A CIA Drug Op in Sleepy St. Pete

Awash in Sea of Sans-a-belts, the American Drug Lords

Its been six hundred and twenty-two days since an American-registered DC9 airliner, "tricked out" to look like an airplane from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, took off from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Int'l Airport (left) and was busted in Mexico carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine.

It reads like a Hollywood pitch that gets rejected for not being believable enough.

But it all really happened.

Two American-registered airplanes associated with the CIA— a DC9 airliner (N900SA) and a Gulfstream business jet (N987SA)—each underwent a rapid-fire series of ownership changes before taking off a final time from St-Petersburg-Clearwater Int’l Airport (left).

 The planes were on their way to being busted in Mexico eighteen months apart. Between them, they were carrying more than ten tons of cocaine.

People do hard time for a little coke dust on their lapel.  Somebody here owned 10 tons of cocaine. Yet they’ve been able—so far—to walk away from it.

The reason? Ask the DEA:  “America doesn't have any Drug Lords.”

No American as yet been charged with any crime.

The $400 million dollar man

i-275_nb_exit_030_02The person with the most to lose in the revivified CIA drug plane scandal may have nothing at all to do with the CIA and DEA-connected Gulfstream II business jet whose crash-landing in the Yucatan two months ago re-opened the case.

Frederic Geffon of Skyway Aircraft and Royal Sons Inc.,  was the last registered owner of the DC9.

Yet just when Geffon had probably begun to breathe a little easier, with everything seemingly well-in-hand vis-a-vis the little “incident” with his plane 18 months ago…

This other plane, this second plane, a Gulfstream, goes and gets itself busted.  

And now even the Tampa Tribune is looking for him. And do they find him? No sir… "Making themselves unavailable" is one of the things these guys do best.

Spokesman Fork-in-Tongue Explains it all

F689521The Tampa Tribune took a polite stab at identifying the problem…

"Cartels are searching for aircraft because Caribbean trade routes from South America, via Mexico, to Florida are gaining in popularity among drug traffickers, according to one expert in Latin American drug trafficking."

'Traffickers are increasingly looking for airplanes such as the ones sold at St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, where both planes were sold.  "These aircraft seem to be linked to a growing trend," a source said."

'The cocaine found on the two jets represents "a huge seizure," DEA spokesman Steve Robertson said. The connection between the Sinaloa cartel and the sales of the planes is being scrutinized, he said.'

'“We are working closely with our Mexican counterparts. These are significant seizures of cocaine. I do know that there are leads that lead to Florida and your specific area, but I am not at liberty to discuss what those are. There are many aspects to this case, and it is still active."

Translation: Don't hold your breath.

Taking off on bingo night

fbiww Not since the 1986 downing over in Nicaragua of a C-123 military cargo plane with CIA asset Eugene Hasenfus aboard to kick off the Iran Contra Scandal has there been aviation news potentially this disasterous to the party in the White House.

The story is huge… How many bank robberies ever get away with loot worth $400 million?

And they cover bank robberies with choppers, right?

There's Live CNN team coverage…

"That's right, Bob. Looks like that's one bank robber who's  finished his last package of Ho-Ho's as a free man.”

But the only major American newspaper covering the busted CIA drug planes—other than the McClatchy newspapers, which admirably broke the story but then quickly tip-toed away from it—is the Tampa Tribune, which has done several stories.

Maybe they're just rubbing a little sand in the eye of their local rival across Tampa Bay.

The St. Petersburg Times, hometown paper in the scandal’s hometown, has remained almost completely silent, except for a story defending the honor of two companies in Chicago which both appear to have played a witting and significant role in the operation.

Maybe the flights all take off on Bingo Night in St Petersburg. That could certainly present a conflict.

Cartel-to-cartel shopping

Cocaine_Two-AThere 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.”

Surprisingly, two weeks ago the Mexican Attorney General agreed, announcing that the planes had both purchased by the same people, Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, with money laundered through a series of Cambio de Change stores in Mexican airports owned by the cartel’s just-arrested chief money man.

But what the Mexican Attorney General tactfully neglected to mention, was that the big bad Sinaloa Cartel hadn’t been buying American planes off of EBAY… Or from dentists piloting their way through a mid-life crisis on a private plane to Vegas every weekend.

The Sinaloa Cartel bought planes from the people they did business with in the U.S.: Their client,  partner,  and employer.

The American Drug Lords.

Fun Things to do in Aviation

N987SA1The two CIA drug planes caught in Mexico recently both exhibit the classic hallmark of a CIA job. The plane's ownership, as shown in FAA reg docs, leads the unwary directly into a dizzying hall of mirrors, designed to disorient the observer, and effectively mask the number of missions CIA aircraft are flying everyday.

The FAA’s records of CIA planes are usually filled with regular ownership changes, or a series of rapid-fire lease-backs to charter and air leasing companies. One thing about CIA planes. None of them  seem to ever form comfortable relationships with their owners.

The same plane gets flipped back and forth endlessly between brass plate firms and dummy front companies, from Pacific Rim International to Rim Pacific,  Rim-Pac, Pac-Rim, and  Rim-Yo-Mama LLC.

And all this subterfuge is just for one plane. One of what may be thousands. That's a huge number of dummy front companies to keep track of…

No wonder planes get lost.

"When first we practice to deceive"

Occasionally the anonymous paper shuffler behind the curtain seems to get tired of it all. Then the plane gets exported, and no more is heard from it for at least several years, when it can safely be brought back to the U.S. and issued another “N” number.

And no one is the wiser.

But the system isn’t perfect. They don’t walk on water. And in cases  like this one sometimes we get lucky and can clearly see the plane’s interlocking ownership… without even having to squint.

Before being flipped around, the Gulfstream was “parked” in the name of a New York real estate developer who has close ties to top Russian Mobsters and makes frequent flights to the Ukraine in his brand spanking new G-5 ultra-sweet corporate jet.

Before that, it was owned by a major Republican fund-raiser, a secretive Midwestern media baron who personally paid for over $1 million of billboard ads for George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential election.

Probably just a coincidence.

Bush Rangers, Russian Mobsters, Adnan Khashoggi

Farkas1But what proves that its no coincidence, and reveals the unified command structure of the operation, is the fact that Stephan Adams was partners in a business with the guy who owned the other plane.

Then there's Bush Ranger extraordinaire Stephen Adams, who owned the Gulfstream (N987SA) in 1999 and 2000, while at the same time  personally paying for over $1 million of billboards for George W. Bush during his 2000 Presidential election bid.

Adams was in business in another company with Miami attorney Michael Farkas, who doubles as the American representative of an ultra-nationalist settler party in Israel. And now we've come full circle…

Because Farkas founded the company that owned the DC9.

adnan22o4In an elaborate stock fraud scheme that came to called Stockwalk, Stephan Smith and Michael Farkas owned two of three companies which was so hugely successful that it was used to suck out over $300 million from unwary stockholders before getting caught.

They had a third partner masterminding the scam. He controlled the third corporation being used in the scheme.

This third guy?  You may have heard of him.

His name is Adnan Khashoggi.

Top fundraisers know where to go to get cash

16849257wGetting busted in Mexico carrying a multi-ton load of cocaine may be an occupational hazard to pilots, but not—as we’ve seen demonstrated over and over—to the well-connected owners of the planes, and their nearest and dearest.

Richard Rainwater, the No.1 lifetime Texas Republican Bush-backer, owns the hangar at DFW International where the  DC9 from SkyWay Communications of St Petersburg, FL. came for "repairs."

Or repainting.

News accounts during Bush’s first Presidential campaign called Rainwater “George W. Bush’s biggest supporter” as well as “the power behind the throne.”

For more than $20,000 a month, SkyWay Aircraft "leased" this “repair” facility  from Richard Rainwater at DFW Airport in Dallas… even though the company had nothing to repair.

And let’s not forget Copy of melU.S. Senator Mel Martinez, who visited SkyWay just before it went bankrupt, and pronounced the firm’s non-existent technology to be "awesome."

For that bit of deliberate disinformation, Mel should have gone to jail.

The 'boys' returned the favor: Martinez was running for the Senate, and Martinez flew a SkyWay drug smuggling plane–presumably vacuumed out first–in his barnstorming finish in his successful 2004 campaign… for free.

"Martinez traversed the state, including a trip to a nighttime rally with several hundred people in downtown Delray Beach in luxury, on a DC-9 owned by Skyway Global, a Clearwater security company whose owners are Martinez supporters,” reported the Nov 2 2004 St. Petersburg Times.

A story in the Miami Herald labeled Martinez "the national Republican Party's new top fundraiser."

Well, no wonder.

More of the usual suspects

ramybabyProminent Texas Republicans are by no means the only group of people implicated in the scandal… just the most fun to kick.

There’s also Ramy El-Batrawi, the former President of a CIA proprietary airline, crooked San Diego Defense contractor Titan Corp,  and, oh, yeah…

The lads from the CIA were having a ‘go’ as well.

Deserving special mention is an investment bank located in tiny Boerne, Texas, and La Jolla, Ca.  Argyll Equities LLC has the distinction of having participated in this operation in at least two separate ways.

Argyll was the second-largest shareholder in SkyWay, according to bankruptcy filings, owning nearly 21 million shares of totally worthless stock, which might be considered something of an investment black eye, unless other undisclosed considerations were involved.

And Argyll also raised funds for a Mexican industrialist who’s in business with the very people whose dope keeps getting busted in the Yucatan.

According to documents filed with the SEC in 2005, Argyll Equities LLC was paid to raise a $17.0 million loan for Mexican industrialist Jose Serrano Segovia’s shipping line, GRUPO TMM.

Segovia turned around and, according to an English language newspaper in Chile, The Santiago Times, on May 5, 1998, “provided significant capital” to a “Chilean narcotics trafficker" named Manuel Vicente Losada, arrested in the Chilean capital of Santiago after being “linked to a shipment of five tons of cocaine which U.S. drug enforcement officials in Miami intercepted over six years ago on the vessel Harbour, as it headed toward Guantanamo Bay.”

 Hey, wait a minute… Guantanamo Bay?

The Gulfstream used to fly to Guantanamo, didn't it?

Probably just a coincidence.

Facebook Comments

Daniel Hopsicker

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

1 Response

  1. March 9, 2016

    […] turned out to be 5.5 tons of cocaine busted on a company plane. The plane, a DC-9, was also used to give illegal free rides during the 2000 election to soon-to-be Florida Senator and later nationwide GOP Campaign Finance […]