Christian cult leader worked Tampa “BLACK ICE” Operation

All the really successful con men are politically connected.  Some of them cut out the middle man and run for President.”

Douglas Aaron McClain Sr., 62, whose Argyll Equities was a shady and now-bankrupt “investment bank” in Boerne Texas which provided services to at least three drug smuggling operations, including supplying a DC-9 to a very-possibly criminal Tampa-based ICE-HSI drug operation, is awaiting trial on charges of defrauding a 74-year-old neuro-psychiatrist paralyzed in a motorcycle accident several years ago.


An investigation into McClain’s past has uncovered overwhelming evidence that he is a career financial criminal, who has sometimes rubbed elbows in fraudulent operations with famous and near-famous names, including Jimmy Carter Administration official Bert Lance, and, more surprisingly, Chip Carter.  

Moreover, during the 1970’s and 1980’s, McClain was one of the leaders of a bizarre Christian cult which grew to more than 10,000 members living on farms and ranches in wilderness areas on three separate continents, including remote corners of Colombia, Peru, and Guatemala.

According to an account in the New York Times, the cult—in which McClain was active for a decade and maintained cordial relations afterwards— also owned its own fleet of planes.

Enormous changes at the last moment                                                                                               

ArnoldMcClain’s recent arrest in San Antonio Texas indicates that there is movement against individuals involved with the DC-9 (N900SA) that was the operation’s first drug plane to fall afoul of the law. (The Gulfstream  was the second. )

McClain allegedly stole $200,000 from an elderly paraplegic Dr. Charles Arnold,  with whom he became friendly through San Antonio’s Evangelical Christian community.

But the full results of the investigation into McClain’s career in financial crime will have to wait for another day, because just before press-time, Deborah Layne, the daughter of McClain’s most recent elderly victim, sent along a bombshell post from a Facebook page she maintains for victims of Doug McClain.

“They (investigators) need to dig back much further in Doug’s background, into his mother and father’s investment in a cult in Alaska called ‘The Move,’” the poster wrote. “Doug helped build Dry Creek, Alaska, where many of us were victimized.”

48 hours later, I can confirm everything in this post, and more.

Talkin’ Jesus while learning Tradecraft 101

alasAt the same time the cult was keeping a deliberately low profile, through the simple expediant of operating under a half-dozen different names.

It has been called “The Move of the Spirit,” “The Move,” the IMA or the International Ministerial Association,  “The Body,” the “Body of Christ,” the “End-time Body-Christian Ministries,” “The End-Time Ministry,” and “The Movement.”

“It takes a while, however, just to get members to tell me the name of their community,” wrote reporter Douglas Todd in a profile of the group headlined “Peace River commune awaits imminent apocalypse” in the Sept 22 2003 Vancouver Sun.

“The little-known movement, I later discover, has thousands more members in other corners of the globe, from Alaska to Uganda, Ireland to northern Mexico, Singapore to Brazil.”

“Members initially say they don’t really go by any name because they’re ‘non-denominational,’ just like the early followers of Jesus Christ, who shared everything.”

crown-of-carcosaJuggling multiple identities to maintain anonymity is, of course, a telling characteristic of spies. Frequently changing the “N” numbers of planes, changing the license plates of cars, etc., is an old spook tactic. Think of  the number of times  Blackwater Security, the CIA-connected mercenary outfit, has changed its name since the Iraq war made it infamous.

But it’s not a characteristic seen very often in Christian cults.

Movin’ on the Spirit

tongue-of-doomOverweight, balding, and wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt outside his pants while clutching a Big Gulp when a local San Antonio TV news crew catches up with him after his arrest, McClain is clearly not used to being questioned sharply. In news coverage, his eyes dart uneasily off to one side, and his tongue flicks nervously over his thin lips.

According to the indictment, Arnold trusted McClain with his money because of their shared evangelical Christian faith, and because McClain promised to pay him back from the proceeds of the sale of a coal mine in Kentucky he told Arnold he owned.

McClain needed money, he told Arnold, who eventually loaned McClain virtually his entire life savings, to finalize the sale of the coal mine.  He presented himself as a competent, Christian family counselor, Arnold said. He was someone Arnold could share his troubles with.

“If you trusted anybody, you trusted good ol’ Doug,” Arnold said.

Fellow ministers advise: turn the other cheek

mighty-big-bootsAccording to the indictment, however, the receiver for the  coal company—which is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy—states McClain owned no part of the company.

After concluding McClain didn’t intend to pay back their father, Arnold’s  family took the matter to a group of Christian pastors and lay leaders in San Antonio, in accordance with a dispute process, “the Matthew 18 principle,” outlined in the New Testament, said Arnold’s son.

Family members left their meeting with the ministers surprised, and concerned that the clergymen hadn’t reviewed the matter thoroughly or independently, and had dismissed McClain’s documented record of financial abuse before refusing to help.

“I can really feel my life ebbing out of me. I really can. I wasn’t old, until this happened,” Dr. Arnold told local reporters.

McClain is described as a “Christian businessman “and “a likable, Scripture-quoting businessman” by his hometown San Antonio Express-News. And if Bunco artists, grifters, charlatans, quacks, stock fraud scamsters, racketeers, swindlers and flimflam men can be said to be in business, then Doug McClain may just be a businessman.

Was Doug McClain being protected?

biotechMcClain’s recent arrest, while welcome, comes years too late, according to a source in the San Antonio Police Department. His crime spree would have been brought to an end six years ago, said one retired detective on the San Antonio police force sadly, if it weren’t for seeming deliberate obstruction from the San Antonio office of the FBI.

“We were ready to charge him back in 2008,” said the retired detective in a recent phone interview.  “Then the local office of the FBI got involved. Everything we had, the Feds just kind of adopted as their own, and then took it over.”

“And when we’d ask what they were doing with it, they’d say, oh, we still have it.’ But that would be it. If I pressed them they’d get sort of deliberately vague. We worked a lot of cases with the Feds. I knew these guys personally, but they would not talk about  it.”

“It wasn’t normal. It was just very surprising to me,” he stated. “I’m shocked that its taken so long to bring criminal charges against this guy.”

A short history of the Cult

sam-fifeSeveral motifs running through the history of the cult will resonate with anyone interested in the group’s possible connections with American intelligence.

They are “New Orleans;’ “aviation;” “pilots;”and “Miami.”

  • The cult was founded by Sam Fife, who graduated from a Southern Baptist seminary in New Orleans in March 1957, and then “was called” to Miami, where his first church was called “The Miami Revival Center.”
  • It thrived in the 60’s, “an era of young people searching for answers,” according to one post on the cult.
  • Fife’s co-founder and the cult’s second most powerful man was C.E. “Buddy” Cobb, a former airline pilot and the pastor of the Word Mission in Hollywood, FL.
  • Fife and three of his American followers died on April 26, 1979. Despite claiming he would never die, he was “killed” when the private airplane he was piloting went through heavy fog and crashed into a mountainside in Guatemala, and is buried nearby in Quetzaltenango.
  • Some people think Fife faked his own death. “No conclusive evidence of the crash,” read one headline. “A growing number of people, primarily family members of those who were seduced by the cult, believe that Sam Fife didn’t die but faked his death and lived out his life a wealthy man.”

Buddy Cobb succeeded Fife after his death.

What was Fife doing in a war zone?

Perhaps ironically, Quetzaltenango was the birthplace of Jacobo Árbenz, the victim of one of the first CIA-engineered coups, led by E. Howard Hunt and David Atlee Philips. In the 40 years that followed, an often-brutal military junta murdered as many as 200,000 peasants and Mayan Indians.


What was Sam Fife doing in Guatemala in 1979? In 1979 Amnesty International estimated  50,000 people had been killed during the political violence of the 1970’s alone.

From the bio of a professor teaching in Quetzaltenango today:

“In 1979 he decided to move to the United States. First of all, he lost his job and figured that that was the time to move. His move was also motivated by the fact that he didn’t feel safe living in Guatemala. He lost a lot of friends, classmates, and professors who were killed by the Guatemalan army. And because of his involvement with the Law Students Association he was worried that he might succumb to a similar fate.”

“You have to take into consideration that there were few tourists in Guatemala at this time because of the political repression,” he wrote. “There were a couple of Spanish schools in town, but they had to close down because of the civil war.”

Cold showers, beatings, more cold showers, Doug McClain

holy-holyMany ex-members believe they have been brainwashed, and the cult has lost some members to deprogrammers such as Ted Patrick.

The cult has a brutal policy towards possible defectors and those who break the rules. One woman who left the cult claims the group told her she was possessed by demons and tried to exorcise them by tying her to a bed and whipping her with a belt, then submerging her in a bathtub filled with cold water.

Another defector said she was beaten with a wooden paddle and that rebellious members were tied to beds, chairs or the floor and thrown into cold showers with their clothes on until they repented. She was once kept in a cold shower for four and a half hours.

Doug McClain Sr was influential in the doings of the cult from a young age. His parents were members, and he became an elder in the cult at the age of 18.

From a history of the Alaska communes centered around Delta Junction:  “At the time he was looking to sell his homestead, the members of a church group in Claremont, New Hampshire were looking for land on which to establish a community.  A man named Doug McClain living in Dry Creek, Alaska was in contact with the New Hampshire group.”

Is the cult’s aviation wing connected to the CIA?

christian-airportToday the cult meets several times a year at its headquarters in Bowen’s Mill Georgia. The group has their own private airport nearby, managed by Daryyl Cobb, son of co-founder and long-time cult headman Buddy Cobb.

On the airport’s website a half-dozen planes which make their home at the airport belong to Presidential Aviation Inc., which numerous websites allege was involved in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions.

Presidential Aviation flew a plane—a Gulfstream IV, tail number N841PA—owned by the same S/A Holdings LLC that owned the Gulfstream II (N987SA) until two weeks before it crashed with 4 tons of cocaine.

Presidential Aviation also operated N829MG (later N259SK)— owned by Mark J. Gordon, who also today owns MJG Aviation in Florida—that was  used to fly  a “kidnapped” Canadian citizen named Maher Arar to Jordan in 2002.

In Jordan Arar was transferred to a Gulfstream III, tail number N829MG, which flew him on the last leg of his voyage to torture prison in Syria. That plane, too, was owned Mark Gordon.

“Ironically, Presidential Airways is the name of one of two aviation services companies currently operated by Blackwater USA.” 

Goat’s head soup, a cure for what ails you 

goatIt turns out, Dr Charles Arnold is just the latest in a long line of victims of financial fraud at the hands of Doug McClain Sr, which became obvious after Argyll Equities had morphed into Argyll Biotech, a “biopharmaceutical” company, which then changed its name to Immunosyn, staying one step ahead of a blizzard of lawsuits filed in a half-dozen states across the country by disgruntled investors claiming fraud.

In July 2008, McClain  gave a presentation at a Texas holistic clinic, where he made false and misleading statements to induce attendees to buy shares of Immunosyn stock. He claimed that six terminal cancer patients were then being treated with SF-1019 under a compassionate waiver granted by the FDA, according to law enforcement. The FDA flatly denied it.

McClain also told attendees that the Department of Defense had purchased 600,000 vials of SF-1019. That claim, too, was false. Still, McClain was able to sell $300,000 of stock in Immunosyn to terminally ill patients seeking treatment at the clinic.

What could be worse than selling worthless stock to terminally ill patients desperate for hope? McClain had an answer: After taking money from a half-dozen dying patients, McClain never delivered the stock.

Federal lawsuits trail McClain like a comet with a dirty tail

biot2When the SEC finally stepped in and stopped the merry-go-round, it became clear that McClain and his partners had been peddling —to people less gullible than desperate for relief from the ravages of life-threatening disease—goat’s blood  as a cure for everything from multiple sclerosis to HIV.

The Securities and Exchange Commission accused him, his son and other business partners of fraudulently cheating investors. Moreover McClain already has more than $7.8 million in civil judgments against him, just in Bexar County Texas where he lives.

None of the creditors who have won judgments against him expect to see any money from McClain. As is well-known to everyone in on the joke, the SEC is a toothless old whore. And Doug McClain’s money is safely and anonymously parked offshore.

A little pressure wouldn’t hurt

Cocaine-OneWhen the Dc-9 was seized by the Mexican military—probably by accident, as the plane had experienced “mechanical difficulties,” always an uncertain variable—it was dubbed “Cocaine One” almost immediately, because it so obviously appeared to be part of a U.S. Government operation.

The plane had been painted to impersonate an aircraft from the U.S. Agency which ironically turns out to have been responsible for its drug flights to South America and back, the Dept of Homeland Security.

When  it was seized in the Yucatan carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine in April of 2006, it qualified as one of the Top Ten Drug Seizures in World History.

Just as officials insisted for six years that the Gulfstream was ‘sold’ to Donna Blue Associates, a non-existent front company whose initials alone (DBA, for “doing business as,’ get it?) which should have aroused the suspicions of authorities, so too with the DC-9 which—with the assistance of McClain’s bogus investment bank—had ostensibly been  “sold” to SkyWay Aircraft of St Petersburg.

Where the story goes from here seems to be completely a function of how much pressure can be placed on the DEA, the Dept of Homeland Security, and the Justice Dept to come clean. If Atty General Holder want to leave a legacy that contains anything other than the names of the hundreds of criminal bankers he never charged with destroying the American economy, this would be the place to start.

Stay tuned.

Daniel Hopsicker

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

23 Responses

  1. Juliana Welch says:

    How do I get a hold OF DEBORAH LAYNE?  I searched FB.  I knew Doug McClain very well.  I was in the Move and quite familiar with Sam Fife, his teachings and his death.  My sister still lives on the farm that Doug McClain founded in ALASKA.   MY ex husband lives at Bowens Mill and takes care of  Buddy Cobb who has aging dementia today.  All of this is very interesting and some dots can be  connected but Not all.

  2. adam says:

    So Prince Bandar sold his Aspen, Colorado property – not the Hala ranch – to a Jewish Billionaire from Florida who is big into real estate development. This billionaire, whose name is Jeffery M Soffer, also happens to own aviation companies, including one at the same address as MJG aviation. In fact the same suite.

    2875 NE 191ST street, Suite 400, Aventura, fl, 33180 – is home to MJD and JR1 Airplane, which Soffer runs with his retired Lebanese Basketball player friend.

    Possible tie-in alert.

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