Sloppy Tradecraft exposes CIA Drug Plane

emptySeventeen months after an American-registered DC9 airliner was busted with 5.5 tons of cocaine, a major international scandal is brewing over a second drug trafficking incident in Mexico's Yucatan involving an American-registered jet owned by a  dummy front company of the kind usually associated with the CIA.

A weekend visit to “Donna Blue Aircraft Inc” of Coconut Beach FL.,  the company which FAA records show owned the Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA) which crash-landed with 3.7 tons of cocaine aboard in Mexico’s Yucatan two weeks ago, has revealed that the company’s listed address is an empty office suite with a blank sign out front.

There was no sign of Donna Blue Aircraft, Inc., at the address listed at the Florida Dept. of Corporations, 4811 Lyons Technology Parkway #8 in Coconut Beach FL.

However, there were, oddly enough,  a half-dozen unmarked police cars parked directly in front of the empty suite.  

Phone calls to Butters Development, the industrial park's leasing agent, went unreturned.

Moreover the brief description of Donna Blue on its Internet page, apparently designed to “flesh out the ghost a little,”  is such a clumsy half-hearted effort that it defeats the purpose of helping aid the construction of a plausible “legend,” or cover, and ends up doing  more harm than good…

For example, the website features a quote from a satisfied Donna Blue Aircraft customer. Unfortunately his name is  “John Doe.” And the listed phone number is right out of the movies: 415.555-5555.  

Its known in the trade as "sloppy tradecraft."

"Its My Party and I'll Bust Who I Want To"

airlineThe biggest clue to date to the true identity of the individuals or organization operating behind the dummy front of "Donna Blue Aircraft" may lie in its initials, "DBA," for "doing business as."

It is the kind of cute nomenclature for which "the boys" are known to be fond.

For the Bush Administration, which recently launched a PR offensive announcing major gains in the multibillion-dollar anti-drug effort in preparation for asking Congress for a $1 billion Plan Colombia-type aid package to help Mexico fight drug traffickers, the controversy could not have come at a worse time.

The billion dollars in proposed U.S. aid, Mexican newspapers pointed out, will only be used to target drug traffickers with no obvious ties to American intelligence.

Leading to this extraordinary skepticism is the fact that recent investigations into downed drug planes have suffered, on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, from a certain murkiness.

New Scientific Discovery Links Drug Planes to Quarks

22158977Mexican authorities and the American DEA have apparently  concluded that Mankind’s knowledge of the ownership of large commercial and business jets busted carrying multi-ton loads of narcotics is governed, like the understanding of the movement of subatomic quarks, by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

The more influential the listed owner of the plane is, the more uncertain the identification becomes.  The whole business, suggested a story which ran on the Associated Press, quickly moves beyond the realm of human ken…

“How the U.S.-registered Gulfstream ended up in the hands of suspected drug traffickers remains a mystery,” reported the Associated Press.

1272898197_db15272b9dHow indeed? Let’s take a look.

When the company’s principals, Joao Luiz Malago and Eduardo Dias Guimaraes, both Brazilian, forcefully denied that they still owned the plane, claiming it had been sold several weeks earlier to two American pilots in Florida, officials at the DEA (which sent a six-man team to the Yucatan crash site) the FBI, and the FAA were all conspicuous by their silence.

Since then, there has been a growing perception expressed in the Mexican press that the owners of both of the American-registered drug plane’s seem to enjoy an apparent immunity from prosecution.

Set a Straw Man Up, Set a Straw Man Down

450_big02“The proprietary company of the unit, Donna Blue Inc. Aircraft (DBA), is another mystery and probably it is a ghost company,” reported Mexico City’s La Reforma.

Indications point to the conclusion that their skepticism is justified.

Increasing suspicion even more was the suggestion,  in a report of a committee of the European Parliament, that in addition to having been used in drug trafficking the Gulfstream II had flown CIA rendition flights to Guantanamo.

Unnamed authorities quoted in Associated Press accounts dismissed this report, saying there was no evidence the plane flew renditions, but failed to address the fact that  Guantanamo is highly restricted airspace, and any plane landing there can be presumed to be working for the U.S. Government.

What has raised the crash-landing of the Gulfstream II drug plane with U.S. Government connections to the level of real outrage is its extraordinaryCOKELUGGAGE_SIMPLE1similarity to the DC9 airliner caught a year and a half ago, after which  the planes’ registered owner suffered no ill consequences from having his airplane caught with 5.5 tons of cocaine onboard.

There are “wonderful similarities,” Mexican newspaper Por Esto reported drolly, “between the Gulfstream which crash-landed in the tiny hamlet of Tixkokob and the DC9 busted in Ciudad del Carmen which help explain why, despite the fact that almost 18 months has passed, the American owner of the DC9 has not been charged with any crime.”

Ghost Fleets of Ghost Planes owned by Ghost Companies

Copy of melThe reference is to information contained in a series of articles in the MadCowMorningNews detailing connections between the DC9 and the national Republican Party, like its unpaid use flying current Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez around the state during his last week blitz  before his election to the Senate in 2004.

The DC9’s owner was identified in FAA documents as Royal Sons’ Inc., owned by  Frederic Geffon of St. Petersburg.

Yet despite the fact that Geffon back-dated sales documents and then had them faxed to the FAA several days after his DC9 was already in the news for the big bust, no action has been taken against Geffon, or any other owners of the plane.

Geffon claimed he had sold the DC9, several weeks before it was caught,  and identified the buyer as an “airplane broker” in California who investigation revealed has no history of selling airplanes.

The circumstances of the subsequent “investigations” share many similarities. The governments involved—Mexico, the United States, Venezuela, and fall2Colombia—all appear unable to agree on who owned the planes when they were busted.

In both cases Mexican authorities were quick to arrest individuals who authorities labeled crew members on the drug flights.

The Third Rail, The Big Taboo, & The Big Fix

3GUY1S2But the plane’s ownership has been made to appear “murky,” although the owners of the planes at the time they were caught are clearly named in FAA documents. And both plane’s American owners appear to be escaping Scot-free.

Could the confusion be deliberate?

An aviation executive in Venice thought so. "When it comes to registering airplanes, it’s the Wild West out there," he explained. “An airplane is a mobile, big ticket item. Yet there are no airport police doing ramp checks, or checking N numbers at airports.”

“The FAA system for registering airplanes is little-changed from when it was started back in the good ol boy days of the 1930’s. Each plane has a paper folder, for example, stuffed with all correspondence regarding airworthiness and ownership relating to that plane.”

“Its an antiquated system which some feel is kept deliberately in place to encourage a certain ambiguity when a plane is interdicted. When a change of registration is mailed in, the FAA places a plane’s folder in what they call “suspense.”

organized1“That’s a tremendous inducement to anyone with a chance of having a plane nabbed to keep floating sales in progress. The CIA, for example, is very adept at keeping files on its planes “in suspense.”

An airplane associated in some way with the U.S. Government, said an aviation source  with a smirk, would have definite advantages for a drug smuggler.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on…

indifgedThe first incident—the DC9 “Cocaine One” saga studiously ignored in the American press, save for an error-filled apologia in the plane’s owners hometown St. Petersburg Times—dropped from sight quickly with no apparent serious ramifications.

Two weeks ago in the Yucatan, events took a similar turn. And both incidents now seem headed for similar outcomes.

Today only elements of the “wised-up” Mexican press are crying foul.  

After being owned for nearly a decade by ARI, Air Rutter International, the Gulfstream apparently changed hands– at least two, and by one account, three–times in recent weeks.  

However the MadCowMorningNews has learned new details that throw suspicion on the claim that two American pilots in Fort Lauderdale Florida could have paid $2 million cash, as described by Donna Blue execs, for the Gulfstream II business jet…

It's a deadly game of musical chairs. What will happen when the music stops?



Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.