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As First Published in the July, 1999 issue of FTW.

Part One

CIA - Drugs and Campaign Fundraising

The Dominicans, The Democrats and New York

Joe vs. The Volcano and The Avalanche and The Steamroller and The Machine and City Hall and the CIA

by Michael C. Ruppert

According 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 meet 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.

Last month FTW documented how approximately two hundred and fifty 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.

Eighty 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 twenty-two years

 he 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

Like 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 they 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.

Joe 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 Agency.

Project 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 City.

When, 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.

Occhipinti's 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 mental breakdown, the judge publicly humiliated the attorney and refused to allow him to withdraw from the case. 

Joe 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.

What 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. Sleep tight.

As 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.

The Truck That Hit Him

After 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.

The 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.

If 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.

How 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 much 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 initiated."

Every 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 ongoing operations.

Dominican drug bosses hurt by Occhipinti's investigations were also no strangers to politics. One group, The Federation of Dominican Businessmen and Industrialists, was, on the one hand, full of documented drug traffickers and, on the other hand, giving generously to local Democratic politicians - including Dinkins. 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.

A 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 members.

What 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.

In 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 the dollar.

A retired NYPD detective who has worked on several major narcotics 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 prostitution to drive down property values and force people to move so 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, surprise.

Joe 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, whose 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.

Both 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."

 Hundreds 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 - including a statement suggesting that Traficant had ulterior motives in assisting Occhipinti. Resolutions were passed, local politicians signed on and a serious drive was underway to get Joe a new trial. Joe persisted in that effort, with heart, until 1995. But his lessons did not stop.

 As 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

sheriff 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 is tired.

A great irony of this story is that in a 1994 story on Joe, The New American reported on the relationship between Occhipinti and John F. Kennedy, Jr. "He [JFK, Jr.] knew and occasionally conversed with Occhipinti's wife Angela, 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 own decision.

Joe 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 only ones who could have contained these investigations and where they might lead."

Joe 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.

[For more information on the tax exempt National Police Defense Foundation contact Joe Occhipinti at 1-888-SAFECOP or e-mail him at I sure wish I had had someone like Joe around for me in 1977.]


New York Post - Oct. 9,10,11, 1991       

The Hartford Courant - 8/16 & 17/98

The New American - Feb. 21, 1994  

New York Daily News - 7/4/94

Gloucester County Times - 10/16/95  

New York Post - 4/26/95

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