DEA Jarred by Coverup Charge

DEA Jarred by Coverup Charge
Posted by FoM on May 07, 2000 at 17:36:58 PT
Officials deny agent's views of cocaine raid 
Source: Miami Herald
Federal prosecutors and Drug Enforcement Administration supervisors covered up allegations that narcotics agents may have stolen $1 million worth of seized cocaine, failed to investigate the agents, then shifted blame to a drug smuggler, according to a top DEA executive in Miami.
The case against the smuggler has collapsed, the cocaine is still missing, and DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge Sandalio Gonzalez wants an investigation of the agents he thinks may be responsible for the drug disappearance.In a stinging letter to an official of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, Gonzalez demanded an independent investigation of what ''appears to be a coverup of this entire mess.''Gonzalez, a 28-year veteran who rose to command 300 agents in Miami, is angry that one of his agents who reported the misconduct allegations more than a year ago is the target of what he called ''retaliation'' by Miami DEA managers.Gonzalez has asked DEA headquarters to assign investigators ''with no ties'' to local DEA offices or the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.Federal authorities in Washington and Miami say his allegations are irresponsible, untrue and ''totally unfair.'' They say there was no retaliation, and they remain convinced that no one in law enforcement stole anything.''There was no coverup, I can tell you that,'' said U.S. prosecutor Barry Sabin, chief of the criminal division in Miami.Vincent Mazzilli, special agent in charge of the DEA in Miami -- and Gonzalez's boss -- called the accusations of a coverup ''preposterous'' and said he reported every allegation in the case to Washington ''the day I got them.''The controversy stems from a botched Nov. 12, 1998, drug raid at a suburban Miami house.DEA agents working with Miami-Dade Police detectives learned from wiretapped telephone conversations that there were 27 kilograms of cocaine stashed in the garage that night. Ten days later, agents turned in only 17 kilograms to the DEA laboratory.The mystery behind what happened to the missing 10 kilograms has spawned a feud within local federal law enforcement.On one side, federal prosecutors and some DEA administrators concluded that agents botched the search, missing the hidden cocaine, and that the smuggler, Enrique ''Kiki'' Bover -- one of the targets of the drug raid -- retrieved it later.On the other side, Gonzalez and his supporters in the DEA and FBI believe the evidence suggests the drugs may have been stolen by agents involved in the search, and no one has objectively investigated that possibility.They say that Bover and his wife, when they were arrested five days after the raid, immediately told police that agents had not accounted for all of the cocaine in the garage and that their statements were first ignored and later turned against them by agents trying to deflect suspicion from themselves.STATUS CHANGES: The Bovers became confidential informants in hopes of leniency immediately after their arrests. When they were targeted for taking the missing cocaine six months later, prosecutors ordered DEA and FBI agents to stop working with them.More than a dozen promising investigations the couple had initiated were abandoned.Gonzalez continues his yearlong demand for a ''thorough, independent'' investigation of the DEA agents and Miami-Dade detectives who conducted the drug search.Following Herald inquiries, the agency's acting director in Washington, Donnie R. Marshall, asked that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation.A Herald examination of hundreds of records and more than 75 interviews found that prosecutors and agents clearly focused their attention on the Bovers in an attempt to explain the missing cocaine.According to Gonzalez's letter and other federal law enforcement sources, federal authorities:Disregarded the Bovers' early reports that cocaine was missing, then later blamed Bover.Twice charged Bover with drug smuggling in an alleged attempt to discredit him. Both cases were later dropped for lack of evidence.Allowed agents who were accused by the Bovers of taking the cocaine to essentially clear themselves by investigating, then blaming the Bovers.Refused Kiki Bover's offer to take a lie-detector test.Discounted concerns that the same Miami-Dade Police squad involved in the search was also involved in three other federal drug investigations that were compromised by alleged police misconduct.Ordered DEA internal investigators not to interview the Bovers.DEA Special Agent in Charge Mazzilli and prosecutors acknowledge that agents failed to find the 10 kilograms during the search, that it took too long to turn in the drugs that were seized, and that agents erred in filing incomplete reports about their conversations with the Bovers.However, prosecutors say they had five witnesses who corroborated their theory that it was the Bovers who took the cocaine and sold it behind the agents' backs. Kiki Bover and his brother Ramon were indicted on those charges in December. Prosecutors dropped the case in March after a federal judge ordered them to turn over all records in the case.Prosecutors say they dropped it in part because a key witness was charged with unrelated crimes.VIEW OF WITNESSES: Gonzalez and his camp -- mostly those forced to abandon cases when the Bovers were blackballed -- say that all five witnesses are tainted and that the case against the Bovers is peppered with contradictions.They say that each of the five witnesses either made contradictory comments in recorded conversations, cut leniency deals or were initially interviewed by the agents who were accused by the Bovers.''I am at a loss for words to express my disappointment and frustration at how this situation has been handled,'' Gonzalez wrote to Washington. ''If we do not police ourselves properly, someone else will do it for us.''Contacted at his office, Gonzalez -- who commands half of the DEA agents in South Florida -- refused to discuss his complaints, citing an ongoing internal investigation.The case centers on the Bovers, who ran Amarily's Bakery at 12759 SW 42nd St. in West Dade as a front for a lucrative drug-smuggling operation.Enrique ''Kiki'' Bover, 41, a career criminal who arrived from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, is well connected. He once operated a homemade fake ID factory, and has spent nearly half of his life in the United States in prison on various charges.His wife, Grisel Garcia Bover, 33, herself a convicted drug dealer, and her older brother, Orlando -- an addict who has found religion in prison -- blended well into Kiki Bover's world of shady characters and lavish spending.TWO EAVESDROPPERS: They had no idea in November 1998 that DEA case agents Russell Davis and Mark Minor, who between them have seven years of experience at the DEA, had been secretly listening to their phone calls for a month.Overseen by Davis and Minor, the DEA's enforcement Group 6 and a handful of narcotics detectives from Miami-Dade Police were keeping close tabs on the Bovers' latest shipment, stashed in the garage of Grisel Bover's brother, Orlando Garcia.On Nov. 12, they decided to get it. With help from a group of Metro detectives they work with routinely, Group 6 searched the house for five hours. Everyone agrees the missing cocaine was then hidden in the top shelf of a makeshift plywood cabinet in the garage.From this point on, the two groups of federal authorities disagree.Gonzalez and his supporters say it strains credulity to believe that trained investigators could have missed the poorly concealed hiding place and left the drugs behind.They believe that one or more of the DEA agents or Miami-Dade detectives may have removed the drugs during the raid or later the same night when neighbors said they heard sounds from within the garage after the raid was concluded.Prosecutors and other DEA officials believe that agents missed the drugs in the cabinet and that the Bovers, who were not arrested until days after the raid, went back to the garage and retrieved the drugs before their arrests.BUILDING A CASE: Six months after the search -- and after the Bovers reported the missing drugs to other agents of the DEA and FBI -- prosecutors began assembling witnesses who suggested the Bovers took the cocaine.The Bovers, however, say they told agents that drugs were missing immediately after their Nov. 17 arrests when they turned informants.Five days of wiretaps of their conversations after the raid, while they were free, show they never discussed returning to the house.Kiki Bover's former lawyer, Joaquin Perez, says the Bovers told him repeatedly about the missing cocaine and how they had reported it to the DEA. Perez said that on Feb. 1, 1999 -- prior to anyone saying the Bovers took the drugs -- he went to lead prosecutor Mark Rubino to discuss the matter.Rubino denies he participated in that conversation. He says he first got solid evidence that drugs were missing in April 1999 when witnesses against the Bovers began to appear.Rubino acknowledges he had ''a hunch'' that drugs were missing days after the November 1998 raid, when Orlando Garcia's first attorney, Julio Gutierrez, came to tell Rubino he had a problem and needed to bow out of the case. Garcia, in jail at the time, had told Gutierrez the drugs were left behind and asked the lawyer to tell Kiki Bover to get them. Instead, Gutierrez went to prosecutors.Both Gutierrez and Rubino deny that the missing drugs came up during their conversation. Immediately afterward -- one week after the search -- Rubino asked agents Davis and Minor to go back to the house to look for more cocaine, according to records.The case agents decided against it. They reasoned that it would probably be gone by then anyway and that ''probable cause was stale'' for a second search, reports say.Davis and Minor now say they instead asked the Bovers repeatedly about any missing cocaine, and the Bovers denied its existence.Neither the agents' questions about the missing cocaine nor the Bovers' alleged denials appear in otherwise detailed investigative reports written by Davis and Minor, an omission authorities acknowledge is ''sloppy.''Through a DEA spokesman, Davis and Minor declined to comment.The Bovers and their attorneys argue they were targeted by agents after they began to make noise about the missing cocaine.On Jan. 18, 1999, two months after Kiki Bover turned government informant, Minor jailed him on charges that he sold a kilogram of cocaine to a drug dealer. The charges were dropped without an indictment after authorities discovered that the substance he sold wasn't cocaine.The evidence used to charge Bover came from Miami-Dade Detective Danny Morales, a member of the same squad that helped in the original raid at Orlando Garcia's house. Even though reports say Morales wasn't at the house during the search, the Bovers' defense team has focused on him. Here's why:Twice in 1998, Morales was accused of skimming a total of $50,000 cash from seizures. The alleged victims passed lie-detector tests, and the cases were referred for prosecution. Prosecutors found insufficient evidence to file charges. Three other DEA drug cases were ''compromised'' after Morales' narcotics unit became involved, records say.Morales did not return five telephone messages and pages or a request for an interview through a Miami-Dade Police spokesman.''We are not saying that Morales or that squad took the cocaine. We don't know who took the cocaine,'' said Frank Quintero, Bover's most recent defense attorney. ''What we are saying is that federal prosecutors and the DEA had more reason than usual to believe my client was telling the truth, and they chose to ignore it.''ISSUE OF 'TRUST' By May 1999, Rubino -- with his boss, Neal Stephens, narcotics section chief at the U.S. attorney's office -- moved to revoke Kiki Bover's bond, refused his offer of a lie-detector test, told him his hopes for leniency were finished, and ordered Kiki and Grisel blackballed as sources by anyone in federal law enforcement.''We can't use sources we cannot trust, it's as simple as that,'' said prosecutor Sabin, adding that he rejected the lie-detector test and ordered the Bovers deactivated.The decision to blackball the Bovers, who federal authorities acknowledge were promising informants, angered FBI and other DEA agents who had begun to use them.More than 12 cases -- counterfeiting, espionage, drug smuggling, marijuana farms -- were abandoned because of the decree. In one case, a suspected shipment of 375 kilograms of cocaine -- enough to fill an outdoor trash bin and worth $35 million -- was not pursued.Juan Perez, a DEA agent who was working with the Bovers on these cases, raised a fuss and reported the Bovers' allegations of misconduct.Since then, Perez has been targeted for investigation by the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility for allegedly leaking to The Herald an earlier story about the missing drugs -- a story based entirely on public records.Agent Perez, who has retained an attorney, declined to comment.''It is inconceivable to me how this matter has been twisted to target the person who brought alleged misconduct to our attention,'' Gonzalez wrote to Washington investigators, suggesting that he and his employee were being attacked because they are Cuban Americans.Mazzilli said the agent was not singled out because he is Cuban American or to intimidate him, but to keep him from getting into more trouble.''The theory that the U.S. attorney's office, 11 DEA agents within a group, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the SAC of the Miami field division, and OPR investigators -- who don't even know the people involved -- all got up together to conspire to cover up a 10-kilo theft is simply preposterous,'' Mazzilli said.Felix Jimenez, chief inspector at the Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington when the investigation began, said his office conducted a thorough probe and found no wrongdoing.By David KidwellE-Mail: dkidwell Published Sunday, May 7, 2000Copyright 2000 Miami Herald CannabisNews DEA Related Articles & Archives: Key Figures in the Case of the Missing Cocaine:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #3 posted by Dan Hillman on May 08, 2000 at 12:46:58 PT
Comfortable blinders
What do the politicians see, kaptinemo?1. Practically unlimited anti-"drug" funding.2. Unfettered power (just mention "drugs"  and any abuse of power is justified.)3. A thoroughly cowed anti-"drug" majority.The politicians won't be taking off their blindersanytime soon...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on May 08, 2000 at 05:03:20 PT:
History repeats itself
When the first Federal Narcotics Bureau was formed immediately after the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, within a year it was embroiled in scandal. The top cop there was fired for embezelment. Within a year of the formation of the DEA, the same kind of thing happened; the top leadership was implicated in corruption, and dismised.It never fails. The entire underpinning of the DrugWar has been based upon a false premise of incorruptibility of our civil servants. A premise that, given the enormous wealth engendered by the trade, is laughably disingenuous from the git-go. This is but the latest example of just how stupid and venal our pols are that they refuse to look the matter square in the face. They refuse to admit that after 86 years of trying, and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, thousands of lives taken and millions more ruined, civil liberties trod under combat boots and black uniforms menacing citizens, that they are only an inch away from the starting gate after the race began.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 07, 2000 at 19:08:32 PT
Power corrupts
Prohibition causes it.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: