CIA Drug-Money Laundering
by Ace R. Hayes
Portland Free Press
May/June 1997

PFP Editor's note: PFP received the complete 50-page uncensored Brenneke deposition taken by Congressman William Alexander, 21 June 1991. It was faxed directly from the library at Arkansas State University, which holds the Alexander collection.

We herewith provide additional excerpts (see also "New York Mob at Mena," January/February 1997 issue). The questioner is Congressman Alexander; all answers are Mr. Brenneke's.

Before starting, two points need to be made. First, knowledge of drug-running through Mena, Arkansas has been known to the FBI and the head of the Arkansas State Police since January 1988 (see PFP November/December 1996, p. 11). The Arkansas Attorney General and Special Prosecutor Walsh have known of this since June 1991 (January/February 1997 PFP). How in the hell have the corporate media and government law enforcement succeeded in playing dumb for the past decade?

Second, the PFP is poor. We fund the magazine entirely out of subscriptions, occasional reader enthusiasm and our day jobs. We don't have a credit line or credit card to send some hot reporter down to the Dean Ellis Library at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, to spend a week or more reading the Alexander collection. This, however, should be the mother load of records and documents to blow the cover on the entire bipartisan kleptocracy.

All of the major media know this, from 60 Minutes to The Wall Street Journal. All are avoiding the Alexander collection like a mine field. The Inspectors General at the CIA and Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Justice, et al., damned well know what they are ignoring. Obstruction of justice seems as common in D.C. as wife-swapping in Hollywood.

But can the Republic survive terminal corruption?

Q. Now, I was asking you about whether or not the CIA had a "black bag" operation at Rich Mountain Aviation in Mena, Arkansas. And maybe a more interesting way to ask that question would be, you knew that you were dealing with criminals; is that correct?

A. That's correct, sir.

Q. You were dealing with criminals that were transporting and selling cocaine in the United States?

A. Yes.

Q. You were working for the federal government agency known as the Central Intelligence Agency. In a sort of man-on-the-street vernacular, how do you keep these guys honest? I mean, do you -- what precautions did you take and [sic] the CIA to know whether or not they were dealing with this cargo in the manner in which it was intended?

A. The general procedure and the procedure specifically used in the case of Rich Mountain Aviation was to go through the files from time to time to be sure that there were no papers being kept back that would link the CIA to the activities there, and if they were, they were removed from the file; and to look at such things as income tax returns and bank statements to make sure that the people with whom we were dealing were not stealing more than their fair share.

Q. We will -- and so you checked on Hampton, did you?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. And what did you discover?

A. I discovered that Mr. Hampton was not stealing more than his fair share, and in general was performing the services that he was -- that he had agreed to provide.

Q. Now, what had he agreed to provide?

A. He provided landing facilities, a place to store the aircraft, assistance with mechanical problems on the aircraft or avionics problems on the aircraft if they were necessary to get it out of there, a storage area for drugs that were brought in, a storage area for weapons that were taken out, a place where people could rest or wait for a truck to haul them out to Nella.

Q. And how much did the CIA pay him for his services?

A. I don't know the dollar figures. That's -- the figure I saw on his tax returns at one point indicated that he had received something in excess of $10,000.

Q. Who would have handled the payment to Hampton for the CIA?

A. My understanding was that the man I was working for at the time paid him, and that was Bob Kerritt.

Q. Bob Kerritt. Can you identify where he might reside?

A. Mr. Kerritt is a full-time employee of the Central Intelligence Agency; and when I first met him, I checked on that by waiting for him to return to Washington, calling Information in the D.C. area, got the phone number for the switchboard at the CIA, called and asked for him by name, and I got him.

Q. Okay. Now, how did you check on Reale; did you check on --

A. Well, I had already seen him. He and -- I mean, I had seen him in New York. I knew who he was. And, as I say, we'd been dealing with these folks in New York since 1968-69.

Q. When you say "we," you mean the Central Intelligence Agency?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, did the Gotti organizations, through Reale, pay money to the CIA for the drugs?

A. Yes, they did.

Q. Do you know how much money?

A. Firsthand knowledge, somewhere in the $50,000,000 bracket.

Q. How do you know how much money?

A. Because I banked that money for them in Panama City, and ultimately transferred it to other locations in Europe.

Q. Did they pay you in cash?

A. Yes, generally.

Q. And what do you mean "generally"; what other forms did they pay you in?

A. You're given -- I owned an aircraft in Mexico City for a while that was payment for some work I had done.

Q. I see.

A. Occasionally there were items like that.

Q. So what would be the procedure for you to receive the payment from the Gotti organization for the drugs?

A. Generally the money was -- okay. Let me restate that. The money was given to us in cash.

Q. "Us," you mean the CIA?

A. "Us" meaning the people I worked with, who were also associated with the Central Intelligence Agency. We would transfer that money to banks in Central and South America; and from there transfer it via accounts that I had established back in 1970 to -- they were accounts of which I was a beneficial holder and the named signee on it.

Q. Let's take a payment from Mr. Reale in cash, and follow the procedure step by step as you know it for the transmittal of that money from the Gotti organization to the Central Intelligence Agency.

A. Okay. That money was delivered to us in cash. There were -- there were occasions where there were wire transfers, but generally -- the generally followed method was cash. That would be stored in the aircraft on its return trip to Panama. Once it reached Panama, we would put it into a bank account, which at that time was in the Banquo DePanama.

Q. Banquo DePanama?

A. Yeah.

Q. All right.

A. And the account name was the initials IFMA, which was a company that I set up in Panama City in 1970, I believe; it may have been '69.

Q. Did you get a receipt for deposit?

A. No, sir. We would not get a receipt for deposit. The money would be deposited there, but it would be subsequently and then almost immediately transferred to -- the transfer points in general followed this way; they came -- it came to Spain or Liechtenstein, from there it went to either -- it went to Monte Carlo, and the ultimate destination was Zurich or Geneva but, in any case, Switzerland.

Q. The money was given to you by the Gotti -- the agent for the Gotti organization?

A. Yes, sir. And there were other people besides the man that I've named. And I'd have to see photographs, but I can surely pick them out for you.

Q. Well, we can return to the manner in which the money was transferred at a subsequent time. I'm trying here to identify the source of the money --

A. Yes.

Q. -- and the place that the money went to, and who received the money. And you have said that that went to the CIA?

A. To CIA accounts that I established on their behalf in the late sixties and early seventies. I still have the incorporation papers on them.

Q. How do you know that the money went to the CIA itself?

A. Because I would transfer personally that money out of that account into others.

Q. Did you ever talk to any people in the CIA about the money?

A. Sure. I talked to Mr. Kerritt from time to time, Mr. Ellis, who was also a controller, from time to time --

Q. Who is Mr. Ellis, can you tell us, and --

A. Ellis is an employee and was an associate of Mr. Kerritt's. Robert Ellis is his name, E-L-L-I-S. He was an associate of Kerritt's. The two used to work together frequently. (pp. 22-27)

Q. So you're saying that you were recruited by the CIA to organize and open accounts for the CIA for the purpose of laundering money?

A. That's correct.

Q. And how many accounts did you open for the CIA, and can you identify where those accounts were opened and in which banks?

A. Yes, I can. They were opened in Panama. The accounts -- or the companies -- if you wish, I will provide you with the Articles of Incorporation --

Q. Yes.

A. -- as they were drafted at that time.

Q. We will ask you to submit those as an exhibit to your testimony. And, of course, we will have to come together again in order for that to be presented -- those documents to be presented.

And just describe for the moment, since we're going to have to come back again with these documents, the countries, the names of the banks that you recall that you opened; where you opened accounts for the CIA.

A. Panama City, Banquo DeMexico, at one point we were using a Citibank correspondent down there whose name escapes me. I just don't recall it. We had a man on site who worked for us, as well as worked for Ron Martin, a man named Johnny Mollina, M-O-L-L-I-N-A, I believe. John was -- would spend a lot of his time in Panama City there and worked in one of the banks that we used. I set up an account in -- well, I set up more than one account in Madrid that was used. I set up an account in Brussels at Bank Lambert that was regularly used. I set up accounts at Credit Suisse and --

Q. Is that a Swiss bank?

A. That is a Swiss bank. And Bank of Credit and Commerce, commonly referred to as BCCI, also a Swiss bank. A bank that no longer exists called Bank Hoffman. And to facilitate matters -- not to drag this out -- to facilitate matters I set up a bank in Panama City on behalf of the mutual fund company I worked for so that I could ultimately control how the transfers were handled.

Q. And you organized a bank in Panama for the CIA?

A. I organized it for the company I worked for, that was -- it was subsequently used by the CIA and it was used by members of the organized crime families. The bank was called U.S. Investment Bank. It really existed in Panama City. You could actually go in and open a checking account there.

Q. And the money that you got from the Gotti organization that you put on the airplane and returned to Panama on the next trip, you personally took to a bank in Panama City?

A. You bet, I did.

Q. And you deposited that money. And can you tell us the amount of those deposits, and the directions that you would give to the officers at the bank, and the name of the bank, and where the money would go? Just detail that for us.

A. All right. The money would go into -- let's take Banquo DePanama, the Panamanian National Bank down there, as an example. I would go in. I would meet with -- at times I would meet with, for instance, Johnny Mollina. John worked for one of the banks down there, I think it was City that he worked for at one time. In any case, I would go in. I knew the bank officers by name. Unfortunately, I don't recall all their names since it's been many years ago. And I would provide them with directions as to how the money was to be transferred and where to transfer; that is -- is it to be transferred by cashier's check and courier to Madrid in a specific account there or is it to be just wire transferred to Madrid as a transfer of funds from IFMA, a Panamanian corporation, to IFMA's affiliate in Madrid or Brussels at Bank Lambert. They needed to know that. And then I would have to tell them at the other bank that money was coming into that account. (pp. 31-34)

Q. All right. Let me just ask a couple of general questions in order to try to reach a conclusion here. Did you ever discuss your concerns with the CIA Director, the late Bill Casey?

A. Yes, I did on a number of occasions. And Mr. Casey's telephone logs would reflect phone calls to me, made to me in -- specifically in Lake Oswego, which was at that time the location of my office.

Q. So Mr. Casey called you?

A. Yes, sir, he did.

Q. On how many occasions?

A. Two that I can recall specifically.

Q. What was the nature of the conversations with Mr. Casey?

A. What went wrong in Central America.

Q. Can you relate to us that discussion -- tell us what he said and what you said?

A. Certainly. Bill Casey's main concern -- there were two main concerns to him: One, exposure of the operations in Central America; and two, why did the system break down? To me he sounded like sort of a general or supervisor who doesn't have his hands on the pulse of what's really happening out in the trenches. And by this time I had caused sufficient problems for CIA and others in South and Central America that the Israelis had in fact sent over a team of people to shut down the Israeli involvement in anything that closely resembled the drug business. I could get no assistance of any kind similar to that from the United States Government, and I explained that to Mr. Casey. And his first question was, why I had gone to Israel, and I said, because I tried everybody in the U.S. Government first and they sure as hell weren't going to help.

Q. Well, we haven't asked you about that effort that you were referring to -- to try to stop the operation -- and I think my associate will ask you about that in a moment.

A. Sure.

Q. I think, finally, I want to ask you if you have any knowledge of the money that you're talking about coming from the Gotti organization being used for any other purposes, other than depositing in the bank accounts for the CIA?

A. Sure. We had to run the operations at Nella, for instance. The training facilities at Nella had to be paid for.

Q. Now, where is Nella?

A. Nella is about 10 miles out of Mena, north.

Q. North of the Mena Airport. We've not talked about that, Mr. Brenneke. Can you tell us what you know about Nella; what it is, and for what purposes it was established?

A. Sure. Nella was a training base for military and paramilitary folks from south of the border, Mexico, Panama.

Q. Who managed the base? Who operated the base?

A. Don't know the names of the operators.

Q. What agency operated the base?

A. Central Intelligence Agency, as far as I knew.

Q. Did you know anyone from the agency that was responsible for the operation?

A. I knew the names of some of the people over there. I didn't spend much time at Mena, so I'd have to answer that by saying, no, I really don't know. I do know one of the folks who was a flight instructor over there, and that was Terry Reed. (pp. 37-40)

(All emphases added.)

This provides -- along with the January/February issue -- the essential parts of the Brenneke deposition. For those who want the complete 50-page document, please send $5.00 to the Portland Free Press at P.O. Box 1327, Tualatin, OR 97062.

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