Mexico & US Ruling Parties Ties to Blow Bust
"On April 10th an American-registered DC9 was caught carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine destined for the US... the incident has slipped into a black hole... Released FAA registration records show that the registration transfer to a Venezuela occurred AFTER the seizure in Mexico." Also, the plane had made similar flights in the past. Very fishy, considering the potential ties to 911.
On April 10th an American-registered DC9 was caught carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine destined for the U.S., the Mexican military announced, at an airport in Ciudad del Carmen. In the more than two months since, the incident has slipped into a black hole.
Beyond a few half-hearted stabs at pinning blame for the crime on scapegoats du jour like the FARC in Colombia or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, authorities in both Mexico and the U.S. have had little or nothing to say about the case.
The MadCowMorningNews has learned new details in what is becoming a growing drug trafficking scandal implicating elements in the ruling parties in both Mexico and the US:
* Released FAA registration records from the American-registered DC9 (N900SA) airline show that documents informing the FAA the plane had been exported to new owners in Venezuela were not submitted until after its seizure in Mexico.
* Several top executives of SkyWays Aircraft, the American firm which owned the DC9 in partnership with Royal Sons Inc. of St Petersburg, FL. including the company's President, James Kent, are former members of U.S. military intelligence, stated one of SkyWay's original employees, who contacted us after seeing a previous story.
* Mexican newspapers last week began openly speculating last week on the role of high officials in the ruling party of President Vicente Fox in the huge drug load...
* They are also reporting that the DC9's flight from Caracas to an airport in the western Yucatan was not a one-of-a-kind occurrence, but that the airliner had made at least seven previous flights along the same route.
* The DEA has made a deliberate effort to downplay the importance of the seizure, underestimating its value by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Crime doesn't pay... At least, not as well as politics
The DC9, which we have dubbed "Cocaine One," had an identical sister ship. In the most unusual detail of the case released so far, both airliners had been painted by their registered owners, SkyWay Aircraft and a partner with an interest in the company, Frederic Geffon of Royal Sons, Inc of St. Petersburg, Fl., to impersonate official U.S. Government aircraft from the Dept of Homeland Security, complete with an official-looking Seal.
We reported previously on close connections between the management of SkyWay and the Republican Party, including U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, who toured the company's facilities, praised its (non-existent) products designed for sale to U.S. Homeland Security, and flew a SkyWay plane in his barnstorming finish in his successful 2004 campaign.
Recently we were contacted by one of SkyWay's original employees who passed on more intriguing details of top SkyWay executive's government and political connections.
"James Kent (President of SkyWay) is a real strong Republican with a lot of connections in Washington, like U.S. Senator Mel Martinez," the former SkyWay employee told us. "And he's also in tight with a lot of politicians in Tallahassee, like (Republican gubernatorial candidate) Charlie Christ."
"He was a mole for military intelligence during the Vietnam war. He was with Air America over there, and I guess he told some people he worked for the CIA."
According to SkyWay SEC filings, Kent "served in various government contract management positions supporting projects of the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, and Department of the Navy."
Kent also runs a company, Online Satellite Communication, which uses an address in Las Vegas which also houses Voters Outreach of America, a Republican Party operation accused of illegal activity and electoral dirty tricks, including destroying thousands of Democratic registration forms, during the 2004 Presidential election.
Closing the barn door after the horse is gone
More than ten weeks after the seizure in Mexico of a DC9 carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine the FAA finally released the ownership records of the plane.
Immediately reasons for the FAA foot-dragging became clear. Documents informing the FAA the plane had been exported to new owners in Venezuela were not submitted until the day after its seizure in Mexico.
FAA spokesman Roland Herwig told Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune that the FAA received a copy of a letter from Royal Sons dated April 7, asking that the plane be exported to Venezuela, and that the FAA officially took Royal Sons' name off the books three days after the cocaine bust.
While this statement appears on its surface to support Geffon's protestation that he no longer owned the airliner at the time it was busted, a closer look at the FAA official's statement indicate he carefully avoided stating when the FAA received the change of ownership documents.
Instead, he cites the date typed on the letter, as if that provided some sort of definitive proof. He also makes clear that the documents the FAA received were copies.
A day late and 5.5 tons of cocaine short
The significance of this statement became obvious as we studied the documents. Fax numbers at the bottom of the letter indicate it was faxed to Geffon and Corrales just minutes after being submitted to the FAA.
An FAA spokesman stated they hadn't faxed the document to anyone, indicating it was submitted by a title insurance company, a common practice, and then faxed by them to the principals, probably as proof it had been delivered.
Thus one possible Geffon defense, that the letter dated April 7 was in the mail for four days before reaching the FAA, is eliminated. And the only apparent conclusion is that the documents submitted by Geffon have been back-dated.
The FAA's stamp indicated they received the documents on April 11th.
However, the plane was busted April 10th.
The wages of sin... frequently go unreported
Another striking irregularity in the released FAA records is that the bill of sale indicates Geffon and his SkyWay partners bought the airliner in May of 2004.
But he did not record the sale with the FAA until August of 2005, over a year later.
Had the plane received the attention of U.S. law enforcement during the interim (for, say, having a tail light missing, or for smuggling tons of cocaine) SkyWay and Geffon's name would have appeared nowhere on the plane's registration.
The FAA has given no indication that it intends to frown on this, or that the Agency even views it as a legal faux pas.
Geffon came into sole possession of the DC9 after SkyWay Aircraft went bankrupt. But his claim to have paid for the plane is in doubt.
"At the time of the bankruptcy, Fred Geffon wanted to buy one of the planes. He had a charter pilot, a Venezuelan guy who lived in Venice, and they were going to use it for charters," said our source.
And that was how we learned that the plane's pilot, a slippery fellow who. as we earlier reported, managed to slip through the clutches of the Mexican military the day the DC9 was busted, may live in--of all places!--Venice, Fl. Of course, Geffon's company maintained an address at the Venice Airport in a hangar owned by terror flight school Huffman Aviation, as we've already seen, so if the DC9 pilot turns out to live in tiny bewildered Venice, the news will not be as much of a shock as it might otherwise.
"This life of ours, this is a wonderful life."
Apparently on his own authority, Geffon transferred the plane into the name of his company, Royal Sons Inc. This is certainly a plucky move, and at least potentially a neat trick. Like the pilot of the DC9, said to have escaped the clutches of Mexican justice at the airport in Mexico.
Maybe he didn't escape. Maybe he just "Released himself on his own recognizance."
A spokesman for a lawyer working closely with the Bankruptcy Trustee for bankrupt SkyWay states they can find no record that Geffon paid SkyWay for the plane.
Investors, of course, are crying fraud. (Perhaps they just lack pluck.)
The transaction is currently the subject of litigation in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Tampa. "The bankruptcy trustee said, 'these planes are grounded,'" the former SkyWay employee told us.
"But they're not there now. Strange, isn't it?"
7 X 5.5 tons = A lotta lotta blow
Among the major developments which came to light last week, one of the most interesting is the speculation in Mexico's feisty free press (so unlike our own!) on the role of high officials in the ruling party of President Vicente Fox in the huge drug load.
It had been learned almost immediately that two pilots, arrested in a corporate jet waiting for the DC9 to land, were employees of the Mexican federal government.
But the fact that both pilots previously spent time in prison for drug trafficking was new and startling information...
That they were apparently not hampered by their drug cartel connections when landing jobs flying for Mexico's National Water Commission was also startling.
The Mexican Agency they work for is headed by a personal friend of President Fox, a man who had also served with Fox as a director of Coca-Cola in Mexico.
Although the Mexican press pretended to be startled, it must have been difficult... Because this is just business as usual.
Citing sources in the Mexican Dept. of Civil Aeronautics, Mexican newspapers reported last week that the "Cocaine One" DC9 made at least seven previous flights along the same route before being caught.
If crime didn't pay....there'd be no crime.
Both the DC9, dubbed "Cocaine One," and its sister ship, an identical DC9, had been painted by SkyWay Aircraft to resemble U.S. Government aircraft from the Dept of Homeland Security, complete with official-looking Seal...
Masquerading as official aircraft from U.S. Homeland Security would provide excellent 'cover' for a drug trafficking operation.
"I read what you wrote about having two planes tricked out to look like they belonged to Homeland Security," stated the longtime SkyWay employee.
"Everyone working there thought, there ain't no way they're going to get away with that. We couldn't believe it. How in the hell is the government letting us get away with that?"
"They also had a half-dozen black hummers tricked out the same way," he said.
"Big seal on the side, lights and sirens on the top. Finally some local cops pulled the hummers over, and made them take the seals and lights off."
"But nobody ever said anything about the planes."
"Homeland Security been berry berry good to me."
The former SkyWay employee also indicated that government officials went out of their way to assist the company. "I was one of Skyways' first ten employees, there from the start in the communications division, and I participated in the installation at the FDOT (Florida Department Of Transportation) mentioned in your article," he said.
"The guy in charge there told us that airports in Florida were all told that the state of Florida would reimburse them 100% for any airport upgrades that had to do with security."
The State of Florida created a ready-made market for SkyWay's non-existent "Homeland Security" products by subsidizing their purchase by local governments.
Why would they want to do that?
"They got the first plane in the middle of 2003, and it was sent up to an airport in Chicago to get turned into an executive jet, with a marble bar and leather couches," our SkyWay source explained.
"They had it in Chicago 8-9 months before it came back. Then they got the second plane in mid-2004."
"They wrote it up in a press release, touting how they'd just received a big investment from the DuPont foundation. Which turned out to be bogus, just some guy at a desk in Costa Rica."
Twin airliners give you that crucial margin for error
DC9's cost money. But the twin airliners weren't being used to demonstrate SkyWay's products, for the simple reason that the company never had a product to demonstrate.
The fact is both inescapable and mind-boggling at the same time.
Two DC9's painted to impersonate U.S. Government planes were being used for an as-yet unknown purpose... for almost two years.
Like the FAA, the attitude of the DEA toward a drug trafficking case involving 5.5 tons of cocaine seems remarkably laissez faire. A call to the DEA to inquire whether the Agency had mounted an investigation of an American-owned airliner busted with 5.5 tons of cocaine elicited a terse "no comment."
The duty officer at the Tampa Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration revealed no indication that the DEA has taken any interest in the case. Two days of phone calls to the Agency's Public Information Officer in Miami yielded nothing but busy signals.
Without Asa, the DEA just hasn't been the same
Moreover, the DEA, in an apparent effort to downplay its importance, has deliberately underestimated the value of the massive cocaine seizure...
Initial wire reports quoted the DEA as estimating the value of the 5.5 tons of cocaine at $100 million.
But news accounts of a seizure of the same amount of cocaine two weeks earlier stated that 5.5 tons of cocaine is worth in excess of a half billion dollars.
In a press release March 16, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) congratulated Ecuador on the seizure of more than 5.5 tons of cocaine in the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The UN said the load had a street value of $556 million.
Street value is how the DEA figures the worth of a load in its own press releases... except in those rare cases when its trying to minimize things.
The DEA's estimation is low by a whopping $446 million.
The Miami Herald owes us all an explanation
Mexican newspapers have been clamoring for officials to come forward to explain their curious silence.
"Where are the results of the investigations of the airplane seized with cocaine?" asked Expreso.com.mx on June 28. "Why is there nothing but silence?"
"How is it possible that this confiscation, as important as it is, has not been explained? When will there be information about this?
Sharp questioning in the Mexican press is in marked contrast to the tepid response of the mainstream media in the U.S.
In news accounts of the massive cocaine bust, The Miami Herald sounded like Pravda during the height of the Cold War. They dealt with the facts of the case by completely ignoring them... Perhaps they found it inconvenient to mention--because of space limitations?--that the busted DC9 airliner was American-owned and registered.
Their story on the massive cocaine bust imaginatively placed the blame for the flight on Venezuela. They no doubt miss not having the Medellin Cartel to kick around anymore. The paper quotes an anonymous senior U.S. government official, perhaps too embarrassed to give his real name...
"The more traditional traffickers have discovered, from an interdiction and law-enforcement perspective, that Venezuela has now become a giant black hole where they have the least amount of resistance, the least amount of problems, the cheapest route to get their product to market."
America's Drug Lord Gap
So... what's going on? The Herald has a bit of experience in stories about the movement of illegal substances across interstate lines, do they not?
In fact, The Miami Herald is to news of narcotics trafficking what The Sporting News is to box scores in baseball. The paper cannot be said to be unaware of the absurdity of the statement they offer to their readers with such a straight face.
So, the answer must be something else. Something, no doubt, worse.
For several decades it has been the considered and unchallenged opinion of American drug enforcement officials that there are no American Drug Lords.
Drug trafficking into the U.S. is the province of unsavory "foreign elements," according to the DEA.
If this were true, it would be major bad news for our balance of payments deficit. We would see Senators take to the floor of the Senate, decrying the fact that America has a "Drug Lord Gap."
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS. MOVE ALONG.
This same nonsense has kept Americans from holding elements in the American government responsible for trading guns-for-heroin with Osama bin Laden before 9.11.
The answer, both here in the U.S. as well as in Mexico, appears to be: Damage Control, for what clearly appears to have been officially-sanctioned drug trafficking.
The silence in the U.S. and Mexico is a tell-tale sign of clandestine activity gone horribly awry. The bust was a mistake.
Once again, low-level personnel just hadn't been "clued-in" to the protected nature of the trade. Because of the sensitivity, everything is on a need to know basis. This creates a continuing problem.
You can't tell just anyone.
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