Found at USA Today website
today, Aug. 21, 1996
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 1996 12:27:03 -0500
08/20/96 - 08:57 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version
Report: CIA profited from crack plague
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Throughout the 1980s, a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to Los Angeles street gangs and funneled the profits to some of the CIA-run Contras in Nicaragua, a newspaper reported.
Repeated attempts to prosecute the ring's kingpin were thwarted by the CIA, possibly to cover up ties between the traffickers and Contra leaders, the San Jose Mercury News reported in a series of articles after a yearlong investigation.
The newspaper's report, based on recently declassified federal reports, court testimony and interviews, also alleges that the drug network was partially responsible for the ongoing "crack" problem in Los Angeles.
The money pipeline was created after the CIA combined several armies to create 5,000-member anti-communist FDN Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) in mid-1981, the newspaper reported.
The same year, the drug ring sold almost a ton of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods, notorious Los Angeles gangs, for $54 million, former FDN leader and government informant Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes said.
"There is a saying that the ends justify the means," Blandon testified in 1994. "So we started raising money for the Contra revolution."
The Mercury News identified the primary buyer as Ricky Donnell Ross, or "Freeway Rick," a notorious South-Central Los Angeles dealer who bought powder cocaine, turned it into crack and sold it wholesale throughout the city and the nation.
Blandon spent 28 months in U.S. prison for dealing drugs, the Mercury News said. He was released from prison in 1994 to become a full-time informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, a job which has since paid him more than $166,000.
How much of the drug ring's profits went to the FDN before it disbanded in 1988 still is unclear. But in his testimony, Blandon said, "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution."
Blandon's boss, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero, was a major drug dealer and smuggler who ran the FDN operation out of his homes in Burlingame and Pacifica in Northern California, the paper reported.
Although records show that the U.S. government was aware of Meneses' dealings since 1974, the Mercury News reported that he has never been in a U.S. prison. Meneses currently is serving time in Nicaragua after being arrested in connection with a 750-kilo shipment of cocaine.
Federal prosecutors blame the CIA and other federal departments for Meneses' relatively sweet treatment in the U.S., the Mercury News said.
"The Justice Department flipped out to prevent us from getting access to people, records - anything that would help us find out about it," said Jack Blum, former chief counsel to the Senate subcommittee that investigated alleged cocaine trafficking to the Contras. "It was one of the most frustrating exercises that I can ever recall."
Agents from four other agencies, including the DEA, U.S. Customs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, also have complained that the CIA hampered investigations, the Mercury News reported.
The reason might well be Meneses' own connections to the CIA, the Mercury News said. One piece of evidence - a picture taken in June 1984 - shows Meneses with Adolfo Calero, a longtime CIA operative and FDN political boss.
But efforts to trace the government's knowledge of the drug ring have similarly been thwarted, the newspaper reported.
Freedom of Information Act requests that reporters filed with the CIA and DEA have been denied on national security and privacy grounds. A FOIA request filed with the FBI has so far been ignored, the Mercury News reported.
While Blandon has never said he was selling cocaine for the CIA, his lawyer, Los Angeles defense attorney Bradley Brunon, said he has drawn his own conclusions from the CIA's clandestine behavior.
"Was (Blandon) involved with the CIA? Probably. Was he involved with drugs? Most definitely," Brunon said. "Were those two things involved with each other? They've never said that, obviously. They've never admitted that. But I don't know where these guys get these big aircraft."
By The Associated Press
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