Subject: more S&L links CIA money laundering
Keywords: more of Pete Brewton's uncovering of CIA-MOB-S&L connections
The following article appeared in the August edition of "The Monthly
Planet, a publication of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze of Santa Cruz
County, Box 8463, Santa Cruz, CA 95061, 408/429-8755. This is a
very useful and informative alternative media source offering an 11-
issue/year subscriptions for $15. ($10 for student/senior/low income)
CIA Links to the Savings & Loan Scandal
by Joseph A. Palermo
The federal government is now just beginning to sift through the
wreckage of what appears to be the largest crime in American history.
The Office of Thrift Supervision, which oversees the nation's savings
and loans, is barely able to record the collapse of over 1,300
financial institutions, let alone do anything to arrest it. Congress
has done little to spotlight the full scope of the savings and loan
fraud, even though it has estimated the cost to taxpayers will be $500
billion over the next 40 years. In other words, it will cost every
American man, woman, and child at least $2,000 to pay for what "Time"
magazine called "a decade-long orgy" of wild spending and speculation
resulting in the establishment of government guarantees that
"privatized profits and socialized losses."
The Justice Department estimates that massive fraud caused the
failure of 450 savings and loans seized so far by the federal
government. It also estimates that it will take over five years to
prosecute the 100 institutions on its priority list. Most of the
money lost in S&L failures has yet to be traced to its ultimate
destination. Worthless loans, kickbacks, false appraisals, and
insider fraud have accounted for much of the misspent funds. Federal
and congressional investigators who have the subpoena power to trace
the money have shown little interest in doing so. Federal regulatory
agencies have suffered enormous cutbacks in recent years as part of
the Reagan-Bush legacy of deregulation, and are hopelessly
understaffed and underfunded to take on a financial crisis of this
magnitude. Most of the billions of dollars "lost" have been so
expertly laundered or tied to assets through shell companies and off-
shore banks that the Justice Department predicts that hundreds of
cases will go unprosecuted. Criminal activity was the primary cause
in the collapse of two of every five S&Ls that failed.
A significant number of insolvent thrifts which could cost taxpayers
as much as $75 billion have been linked to the activities of organized
crime figures and CIA operatives. In a series of articles published
in the "Houston Post" earlier this year, investigative reporter Pete
Brewton unearthed numerous ties with the CIA, the Mafia, or both in
the failure of at least 25 savings and loans, including 16 in Texas.
Some of the players have also been involved in gun-running, drug-
smuggling, money laundering, and covert aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.
Fraud was the key factor in the failure of each of these S&Ls.
Richard Brenneke, a CIA contract agent for eighteen years and a
Portland, Oregon arms dealer, testified during a federal court trial
in Denver in 1988 that the CIA effort to raise money for covert
operations involves a number of schemes to siphon funds from financial
institutions "at the expense of an insurance company," meaning the
federal deposit insurance program. After the trial, Brenneke told the
"Houston Post" that banking and S&L officials involved in such schemes
were required to sign "secrecy agreements" with the CIA.
Evidence obtained from court documents, sworn testimony, law
enforcement records and interviews with government investigators and
prosecutors suggests that the CIA may have used part of the proceeds
from S&L fraud to help pay for covert operations and other activities
that Congress was unwilling to support. Brewton following an 18-month
investigation, also found evidence that the CIA may have intervened in
criminal investigations involving agency operatives accused of S&L
Lloyd Monroe, a former prosecutor with the Justice Department's
organized crime strike force, said federal agencies responsible for
investigating S&L fraud are "being precluded from investigating
wrongdoing that is possibly being conducted in the name of national
security." The former prosecutor said he was told by FBI agents to
drop an investigation of one individual connected to bank failure
because that individual had "CIA connections" and therefore held a
"get-out-of-jail-free card." A former FBI agent has corroborated the
Brewton's articles in the "Houston Post" eventually caught the
attention of Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-IL) who chairs the financial
institutions subcommittee of the House Banking, Finance and Urban
Affairs Committee. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over all
legislation affecting banks, thrifts, credit unions and the federal
agencies that regulate them. Annunzio has asked CIA Director William
Webster to appear before the panel in a closed-door session to address
the evidence of CIA involvement in S&L fraud. But CIA Director
Webster has refused to testify before Annunzio's subcommittee and the
CIA has only provided vague denials of its involvement through its
public relations office.
In response to the allegations, CIA spokesperson Mark Mansfield said
that S&L fraud "would be a violation of U.S. laws, and we do not
violate U.S. laws." CIA Public Affairs Director James Greenleaf sent
a letter to the "Houston Post" in response to Brewton's article of
February 4, 1990, which first made the connection between the CIA and
some failed thrifts, stating that "for the record, such a claim is not
true; the CIA would not participate in fraudulent activities."
Because CIA Director Webster refused to testify and because Rep.
Annunzio's subcommittee staff is limited, Annunzio has asked Rep.
Anthony Beilenson (who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence, which has jurisdiction over the CIA) to undertake a
complete investigation of the various allegations involving the CIA
and failed financial institutions. Annunzio wrote to Beilenson: "In
the face of the billions of dollars that are being paid to protect
depositors, we cannot allow any suggestion that the Central
Intelligence Agency was behind the failure of any financial
institution not to be investigated." Annunzio also wrote referring to
the derailed criminal investigations, "I do not think a well-respected
former justice Department prosecutor and a former FBI agent would make
up something so serious as the CIA charges." The CIA has promised to
"fully cooperate" with any investigation by the intelligence
If the intelligence committee decides to pursue a serious
investigation, a number of connections between individual CIA
operatives, organized crime figures, and failed financial institutions
will have to be explored. For example, Robert L. Corson, a Houston
developer connected with the fraud-related failures of several S&Ls,
has been identified by a former CIA operative as a "mule," meaning
that he carried large sums of unaccountable cash from country to
country for the agency. The CIA would neither confirm nor deny whether
Corson had a relationship with the agency, a common agency practice.
Lawrence Freeman, a lawyer who helped engineer a fraudulent Florida
land transaction that caused the collapse of two savings and loans,
allegedly has ties to both the CIA and organized crime. Freeman, a
twice-convicted money launderer, has ties to the CIA dating back to
the early 1960s when he worked with the late Paul Helliwell.
Helliwell was a top officer in southeast Asia in World War II with the
Office of Strategic Services, the wartime predecessor of the CIA, and
was a close associate of the late William Casey, Reagan's CIA
director. Helliwell was a founding member of the CIA and participated
in many covert operations including efforts to overthrow Cuban leader
Fidel Castro. Freeman and Helliwell were senior partners in Castle
Bank and Trust in the Bahamas during the early 1970s when it was used
by the CIA and organized crime to launder money. Freeman pleaded
guilty to laundering money for a convicted drug smuggler and was
sentenced to three years in prison. He is now out on parole but is
barred from practicing law.
Freeman and Helliwell's Castle Bank and Trust folded in 1977,
following Helliwell's death. According to journalist Jonathan Kwitny,
the author of "The Crimes of Patriots," it was then that the CIA and
the Mafia turned over their money laundering operations to the
infamous Nugan Hand Bank in Australia and to companies in the English
Channel tax haven of the Isle of Jersey. Freeman allegedly wired
millions of dollars to shell companies on the island as part of the
land transaction that played a role in the failure of two thrifts.
Some of the money from this deal may have been diverted for use in
CIA-sponsored covert operations. Officers of these companies were
also reportedly used by Freeman to launder drug smuggling proceeds.
But Freeman's biggest money laundering client, according to Florida
Department of Law Enforcement records, was an organized crime figure
called "the Cobra" by Freeman and his associates. Law enforcement
sources in Florida and Texas have identified "the Cobra" as Mafia boss
Santo Trafficante of Tampa, who died in 1987. Trafficante's
involvement in the CIA's attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro in the
early 1960s is well documented. During this period, he was also
involved with Helliwell in CIA-sponsored anti-Castro activities.
A close associate of Trafficante who also participated in CIA anti-
Castro plots was New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. Marcello has
extensive business ties with fellow Louisiana organized crime figure
Herman Beebe. Beebe pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with a loan
at State Savings in Dallas and has twice been successfully prosecuted.
He was involved in a scheme in the early 1970s to smuggle guns and
explosives to anti-Castro Cubans operating in Mexico. Beebe also had
business dealings with Edward "Fast Eddie" Susalla, whose son Scott
pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine in 1985 in one of the largest
drug busts in southern California history.
It was Herman Beebe who provided the seed capital for the creation
of Palmer National Bank in Washington, D.C., which was controlled by
two officials of the George Bush 1980 presidential campaign, Stefan
Halper and Harvey McLean. Halper was policy director for Bush's 1980
campaign, while McLean was southern finance chairman and a Bush
fundraiser. McLean became a major player in a number of failed
savings and loans in Texas where fraud was a factor and has been
placed in involuntary bankruptcy. McLean owned Paris Savings and Loan
in Paris, Texas, which failed in 1988 and was merged with 11 other
insolvent Texas S&Ls at a total cost to the federal government of $1.3
billion. The "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" reported that
Palmer National Bank actively arranged loans for wealthy, right-wing
Republicans and their pet projects. Halper and McLean first met while
they were working on the Bush 1988 presidential campaign. Palmer
National loaned money to individuals and organizations that were
involved in covert aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.
In February 1985 the National Endowment for the Preservation of
Liberty (NEPL), a conservative foundation run by Iran-Contra figure
Carl "Spitz" Channell, secured $650,000 from Palmer National to
illegally purchase weapons for the Nicaraguan Contras. Channell was
one of the few private citizens convicted of crimes in the Iran-Contra
scandal. He was the first to plead guilty to illegal activities in
the scandal, and was placed on two years' probation for illegally
using NEPL to help Oliver North raise donations for military supplies
for the Contras. Channell recently died of pneumonia while recovering
from a car accident.
The money went through NEPL's account at Palmer National to a Swiss
bank account used by North for Contra funding and the secret arms
deals with Iran. NEPL raised about $10 million for the Contras after
Congress had banned such military aid. While Stefan Halper was
helping NEPL secure loans at Palmer National to buy guns for the
Contras, his father-in-law Ray Cline, a former deputy director of
intelligence in the CIA, was an adviser to a firm associated with
retired Major General John Singlaub, one of the principal leaders of
private efforts to supply the Contras.
In addition, the National Conservative Political Action Committee
(NCPAC) borrowed more than $400,000 from Palmer National, as did
political action committees for Senator Bob Dole (R-KS.) and then-Rep.
Jack Kemp (R-NY). Palmer National co-founder Halper also helped set
up Oliver North's legal defense fund. Halper's name appears in
North's final entry in his White House notebook the day he was fired
by the president on November 25, 1986, under the heading "Legal
Defense Fund." "Ollie is a friend of mine and at the time I thought
we might be able to help him," Halper later recalled. Finally, Palmer
National, although still solvent, held a $250,000 note on a California
beach house that was used by organized crime associates and figured in
the criminal convictions of two savings and loan figures.
Halper's connections to the intelligence community were primarily
through his former father-in-law Cline, a career CIA officer. Cline
became a top foreign policy and defense adviser to George Bush during
the 1980 campaign. According to an article which appeared in the
"Village Voice" in 1988, when Bush was seeking the Republican
presidential nomination, Cline boasted during the 1980 primaries that
he intended to "organize something like one of my old CIA staffs" to
help Bush win. The "New York Times" reported that Bush, who was CIA
director from January 1976 to January 1977, received offers of
campaign assistance from many former CIA officials. The "Village
Voice" reported that even active CIA agents may have worked for the
Some key operatives who were linked to the CIA and played
significant roles in failed thrifts in Texas also worked for George
Bush's Presidential campaign. For example, Halper, in addition to
being a co-founder of Palmer National Bank and policy director for the
Bush campaign, was allegedly part of the Reagan-Bush election team
that participated in the October 1980 Paris negotiations with
representatives of Iran that has come to be known as the "October
Halper worked with long-time CIA official Robert Gambino in an
intelligence operation guided by Reagan-Bush campaign director William
Casey (who went on to become CIA director). According to former CIA
agent Richard Brenneke and several independent researchers, there was
a secret effort by the Reagan-Bush campaign to make contacts with
Iranian government officials to offer arms and other concessions if
Iran agreed to hold the American hostages until after Jimmy Carter's
defeat in the November 1980 election, thus avoiding an "October
Surprise" release of the hostages. William Casey, Richard Allen (who
became Reagan's first National Security Adviser), George Bush, and
Stefan Halper were all allegedly involved in the plan, which involved
super-secret meetings in Paris in October 1980.
Halper also emerged as a key figure in the so-called "Debategate"
scandal. A House subcommittee concluded that James Baker, who was in
charge of the Reagan debate group, obtained then-President Jimmy
Carter's briefing materials for the upcoming debates with Ronald
Reagan from William Casey, who was then the Reagan-Bush campaign
director. Someone within the Carter White House pilfered Carter's
debate briefing notes and passed them on to the Reagan-Bush team.
Halper allegedly played a role in both the "October Surprise" and
"Debategate," and was rewarded after the election with the appointment
of Deputy Director of Politico-Military Affairs for the State
Department. William Casey went on to become CIA director, James Baker
became Reagan's chief of staff, then Treasury Secretary, and then
Bush's Secretary of State. Baker was instrumental in first bringing
Halper into the Reagan-Bush campaign.
Meanwhile, charges of conflict of interest against Neil Bush, the
President's son, will be taken up at a September hearing by federal
regulators. The younger Bush served on the board of directors of
Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association of Denver, Colorado,
which collapsed in December 1988 at an estimated cost to taxpayers of
$1.3 billion. The charges accuse Bush of voting to loan over $100
million to business associates who subsequently defaulted, and failing
to properly disclose the extent of his business dealings with the
borrowers. Federal regulators may file a $200 million lawsuit against
Neil Bush and other Silverado directors and officers. The Office of
Thrift Supervision released documents stating that the 34-year-old
Bush was "unqualified and untrained" to be a director of Silverado.
"He had no experience managing a large corporation, especially a
financial institution with almost $2 billion in assets," the OTS
With the president's son involved in the failure of one of the
larger S&Ls, the crisis has received more attention in Washington and
in the media. So far both Democrats and Republicans have pointed the
finger at each other. Democratic National Committee Chair Ron Brown
said that Republicans cannot escape the fact that "George Bush, Ronald
Reagan and their high-roller friends ran the government, designed the
S&L policy and handpicked the people that gutted the oversight
agencies. They are now being forced to take responsibility for the
greatest rip-off in American history." It will be difficult for the
Republicans to skirt this issue in the upcoming mid-term elections and
therefore the savings and loan crisis may have immediate political
effects. Time will tell whether or not the American taxpayer will be
able to bear the burden of yet another expensive scandal.
Joseph A. Palermo teaches United States History at Hartnell
Community College in Salinas, and Gavilan Community College in Gilroy.
yer friendly neighborhood ratman
ko.yan.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi Language) n. 1. crazy life. 2. life
in turmoil. 3. life out of balance. 4. life disintegrating.
5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.
The following article, summarizing Pete Brewton's, ("Houston Post's"
investigative reporter) continuing examination of CIA and organized
crime involvement in the failure of various S&Ls, appeared in
"IN THESE TIMES", July 18-31, and is reprinted here with permission.
One White House, many gates
By Joel Bleifuss
The "Houston Post"'s Pete Brewton continues to report on CIA and
organized crime involvement in the failure of 25 federally insured
financial institutions, the bailout of which will cost the taxpayers an
estimated $75 billion. Though this time the money trail leads straight
to the White House door, the papers of record--the "New York Times,"
"Washington Post" and "Los Angeles Times," upon which we must
unfortunately depend to set the national agenda--continue to ignore the
"Houston Post" series. Brewton's latest installment details the story
of a solvent institution, the Palmer National Bank of Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1983 by two men active in George Bush's failed 1980
presidential campaign, Palmer was the bank of choice for right-wing
organizations and Republican officials. The National Conservative
Political Action Committee borrowed more than $400,000 from Palmer. It
also lent money to PACs headed by Republicans Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas
and former Rep. Jack Kemp of New York. And Palmer was one of the
financial institutions where convicted Irangate felon Oliver North's
contra-aid network stashed its cash. Palmer has assets of less than
$100 million, a surprisingly meager amount for a bank that occupies a
modern 11-story building three blocks from the White House.
IRANGATE: Brewton reports that in February 1985, the contra-support
organization National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty (NEPL)
opened its first of four accounts at Palmer. In April 1986, NEPL
transferred $650,000 from one of those accounts to a Swiss bank account
that North used to deal arms to Iran and thus fund the contras. NEPL
was founded by the late Carl "Spitz" Channell, who died this year of
pneumonia. This crack fundraiser brought in about $10 million for the
ClA's anti-Sandinista army, including $5 million that Channell charmed
out of two right-wing dowagers whom he code-named "Dog Face" and "Ham
Hocks." As a token of NEPL's appreciation, large donors were able to
meet privately with then-President Reagan. After the Iran-contra
scandal broke, it was discovered that not all the NEPL money had reached
the contras--some of it had been siphoned off for Channell's and his
boyfriend's personal use. But Channell was not sentenced to two years'
probation for this diversion of funds. (Contra dollars were used to
purchase silk underwear and a condo, among other things.) He was
convicted for helping the Reagan-Bush White House arm the contras at a
time when Congress had outlawed such military support.
A HALPER HAND: Brewton reports that a former high-level Palmer employee
told him that Channell established his NEPL accounts at Palmer with the
help of Stefan Halper, one of the bank's two founders and a friend of
North's. Halper was policy director of Bush's 1980 presidential
campaign. Halper was connected to the intelligence community through
his father-in-law, Ray Cline, a former CIA deputy director who also
advised Bush during his 1980 campaign. The "Village Voice" reported in
1988, "Any inquiry into the 1980 Bush campaign would have to begin with
Dr. Ray S. Cline. ... Cline boasted during the primaries that he
intended to 'organize something like one of my old CIA staffs' to help
DEBATEGATE: Well, Bush didn't win, but the Reagan-Bush ticket did.
When Reagan named Bush as his running mate, Halper was brought on the
1980 Reagan-Bush campaign by another former Bush campaign official,
James Baker, current secretary of state. According to a 1983 story in
the "New York Times," Halper's role on the campaign was to gather
intelligence on then-President Jimmy Carter's foreign-policy objectives.
The "Times" reported that Halper was assisted by retired CIA officers
and quoted an unnamed source in the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign as saying,
"There was some CIA stuff coming from Halper, and some agency guys were
hired." Halper was particularly interested in Carter's attempts to gain
the release of the 52 American hostages held in Iran prior to the
November election. (Hostagegate: It has been alleged that the 1980
Reagan-Bush campaign cut a secret arms-for-hostages deal with the
government of Iran to keep the hostages held in Iran until after the
election to prevent Carter from benefiting from their pre-election
release. See "In Short," June 24, 1987, Oct. 12, 1988, and "The First
Stone," May 9 and 16). Halper's intelligence-gathering work during the
1980 Reagan-Bush campaign apparently involved the theft of the Carter
campaign's debate briefing books, a scandal that came to be known as
Debategate. The Reagan-Bush campaign used these books to prepare its
candidate for the 1980 presidential debates. The man in charge of the
Reagan debate team was Baker, whose name has come up as a likely
Republican candidate for president in 1996.
A BANK IS BORN: After the 1980 election, the Reagan administration
appointed Halper deputy director of the State Department's Bureau of
Politico-Military Affairs, the division of the State Department
responsible for international weapons-trading and military exercises
oversees. Brewton reports that Halper left the State Department in 1983
to become chairman of Palmer National Bank. Halper founded Palmer with
Harvey McLean Jr., a man he had met during the 1980 Bush campaign. The
"New York Times" has described McLean as "a Dallas real-estate developer
who was Southern finance chairman for George Bush's campaign for the
Republican presidential nomination in 1980." Halper and McLean came up
with their idea for Palmer National Bank during a State Department
business trip to Southeast Asia on which McLean accompanied Halper.
Halper told Brewton the following story: "Somewhere over the Pacific,
we got into a conversation about banking. Now, mind you, I had never
been a banker. I was one of those guys who had a checking account with
$71.38 in it, and banks frightened me a little bit. But Harvey said,
'Well, got to have a good bank in Washington.' He was sort of bemoaning
the fact that banks were not as strong or responsive as they should be.
And as the conversation unfolded, he basically said, 'Look, if you'll
create the bank I'll put up the money.'" McLean certainly had access to
money at that time. Brewton reports that McLean owned Paris Savings and
Loan of Paris, Texas. During the '80s McLean also borrowed more than
$38 million from three other S&Ls--Vernon Savings and Independent
American Savings in Dallas and Continental Savings in Houston. All four
later failed, and the latter three are included on Brewton's list of
failed S&Ls that had links to the mob and the CIA. In 1989 federal
receivers placed McLean in involuntary bankruptcy.
S&LGATE: Brewton reports that when Palmer National Bank was founded, it
was not McLean who put up the money but Herman K. Beebe Sr., a shadowy
Louisiana organized-crime figure who was a close friend and business
associate of McLean. Brewton reports that Beebe has numerous
connections to New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, associations with
Mafia families in New York and California and links to the Teamsters.
In 1983 Beebe loaned McLean and Halper $2.8 million from his Bossier
Bank and Trust in Shreveport, La. This loan provided the majority of
the money that was used to initially capitalize Palmer. A 1985 report
by the comptroller of the currency listed Palmer as one of 12 national
banks that Beebe has possible influence or control over. Further, Beebe
has been implicated in the failure of at least 12 savings and loans
(including Vernon Savings in Dallas and Continental Savings in Houston).
In April 1985, just after Beebe had been convicted of defrauding the
Small Business Administration and two months before the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation shut down Bossier, the $2.8 million loan from
Bossier that established Palmer was transferred to San Jacinto Savings
of Beaumont, Texas.
GOING, GOING ...: San Jacinto, a subsidiary of the Dallas-based real-
estate investment firm Southmark Funding, is now on the verge of
collapse. When San Jacinto topples, federal regulators say its bailout
could cost taxpayers more than the estimated $2 billion that was paid to
bail out Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings of Irvine, Calif., which
currently holds the honor of being the most expensive S&L failure.
Brewton reports that in September 1988 an S&L regulator in Dallas wrote
to Darrel Dochow, a federal bank regulator, expressing concerns about
the "significant number and volume" of loans between Silverado Savings
of Denver (Neil Bush's failed S&L) and M.D.C. Holdings of Denver (owned
by Colorado GOP fundraiser Larry Miezel) and between San Jacinto Savings
of Houston and Lincoln Savings of Irvine, Calif. The regulator also
said he was concerned about "the apparent shifting of such loans among
ANOTHER HALPER HAND: Brewton reports that Halper left his position as
chairman of Palmer early in 1985 to become chairman of National Bank of
Northern Virginia. Halper, however, did not sever his ties with his
friend Oliver North. In the last entry of North's diary--dated Nov.
25, 1986, the day that the lieutenant colonel was fired by the president
he had served so faithfully--North wrote "Legal Defense Fund--Stefan
Halper, Chris Lehman [a Halper associate]." As Halper told Brewton, "We
got trustees and put it in place."
WHAT'S IN A NAME
The following acronymic ranting is a work by Brian Zick, who paints
pictures for a living at his home on the edge of Hollywood.
Clouseau Imitation Award Convoluted Implausible Alibi
Cultivated Instability Achieved Credibility Isn't American
Cold-war Intentionally Aggravated Congenital Insatiable Avarice
Collusion Insures Amnesty Clowns Implementing Armageddon
Congressional Intimidation Artists Certifiably Insane Agenda
Cryptic Incoherence Articulated Constitution Infringement Authority
Cocaine Import Associates Constantly Incorrect Analysis
Citizens Intelligence Assaulted Credit Institutions Acquired
Concoct Incredible Antipathy Coverup Is Automatic
yer friendly neighborhood ratman
ko.yan.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi Language) n. 1. crazy life. 2. life
in turmoil. 3. life out of balance. 4. life disintegrating.
5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.