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) showed
Barry Seal on the payroll beginning in 1982.
"My investigation established a conspiratorial period, chronologically,
with a first overt act and a last overt act. The first overt act was
April 12, 1982," stated Arkansas state criminal investigator Russell
Welch, who was charged, he thought, with digging into Seal's Mena activities.
Between March and December 1982, according to law enforcement records,
Seal fitted nine of his aircraft with the latest electronic equipment,
paying the $750,000 bill - as was his custom - in cash.
The effects of Barry Seal's efforts to take weapons one way and bring
drugs the other were soon visible, in ruined lives in the U.S. and in
the maimed bodies appearing all over Central America.
"Riding the Elephant Herd"
Barry Seal was not alone. When small private planes began to bomb the
Nicaraguan capital, resulting in the crash of a Cessna 404 at the Managua
airport, an account of how three Cessnas were secretly transported from
the New York Air National Guard to Central America for the raid on Managua
reached the press. It was later learned that custody of a number of
additional planes were moved from the U.S. Air Force in a top-secret
Joint Chiefs operation code-named "Elephant Herd,"
on to the CIA, via a Delaware aviation company where they were armed,
and then transferred to their ultimate destination, the Contras.
A senior administration official admitted that small noncombatant military
aircraft had been transferred from the Air Force to the Contras through
the CIA. One company involved, Summit Aviation, was doing regular business
with Barry Seal according to records in his widow's possession. In
addition, according to Congressional sources, Summit, known to do Contract
work for the CIA, had former CIA personnel on the payroll, and was linked
through ownership records to the Cessna that crashed while bombing Managua.
That aircraft, according to FAA records, was purchased by Summit Aviation
in October 1982 from Trager Aviation Center in Lima, Ohio. On the same
day that Summit purchased the plane, the company sold it to Investair
Leasing Corp. of McLean, Va.. Investair, which has an unlisted telephone
number, does Contract work for the CIA, according to Congressional sources.
Bruce W. Trager, who sold the Cessna to Summit for $308,872, says the
deal was "put together" by Patrick J. Foley, Summit's "military
In addition to its work for Investair, Summit maintained and modified
planes for Armairco, another company involved in covert government projects.
Armairco, organized in 1982, also bought several multimillion-dollar
Beechcraft King Airs, like Barry Seal's. Those aircraft were purchased
directly from Beech in a procedure normally used only for military projects,
according to Beech officials and aviation experts.
When asked whether Armairco's government work included activities in
Central America, an Armairco official said, ''That may well be.''
The Beechcraft King Air 200 has been in production since the mid 1970's.
A little less than seven hundred of them have been manufactured to date.
The twin engine turboprop has a pressurized cabin capable, with different
configurations of seating up to nine passengers. It has a cruising speed
of approximately 330 mph and a cruising range of more than 1,800 miles.
New plane prices in1982 started at around $1,700,000 based on equipment.
The convoluted, pretzel-like paper history of the airplane that once
belonged to Barry Seal and is today used by Texas Governor George W.
Bush begins when the title to the brand new aircraft was first recorded
by Portland, Oregon dealer Flightcraft, Inc.
Flightcraft's President, David R. Hinson, a former military and commercial
airline pilot active in the Republican Party in Oregon, was, according
to The Oregonian, at the time under consideration to head the FAA. The
paper stated that Hinson had met with Transportation Secretary Elizabeth
Hanford Dole to express interest in the job after travelling to Washington
to promote himself for the post. Helping Bill Casey subvert the will
of Congress, presumably, did nothing to hurt his chances.
N6308F was spoken for, several times over, even before it arrived at
Flighcraft's facilities in the Spring of 1982.
"I don't think we're going to help you - I mean "be able"
to help you said a nervous Phil Carrell of Flightcraft, Inc. when contacted
for information by FTW. Carrell, a sales executive who was working at
Flightcraft when "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot" was originally sold,
told FTW that as far as he knew any records of the aircraft were no
longer in existence. He referred us to the FAA title records for answers.
We wish that answers were what we had found.
According to records located by Dan Hopsicker in his investigation,
a now defunct Lake Arrowhead, California firm, Ken Miller Aircraft Sales,
entered into leasing agreements with developer Eugene Glick in February
1982, two months before the manufacturer's title was transferred to
Flightcraft. Ken Miller Aircraft appears nowhere in the FAA title history
of the plane. Ken Miller Aviation is also no longer in existence. Nonetheless,
in February 1982, Ken Miller Aviation entered into a leasing agreement
with real estate magnate Eugene Glick for the brand new aircraft. In
that agreement, Glick and his wife agreed to make eighty-four monthly
payments of more than $37,000 ($2,835,672) for the airplane which had
a new purchase price of $2,010,556. No record linking Ken Miller Aviation
to Flightcraft is known to exist.
On paper at least, according to Contracts dating from February of 1982,
the plane was owned by a Greyhound Bus Lines subsidiary, Greycas, which
in turn leased it to a mysterious Phoenix firm in close proximity to
John Singlaub's Enterprise operations named Systems Marketing, Inc."
Systems Marketing then leased it to Continental Desert Properties which
was the firm owned by Glick. In the final step, Glick leased the plane
over to Barry Seal.
In a Contract dated March 21, 1983 N6308F was leased by Continental
Desert Properties to Seal's firm Baton Rouge Aviation . Insurance policies
found in Seal's private papers confirm that Barry Seal subsequently
purchased an insurance policy on the aircraft.
What, exactly, was the purpose of this convoluted ownership record?
What was it designed to conceal? The answer lies in the very definition
of "tradecraft," a term for what it is that spies and covert
operators do to operate in the dark. The "front" companies
were in place to act as "cut-outs," layers of insulation,
between the spy agency -- in this case Bill Casey's CIA--and the covert
operative--, in this case, Barry Seal.
FAA ownership records show that Gene Glick, who lived on Hope Ranch
near Ronald Reagan's Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California,
leased "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot" as well as several of Barry Seal's
other planes during the same years that Seal was most active in drug
and weapons smuggling 1982-5. Other documents located by Hopsicker confirm
that Glick was also actively helping Seal purchase ocean-going vessels
for use in drug smuggling activities and as stationary platforms for
the CIA to use off the coast of Nicaragua in covert operations.
An FBI agent had dismissed Glick's importance to Dan Hopsicker, which
fueled his suspicions early on. "He's just a money launderer,"
said Delbert Hahn, who was the Special Agent in Charge of an Inter-Agency
Organized Crime Drug Task Force looking into Barry Seal's organization
back in the middle 1980s. At least in this case, Glick's behavior was
consistent with Iran-Contra "bust out" operations because
the lease defaulted in two years. The plane was repossessed.
According to FTW contributing editor Catherine Austin Fitts who, as
a former Wall Street investment banker and Assistant Secretary of Housing,
served on the Resolution Trust Corporation in the wake of the S&L
scandal, "This could have been a substantial cash pay-off to the
concerned parties." Fitts, who also served on the "clean-up"
committee for BCCI (a bank with abundant connections to CIA covert operations,
financial fraud and drug trafficking) observed that the pattern here
is typical of those seen by enforcement officials in that era.
It is worth researching to see if there were substantial cash
pay-offs to the concerned parties, early as it did here
in around two years; if the total value of lease > payments were $2.8 million and if the lessor had paid only
$2.1 million for the aircraft
then any insurance pay-off or write down after only a year
or two could have netted a profit of a half million dollars
or more for the covert operators.
This type of insurance fraud was used routinely during Iran-Contra to
finance covert operations
said Fitts. If the lease were insured at or
near its full value and defaulted
The CIA Gets Busted --Yet Again
The circle was completed with the discovery that "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot,"
as well as several other planes used by Barry Seal, was in reality owned
by the same company revealed in 1998 bankruptcy proceedings to have
owned the notorious CIA airline Southern Air Transport (SAT). Congressional
and public records from the era establish Southern Air as a legendary
CIA proprietary - second only to Air America - and as being connected
to Secord, Singluab, Rodriguez, Casey and George H.W. Bush.
Among its long list of dubious "achievements," Southern Air
had owned the C123 used by Seal in the Nicaragua sting operation which
made Barry Seal famous. That same aircraft was later shot down over
Nicaragua in 1986 and the lone survivor Eugene Hasenfus was captured
alive by Sandinista soldiers.. That is what started the Iran-Contra
scandal to begin with. No one knew--or admitted knowing--just who owned
Southern Air Transport back in 1986, although government officials all
swore up and down that it wasn't the CIA.
Southern Air's ownership by Greyhound Leasing, which became the entity
called Finova, was only disclosed after no one was looking, when SAT
went into bankruptcy in 1998. This is the first time the holding company,
Finova, has been revealed for what it clearly is, an Agency front, set
up in Arizona and headquartered in Canada to escape American financial
Suddenly, on June 14, 1984, after passage of the second Boland Amendment
and the consolidation of Contra operations under Oliver North the plane
was sold twice in one day. According to journalist, producer and author
Dan Hopsicker, "This was at a period in time when Barry knew he
was on the way out." The plane went first to a mysterious Morgan
B. Mitchell of Vale, Oregon, and then to Chevrolet Dealer Merrill Bean
of Ogden Utah. Bean, curiously, gave the Dover, Delaware address of
the "Prentis Hall [sic] Corporation" on his FAA registration.
Students of the CIA have long been aware of the Agency's affinity for
hiding its assets in Delaware shell corporations. But, to be fair, many
other companies do so for reasons of convenience. In an interview Bean
stated that he had incorporated in Delaware as a legal necessity because
of the needs of his investors. "Delaware is a very convenient place
for many kinds of corporations to incorporate and many large corporations
and multi-nationals do so," Bean told FTW. "Because other
companies I was in partnership with were incorporated there I chose
to do so also. It was much easier that way and it was a requirement
of the partners who were investing."
However, Delaware officials in the Secretary of State's office said
that Bean's company, Prentis Hall [not Prentice Hall], does not exist.
And in the FAA records connected to Bean's ownership of "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot"
we find yet another unexplained gap in FAA records. Whenever major mechanical
repairs are made on an aircraft, the involved mechanic is required to
complete an FAA Form 337. In December 1989, FAA certified mechanic Irvin
Strayer installed some routine de-icing equipment on the plane. The
mechanic, reviewing what should have been original ownership documents,
listed the owner as United Insurance of Ogden Utah. Nowhere in FAA
title paperwork does United Insurance appear as an owner. And a spokesman
for the Utah State Department of Insurance told FTW that there had never
been a United Insurance licensed to do business in the state.
"It was an insurance company that a group of car dealers had formed
to handle title and financing and other insurance for car sales,"
said Bean. "I bought the other guys out of the airplane and had
some repairs done before I sold to Corporate Wings."
Someone should have told the FAA. Or perhaps someone changed the FAA's
records. Stranger things have happened. Bean does not recall if he changed
the records to reflect this or not.
A Likely Suspect
In what will become a long litany of links between Barry Seal's activities
and the financial fraud of the 1980's, Merrill Bean was also involved
in what The Salt Lake City Tribune called "the worst financial
disaster in Utah since the Great Depression." That disaster was
the en masse 1980s failure of Utah thrifts -- hybrid financial institutions
that offered high interest rates and consumer loans -- and the collapse
of the insurance fund that was supposed to protect their deposits.
Because Utah's thrifts were heavily underinsured, the actions of Bean's
thrift, Western Heritage Thrift and Loan, left a trail of broken hearts,
and broken people.
"We had just moved to Utah from California two years ago,"
58-year old Irene Culver told The Salt Lake City Tribune in 1986.
"My husband Kent was an aircraft mechanic but he has Parkinson's
Disease. We put half our savings in there [Western Heritage] and bought
a little fixer-upper with the other half. When the State closed everything,
I thought, 'I suppose we're lucky.' My Social Security should start
in four years. We were going to put a new roof on and install a gas
furnace because the electricity's expensive. Now we can't do it, so
we've got half the house closed off."
Bean told FTW, "I was Director of that failed thrift. I came aboard
when it was almost going under. And I poured some money into it to try
to save it and it didn't happen. I was hoping that my $75,000 that I
put into it would help revive it." While admitting that he was
on the Board of Directors of Western Heritage, Bean stated emphatically
that he was not "a Honcho."
FTW wonders how an obviously savvy businessman who owns several aircraft
and car dealerships believed that $75,000 would turn around a failing
savings and loan. In The Mafia, The CIA and George Bush,
Texas journalist Pete Brewton documented how much of the S&L scandal
was connected to Iran-Contra operations and illegal covert operations
of the CIA. In many of those schemes a $75,000 or similar "buy-in"
might have secured the mighty a seat at a highly-lucrative but completely
criminal feeding frenzy.
Following the "paper trail" of Barry Seal's King Air 200
revealed connections to some other unsavory perpetrators of the major
financial frauds that -- like the S&L scandal -- marred the 1980s.
Greyhound Leasing, or "Greycas" for short, was at the center
of a huge and seemingly inexplicable financial fraud that, like the
half-trillion dollar S&L scandal, no one seemed too concerned about
unraveling. The corporation was openly and eventually very publicly
looted. Afterwards, company management pretended to be "baffled"
as to how it could have happened.
It went down like this:
Greycas Inc. and another Greyhound unit, Greyhound Leasing & Financial
Corp., were bilked of over $ 75 million by one Sheldon Player,
a former Vernal, Utah, resident assumed to be in the machine and oilfield
equipment sales business, who gained the money through fraudulently
obtained loans from Greyhound. Greycas then devised an elaborate cover-up
scheme to prevent disclosure of details about the loss.
This episode began at the beginning of the 1980's with one $ 600,000
loan. Player and his companies would sell Greycas heavy machine tools,
lease them back and then pretend to sublease the expensive devices to
end-users. In most cases the machines, which were collateral for the
loans, were non-existent.
By 1984, Player had borrowed nearly $ 8 million from Greyhound in the
same scheme. That year he asked for $ 40 million in new loans to continue
his transactions. A total of $23.5 million had been disbursed by the
time the company first got suspicious and confronted Player. He was
told the company wanted to inspect the machinery that it was supposed
to have owned. Remember, this was a company owned by the CIA front
Finova. Player resisted, leading some company executives to wonder about
the "integrity of the transactions with Player."
Then, incredibly, despite the company's doubts about Player's credibility
and integrity, and in spite of Greycas' inability to make inspections
of the equipment, the company lent Player another $ 24 million.
In the ensuing months lucky Sheldon Player drew $66 million on the credit
line authorized by the company.
This was an Iran-Contra bust-out.
Nice Work if You Can Get It
Anyone who has ever borrowed money for a car or home must admire the
chutzpah of Sheldon Player, whom the business press took to calling
an "admitted con artist." Yet Player had no history of financial
fraud that we could discover before this, which took place at the
same time that officers of a Swiss-based subsidiary were defrauding
Greycas of another $120 million, in a purportedly unrelated scandal
that sent shock waves from Athens to Phoenix.
"Many borrowers failed to make even the initial
monthly payment,'' court documents state. The company's accountants
wrote that "fraudulent and dishonest acts . . . resulted directly
in a loss of $119,684,598." Not so, said the company's hapless
General Counsel, who responded, weakly, that the loss has been reduced
to a mere $72 million.
The fraud included checks written as bribes on napkins
in Swiss restaurants and then set afire
the reported possibility
that one of the participants was blackmailing other participants and
some mighty upset shareholders who filed lawsuits in Phoenix urging
the Greyhound board to take legal action against top officials. The
troubling question that puzzled business reporters never were able to
answer was this: Why were they giving money away down at Greyhound during
Being Connected Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
The disposition of the resulting criminal trial of Sheldon Player is
an illustration of the maxim that in George Bush's America, "Being
connected means never having to say you're sorry."
When Sheldon Player was sentenced, he received a five-year sentence.
Yup. Five years -- one year for each $13 million he stole. This
is clearly a deal that, if offered to regular Americans--as opposed
to the CIA-related kind who killed Barry Seal --would have people lining
up around the Phoenix Federal Courthouse to sign up. After receiving
this draconian sentence Mr. Player was given additional time to settle
personal affairs before entering prison. No one can say American justice
is not compassionate. And prison, for Mr. Player, consisted of the
Lompoc Camp, a minimum-security facility known as one of 10 to 12 "country
club" institutions in operation around the nation, according to
Dick Murray, community programs manager for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons
Former Greycas official Robert Bertrand, who apparently covered up
for Player's fraud, lucky fellow, never went to prison. Instead he resigned
his position at Greyhound in 1986, and was soon appointed the new President
and Chief Executive Officer of Finalco Inc. [Sounds like Finova doesn't
it?], an equipment finance and brokerage company which just happens
to be based in McLean, Virginia, the home of the CIA.
(Back?) Into the Hands of the Guvnah
Merrill Bean, the Utah Chevy dealer who acquired "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot"
in 1984 sold the plane in May of 1990 to Corporate Wings of Salt Lake
City. Two days later Corporate Wings sold it to Gantt Aviation of Georgetown,
Texas, which a month later sold it to the State of Texas Aircraft Pool
where it resides today. Johnny Gantt, President of Gantt Aviation told
FTW that he probably knew that the State of Texas had a bid out when
he acquired "Zero-Eight-Foxtrot". At the time the Governor
of Texas was Bill Clements and George "W", a good friend,
was owner of the Texas Rangers.
A genial Gantt explained that he had probably been aware that the State
was "putting out a bid" for a King Air and scooped up the
plane. Press clipping show that Gantt Aviation is a large dealership
with a long history of providing planes to the State of Texas. It was
a done deal within weeks and Zero-Eight-Foxtrot found the home where
it lives happily today.
At the beginning of this article we outlined briefly how a tail number
in Barry Seal's papers started this investigation. It actually began
when author Terry Reed announced at a Los Angeles public gathering in
July, 1999 that a video tape might surface during the 2000 Presidential
campaign "showing George W and Jeb arriving at Tamiami Airport
in 1985 to pick up two kilos of cocaine for a party. Said Reed, "They
flew in on a King Air 200." Subsequent statements made by Barry
Seal and recorded in Reed's 1995 book Compromised recount
how Seal bragged about how he had video of "the Bush boys"
doing coke. Other witnesses located by both writers of this story, who
were in relevant official positions in 1985, have confirmed that the
described Tamiami sting took place. All, in fear for their lives, have
refused to go on the record.
Does George "W" use Zero-Eight-Foxtrot? According to Jerry
Daniels, Executive Director of the Texas State Aircraft Pooling Board,
"He used to fly on that airplane all the time. He stopped when
he became a Presidential candidate because the State won't let you fly
its aircraft for political purposes." But FTW learned that if and
when Dubyah is back in the state and on state business, he probably
will because Dubyah is a licensed pilot and Zero-Eight-Foxtrot is one
of his favorites though he doesn't get to pilot much any more.
Said one savvy Pol of George W, "The last thing we need in this
country is another President with lingering drug scandals in his past--and
Daniel Hopsicker is the producer of a business news television
show airing internationally on NBC called Global Business 2000. That
is, he was the Producer until Dan produced a 2-hour special on the CIA
and drugs, Mena, Arkansas and Barry Seal called "The Secret Heartbeat
of America." Dan was told by his biggest friend in Hollywood,
"Your show will not air while Clinton is President." When
a subsequent attack in broad daylight on Wilshire Boulevard outside
the Federal Building in Los Angeles confirmed his friend's judgment
and prediction, Mr. Hopsicker began work on a book called Barry
& 'the Boys': The CIA, the Mob and America's Secret History. That's
a live Amazon link folks.
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