First Published in the July, 1999 issue of FTW.
- Drugs and Campaign Fundraising
Dominicans, The Democrats and New York
vs. The Volcano and The Avalanche and The Steamroller and
The Machine and City Hall and the CIA
to a "law enforcement sensitive" 1997 DEA report
entitled "The Dominican Threat - A Strategic Assessment
of Dominican Drug Trafficking," Dominican Trafficking
Organizations (DTOs) are responsible for as much as one-third
of all the cocaine entering the Continental United States.
In the same report, DEA estimates total annual U.S. cocaine
consumption at close to 500 metric tons (1,100,000 lbs.).
The same report also states that, "The only reason
the Dominicans do not dominate the U.S. heroin market
as well is that South American production is unable to
U.S. demand." The Dominicans are buying less expensive
[than Asian] Colombian heroin and totally control heroin
distribution throughout the northeast. [See related story
on Colombia this issue]. Piecing together various sections
of the report prepared by DEA's National Drug Intelligence
Center, it is safe to estimate that 20-25% of all cocaine
and heroin revenues inside the U.S. are controlled by Dominicans.
The smuggling is centered around New York City, Philadelphia
and, to a lesser extent, Boston.
month FTW documented how approximately two hundred and
billion dollars a year in drug money is laundered inside
the U.S. It is therefore safe to assume that DTOs
launder, conservatively, $30 billion a year through the
United States. [Figures are not available on Dominican control
of marijuana sales in the northeast but credible estimates
range as high as fifty per cent]. Using a standard
cash multiplier of six, this means that approximately $180
billion in cash transactions take place each year as a result
of Dominican drug trafficking in the northeast. How
many jobs does $180 billion represent? Remember that in
the summer of 1998 The Russian Federation begged for only
$18 billion to save its entire national economy.
per cent of all U.S. Presidential campaign donations come
from New York, California, Texas and Florida. The Bush family
governs Texas and Florida. Hillary Clinton is going all
out to become a Senator from New York. Against all of this,
as it was developing ten years ago, came a single intrepid
and incorruptible INS agent Named Joe Occhipinti. In his
had earned 78 commendations and awards. He had solved the
murders of two NYPD officers and, in 1989, he thought
he had found a way to weaken the grasp of Dominican drug
lords in the Washington Heights section of New York City.
The Snake Pit
all really great plans, Project Bodega was very simple.
Senior INS agent Joe Occhipinti knew that most of the drug
trafficking and money-laundering by Dominicans in New York
City relied upon an ecosystem centered around tiny family
owned markets, known as bodegas. Throughout the Washington
Heights section of New York, bodegas were everywhere, seemingly
too many to be sustained in a normal environment where
sold cigarettes, bread, beer and toilet paper. Joe
knew that the bodegas were being used to launder drug profits,
as stash pads for drugs, as under-the-counter gun stores
and as neighborhood pawn shops. Joe knew that many of the
bodega owners had borrowed heavily to open these family
run markets and were making heavy cash payments to "irregular" lenders
to stay afloat.
also knew that Dominican political and business organizations
which had donated heavily to the campaign of Mayor David
Dinkins were connected to the bodegas. But what he didn't
know as he began the simple and straight forward process
of approaching bodega owners and asking for consent to search
their premises, was that he had taken on the Democratic
political machine of New York City, the Dominican drug cartel,
the Dominican Revolutionary Party and the Central Intelligence
Bodega was hugely successful. In one bust alone Occhipinti
and crew came across a duffel bag containing more than $130,000
earmarked for a mysterious legal loan sharking operation
out of Greenwich Connecticut called Sea Crest trading. Sea
Crest has since been linked by a number of law enforcement
sources, to the Central Intelligence Agency. In an additional
head-scratching irony, other bodegas connected both to Sea
Crest and Islamic terrorists were suspected of raising money
to build bombs through fraudulent food coupon schemes. One
of those bombs blew up at the World Trade Center in 1993.
Sea Crest, according to published reports, has accepted
food coupons as interest payments on its loans. Working
closely with special prosecutors, including Assistant DA
John F. Kennedy, Jr., Occhipinti began to make a real dent
in some well established business operations in New York
after more than forty arrests and the seizure of more than
a million dollars in drug cash, Project Bodega threatened
the cash stability of the Dominican cartels and their relationships
in the ecostructure of the northeast, a Dominican front
group of businessmen (many with DEA documented links to
the cartel) turned on the heat with Mayor Dinkins.
In April, 1990 Dinkins, who had benefited from Dominican
largesse, started accusing Occhipinti of engaging in a Republican
backed conspiracy to interfere with the voter registration
and civil rights of Dominicans. Federal Civil Rights
complaints followed, along with investigations by the U.S.
Attorney's office. By March of 1991, after tremendous pressure
and harassment, Occhipinti was indicted on 25 counts of
violating the civil rights of 12 plaintiffs.
trial was a sham and the abuses of law were so egregious
as to arouse widespread support for the beleaguered agent.
Exclusionary rules were ignored. Defense witnesses were
intimidated. As Joe struggled to stop the eight hundred
pound gorilla bashing him around the zoo, and friends came
to help, one lawyer and one journalist were brutally murdered.
Conflicts of interest were overlooked. Perjured affidavits
were allowed and, after Occhipinti's lawyer suffered a
breakdown, the judge publicly humiliated the attorney and
refused to allow him to withdraw from the case.
was not without support from fellow law enforcement professionals.
According to Joe, one staunch supporter who suffered was
retired FBI Assistant Director Jim Fox, who ran the World
Trade Center bombing investigation. According to Occhipinti, "Fox publicly stated that there was evidence of my
innocence. When he refused to recant his public statement
he was suspended two months before his retirement. He was
a real stand-up guy!" But the result was a foregone
conclusion. Joe was going to jail. Get out of the way.
was interesting was that the civil rights violations alleged
at trial did not include a single act of brutality, violence,
corruption or dishonesty. The sentence was unheard of. In
June of 1991, Occhipinti was sentenced to a 37 month prison
term for civil rights violations and thrown into a prison
housing many of the Dominican drug lords he had once investigated.
public pressure from political figures, mostly Republican,
and journalists including Mike McAlary of the New York Post
mounted, President George Bush commuted Occhipinti's sentence
in January, 1993. Savaged by the ordeal, a graying law enforcement
hero moved to New Jersey with his wife and three daughters
and tried to clear his name.
Truck That Hit Him
reviewing more than two hundred pages of documents supplied
by Occhipinti, conducting our own interviews and speaking
with Joe directly several times it is apparent that Joe
walked right into a buzz saw from which he had no real hopes
of escape. In this writer's opinion the only thing that
really let Joe get out of prison alive was the fact that,
if he did not, the myth of the rule of law in this country
would have been forever shattered. Every law enforcement
officer in the country who heard Joe's story would have
had no reason to go to work and, with good reason, probably
would have refused to do so.
way the drug ecosystem works is that Dominican immigrants,
whether legal or not, using forged ID papers regularly enter
the U.S. and congregate in communities like New York's Washington
Heights. Those who can pass muster as legal residents are
often encouraged to open local bodegas. The first problem
they encounter is that they can obtain no credit. In steps
one of the loan shark lenders like Sea Crest who charge
rates of as high as fifty per cent a year on the loans necessary
to get started. Payments too high? Not selling enough Bud
to pay $2,000 a week interest? No problem. The Dominican
drug lords can fix you up. All you have to do is launder
money from drug sales and take your cut off the top. Sea
Crest accepts payments in cash (or food stamps) and it can
even transfer money back to the Dominican Republic.
you don't want to launder drug money you can serve as a
stash pad for drugs, or guns, and get paid for that. You
can also become a contracted wire service outlet that sends
money back home to your family and the drug lords there.
much money is involved? Well, according to one DEA report,
released under a Freedom of Information Act Request, Sea
Crest has been the lion in the documented moving of as
as $500 million in bodega booty. Not bad for a few 7-11
stores. DEA is quite emphatic that this is only what they
have documented. The DEA report [File GFCT-92-4001] also
states quite clearly that Sea Crest, which has been targeted
by a fistful of agencies then laments that investigations
are routinely "hampered and legislatively fought by
certain interest groups and not a single case has been
news story we reviewed, every interview reported and Joe
Occhipinti himself says that the "interest group" is
the CIA. That's largely because, no one else would have
the clout to keep law enforcement away from Sea Crest's
drug bosses hurt by Occhipinti's investigations were also
no strangers to politics. One group, The Federation of
Businessmen and Industrialists, was, on the one hand, full
of documented drug traffickers and, on the other hand,
generously to local Democratic politicians - including
Any industry moving more than a half billion dollars through
one borough of the city has clout. And the Dominicans
are no strangers to the ways of corruption. They vote too.
But more importantly it is imperative to understand what
happens to the hundreds of millions of dollars sent back
to the impoverished island which the DR shares with Haiti.
quick check with a couple of sources confirmed my suspicions.
The Dominicans don't stuff the money in their mattresses,
nor do they put it all in Swiss bank accounts. As FTW described
last month, off shore banking washes drug money a second
time before sending it right back into New York banking
and investment operations where it buys even more power
for Dominicans by giving them status as investors and board
does the CIA get out of this? Lots of cash. Absolute economic
and political control of a poor country close to home. They
get a kind of sting operation that attracts all sorts of
shady characters who know they can get away with schemes
at the local bodega. (This was probably how CIA was tracking
some of the Islamic terrorists it had helped to create).
But there is yet another twist and that takes us back to
HUD and ethnic cleansing in America.
the May issue, From The Wilderness printed
an exclusive article by Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant
Secretary of Housing under George Bush and previously a
Managing Director of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon
Read. In that article, Fitts described a pattern of home
loan mortgage defaults which she connected to the crack
cocaine epidemic that ravaged Los Angeles in the 1980s.
Then she made a strong case that the destruction of property
values was an intended program of ethnic cleansing which
made millions of dollars in profits for people who later
came along and scooped up abandoned homes for pennies on
retired NYPD detective who has worked on several major
and corruption cases, which later connected directly to
the CIA, has told FTW that in the late seventies and early
eighties he conducted investigations leading to real estate
scams allegedly run by political allies and contributors
to, that's right - David Dinkins. In those cases, pertaining
to upper Manhattan and the Bronx, certain minority owned
neighborhoods were specifically targeted for drugs and
to drive down property values and force people to move
that speculators could buy the property, clean it up and
make millions. The speculators would, of course, then "donate
heavily to Dinkins' various campaigns." According to
Occhipinti, "The illegal use of bodegas, travel agencies
etc has expanded into the black community." Surprise,
basically ticked off everybody there was to tick off. And
when it came time to take him out, nobody objected. Remember
who was President in 1989, 90, 91? It was George Bush,
CIA was protecting the traffic. Everybody had something
to lose in New York if one dedicated and talented cop -
with the big heart he has - was allowed to do his job. And
there's a good reason why George Bush, leaving office in
1993 with the horrible stench of Iran-Contra cocaine would
love to have a guy like Occhipinti in his debt. Joe's investigations
led more closely to the Democratic machine of New York than
the White House. Regular readers of FTW will recall
that Bill Clinton blackmailed his way out of the impeachment
by blackmailing the Republicans with a finished document
on their deeds in Iran-Contra. The concept is just like
nuclear war and it's called Mutually Assured Destruction.
I assure you that George Bush is familiar with it.
before and after Joe's sentence was commuted a number of
state, local and national political figures went to bat
for him. Some, like Congressman Jim Trafficant (D),
Ohio are still working on Joe's behalf today. They have
had little success. "We have gotten nowhere with the
current Administration," said Paul Marcone, Washington
Chief of Staff to Traficant. Not only is Traficant's office
continuing in its attempts to secure clemency for Occhipinti,
it has sponsored legislation in the last three Congresses
to enable the appointment of an Independent Counsel in cases
of misconduct by U.S. attorneys. According to Marcone, "Reno
sides with the career attorneys every time because if they
admitted they were wrong, just once, the whole thing would
come apart. The Occhipinti case is just the tip of the iceberg."
Expressing frustration over the years of fruitless efforts
on Occhipinti's behalf Marcone added, "The only thing
Joe was guilty of was putting bad guys in jail. If it can
happen to Joe it can happen to anyone. But even with all
of the Congressman's work we have gotten nowhere. It just
wears you down after a while."
of pages of DEA and other law enforcement files, including
affidavits and investigative reports suppressed at trial
were read into the Congressional Record by Traficant -
a statement suggesting that Traficant had ulterior motives
in assisting Occhipinti. Resolutions were passed, local
politicians signed on and a serious drive was underway
get Joe a new trial. Joe persisted in that effort, with
heart, until 1995. But his lessons did not stop.
became apparent to him over time, not all who came to his
aid with assistance and advice were purely altruistic. Some
sources have alleged that Trafficant, who was allegedly
trying to escape from an indictment from Janet Reno's Justice
Department, used the information gleaned from Joe's case
to end the investigation. Marcone emphatically denied that
assertion and pointed to a flawed prosecution by the FBI,
which resulted in an easy acquittal on corruption charges
stemming from Traficant's service as a
in Ohio. The source who made the allegations against Traficant
is, however, directly related to an attorney in the Rose
Law firm who was prosecuted by Ken Starr. No wonder Joe
great irony of this story is that in a 1994 story on Joe,
The New American reported on the relationship
Occhipinti and John F. Kennedy, Jr. "He [JFK, Jr.]
knew and occasionally conversed with Occhipinti's wife
and on one occasion sent a handwritten note to the children."
The New American story added that Occhipinti was
saddened because JFK, Jr. had not come forward to protest
Joe's obvious innocence and how his legal team was considering
issuing a subpoena if a new trial were granted. That issue
was rendered moot, not by John-John's death but by Joe's
told FTW, "Please realize that in 1995 I decided to
discontinue my efforts to expose the drug cartel conspiracy
after it became evident that there were very powerful special
interest groups that were stonewalling our efforts for Congressional
hearings and the designation of a Special Prosecutor."
Asked if "special interests" meant CIA, Joe responded,
"CIA and politicians at the highest level are the
ones who could have contained these investigations and
they might lead."
has since founded the National Police Defense Foundation,
supported by Traficant as Honorary Chairman, which is dedicated
to protecting honest cops who find themselves in the similar
predicaments. One of his first cases was that of a Pennsylvania
State Attorney General narcotics investigator named "Sparky"
who is every bit as tough as Joe. In next month's issue
we will bring you John "Sparky" McGlaughlin's
story which will take the Dominican Drug lords, an allegedly
Communist Dominican political party, the CIA and lots of
money directly to the doorstep of Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
This time, CIA agents actually surfaced in attempt to kill
investigations. They, showed ID, left memos, evidence and
nearly destroyed the life of another dedicated cop who,
to this day, refuses to give in.
more information on the tax exempt National Police Defense
Foundation contact Joe Occhipinti at 1-888-SAFECOP or e-mail
him at [email protected] I sure wish I had had someone like
Joe around for me in 1977.]
York Post - Oct. 9,10,11, 1991
Hartford Courant - 8/16 & 17/98
New American - Feb. 21, 1994
York Daily News - 7/4/94
County Times - 10/16/95
York Post - 4/26/95