Found at http://www.sjmercury.com/drugs/postscript.htm, where you can also view the underl
Found at http://www.sjmercury.com/drugs/postscript.htm, where you can
also view the underlying search warrant and affidavit.
Allan J. Favish
Affidavit: Cops knew of drug ring
Document sheds light on Contra-cocaine link
Published: Oct. 3, 1996
BY GARY WEBB
AND PAMELA KRAMER
Mercury News Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES -- During the early 1980s, federal and local
narcotics agents knew that a massive drug ring operated by
Nicaraguan Contra rebels was selling large amounts of
cocaine ''mainly to blacks living in the South-Central Los
Angeles area,'' according to a search-warrant affidavit
obtained by the Mercury News.
The Oct. 23, 1986, affidavit identifies former Nicaraguan
government official Danilo Blandon as ''the highest-ranking
member of this organization'' and describes a sprawling drug
operation involving more than 100 Nicaraguan Contra
The affidavit of Thomas Gordon, a former Los Angeles
County sheriff's narcotics detective, is the first
independent corroboration that the Contra army -- the
Nicaraguan Democratic Force -- was dealing cocaine to gangs
in Los Angeles' black neighborhoods. Known by its Spanish
initials, the FDN was an anti-communist commando group
formed and run by the CIA during the 1980s.
Gordon's sworn statement says that both the Drug
Enforcement Administration and the FBI had informants inside
the Blandon drug ring for several years before sheriff's
deputies raided it Oct. 27, 1986. Gordon's affidavit is
based on police interviews with those informants and one of
the DEA agents who was investigating Blandon.
Twice during the past year, Ron Spear, Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department spokesman, told the Mercury News that
his department had no records of the 1986 raids and
specifically denied having a copy of Gordon's search-warrant
affidavit -- even after two pages of it surfaced during the
March 1996 cocaine trafficking trial of legendary Los
Angeles ''crack'' cocaine dealer ''Freeway'' Rick Ross.
The Mercury News obtained the entire search warrant
affidavit this week.
Wednesday, Sheriff Sherman Block's office did not respond
to written questions about the raid, the warrant, records of
what was found and what happened to those records and
A recent Mercury News series revealed how Blandon's
operation, which sold thousands of kilos of cocaine to black
Los Angeles drug dealers such as Ross, created the first
mass market for cocaine in the United States during the
early 1980s and helped fuel a crack explosion that is still
reverberating through black communities. Several
investigations into U.S. government knowledge of, and
possible involvement with, the Nicaraguan drug ring are
under way. Both the CIA and the Justice Department have
denied government involvement.
Call to CIA headquarters
But according to a legal motion filed in a 1990 case
involving a deputy who helped execute the search warrants,
one of the suspects in the raid identified himself as a CIA
agent and asked police to call CIA headquarters in Virginia
to confirm his identity. The motion, filed by Los Angeles
defense attorney Harland W. Braun on behalf of Deputy Daniel
Garner, said the narcotics detectives allowed the man to
make the call but then carted away numerous documents
purportedly linking the U.S. government to cocaine
trafficking and money-laundering efforts on behalf of the
The motion said CIA agents appeared at the sheriff's
department within 48 hours of the raid and removed the
seized files from the evidence room. But Braun said
detectives secretly copied 10 pages before the documents
were spirited away. Braun attempted to introduce them in the
1990 criminal trial to force the federal government to back
off the case. Braun was hit with a gag order, the documents
were put under seal and Garner was convicted of corruption
Internal sheriff's department records of the raid
''mysteriously disappeared'' around the same time the seized
files were taken, Braun's motion said. That claim was
buttressed in an interview this week by an officer involved
in the raid, and earlier by an attorney for one of the
The officer, who would not allow himself to be identified,
said the alleged CIA agent was Ronald J. Lister, a former
Laguna Beach police detective who worked with Blandon in the
drug ring. The 1986 search-warrant affidavit identifies
Lister's home in Laguna Beach as one of the places searched.
It says Lister was involved in transporting drug money to
Miami and was Blandon's partner in a security company. The
company, according to a former employee, was doing work at a
Salvadoran military air base in the early 1980s. Lister
pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking in 1991.
A 1986 FBI report obtained from the National Archives last
year said Lister claimed his security business was ''CIA
Since at least 1983, Gordon's affidavit said, both Blandon
and Lister were under DEA investigation. Other court records
say Blandon turned up in DEA investigative files as early as
1981. Blandon now works for the DEA as an undercover
At Ross' trial in March, Blandon -- the Nicaraguan
government's director of wholesale markets under the U.S.-
supported dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza -- testified that
he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles branch of the
FDN, and that he sold cocaine to raise funds for that army.
Detective Gordon's 1986 search-warrant affidavit, which
was approved by Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Glenette
Blackwell, mirrors much of Blandon's sworn testimony last
''Informant #2 stated to your affiant that Blandon is a
'Contra' sympathizer and a founder of the ... (FDN), an
organization that assists the Contra movement with arms and
money,'' Gordon's affidavit states. ''The money and arms
generated by the organization come through sales of cocaine.
Informant #2 provided some 100 names of persons involved
with the distribution of cocaine. All of these persons are
either Nicaraguan and/or sympathizers to the Contra
The affidavit names Lister; Blandon's father, Julio; his
wife, Chepita; banker Orlando Murillo; and another man as
''being directly involved with cocaine distribution.''
'Up to 20 kilos a week'
The affidavit also said Blandon was delivering ''up to 20
kilos a week'' to a Nicaraguan cocaine dealer named Ivan
Arguellas ''who in turn sells mainly to blacks living in the
South-Central Los Angeles area.'' It said Blandon ''uses a
beer bar at Central Avenue and Adams Street in Los Angeles
to distribute as much as 10 kilos of cocaine per week.''
Arguellas was described as being ''confined to a wheelchair
as the result of being shot (in) a drug-related incident.''
During an interview with the Mercury News last year,
former Los Angeles crack king Ross said one of his first
cocaine sources was ''a guy named Ivan, who was in a
Gordon, like six of the seven other narcotics detectives
who staged the Blandon raids, was later indicted on federal
corruption charges in the early 1990s. After two trials,
including one in which he defended himself, Gordon was
convicted of one count of tax evasion. He could not be
reached for comment.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank