FINDINGS: NORTHERN CALIFORNIA STORY
Did any of the individuals who were arrested in "The Frogman
Case" have any relationship with CIA? Were the drug trafficking activities
of any of those individuals linked to the Contras?
- On January 17, 1983, federal law enforcement officials in San Francisco
made 12 arrests and seized 430 pounds of cocaine that was being brought ashore
by swimmers from a Colombian freighter. Additional arrests were made later in
January and in February 1983.
Were those arrested connected with CIA?
- More than 50 individuals were eventually arrested in what came to be
known as "The Frogman Case." Many were Nicaraguans, and two of
these--Julio Zavala and Carlos Cabezas--claimed later that their drug
trafficking activities were linked to the Contras. None of those
arrested--including Zavala and Cabezas--claimed at the time that they had any
relationship with CIA.
- CIA Records. No information has been found to indicate that CIA
had any relationship with any of the individuals who were arrested or charged in
connection with the 1983 Frogman Case, though a relative of one of them did have
a relationship with CIA until mid-1982.
- Agency records did include several references to one of the individuals
arrested in The Frogman Case, Julio Zavala:
- A 1980 cable from an LA Division Station to Headquarters discussed a
Nicaraguan official who was thought to be a drug addict. According to the
cable, a CIA asset had identified the Nicaraguan official's "supplier"
as Zavala, who was identified as a Miami-based friend of the official;
- A March 1982 cable to CIA from a U.S. law enforcement entity asked that
CIA periodically debrief this CIA asset on behalf of the law enforcement entity
to gather information about Zavala's drug trafficking activities.
Agency records also include information concerning an individual with a
name similar to that of one of those arrested or convicted as part of The
Frogman Case. This individual was connected with CIA and a Contra organization
in 1985, but cannot be the same individual since The Frogman Case defendant was
serving a 10-year jail sentence in the United States at that time.
- Individual Statements and CIA Records: Cabezas. Carlos
Cabezas claims that, during one of several trips he made to Costa Rica to
deliver Contra drug proceeds to Horacio Pereira and Troilo Sanchez, Pereira
introduced Cabezas to a man who said he was "Ivan Gomez" of the CIA.
Cabezas says this meeting took place in April or May 1982 at a hotel in San
Jose, Costa Rica. Those present at this meeting with "Ivan Gomez"
allegedly included Cabezas, Sanchez, Pereira, and Zavala. According
to Cabezas, both Pereira and "Ivan Gomez" told him that "Ivan
Gomez" was "the CIA's man in Costa Rica" and that "Gomez was
there to ensure that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not
into someone's pocket." Cabezas says he did not see anyone give "Ivan
Gomez" any money at this meeting, nor was cocaine or any other drug present.
- Cabezas claims to have met "Ivan Gomez" on one other occasion
about two or three months later--i.e., late summer 1982--when he met with "Ivan
Gomez" and Pereira at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Cabezas says he
cannot recall if the purpose of this meeting was to pick up cocaine to take back
to the United States or to drop off money. As Cabezas recalls, "Ivan Gomez"
was present, but did not participate in the discussions. Cabezas says he never
saw "Ivan Gomez" again, but describes him as a fluent Spanish speaker,
about 6 feet tall, 180 pounds in weight, with curly black hair, and an athletic
- CIA records indicate that a CIA independent contractor used "Ivan
Gomez" as an alias in Costa Rica in the 1980s. However, the physical
description of the CIA independent contractor is significantly
different--although the CIA independent contractor has curly hair and speaks
fluent Spanish, he is much shorter and of slighter build than the person
described by Cabezas. Further, CIA records indicate that the CIA independent
contractor who used the alias "Ivan Gomez" was in the United States
and not in Costa Rica during April or May 1982 when the meeting that Cabezas
describes allegedly occurred.
- On August 8, 1984, a Nicaraguan newspaper published a photograph of an
individual named "Ivan Gomez" with a caption stating that this
individual worked for CIA. Thus, the information alleging that "Ivan Gomez"
might be linked to CIA became a matter of public record and would have been
available to Cabezas and his colleagues.
- The CIA independent contractor who used the alias "Ivan Gomez"
in the 1980s denies ever meeting Cabezas, Sanchez, Zavala, or Pereira or
participating in a meeting with them in the San Jose hotel. Also, as mentioned
earlier, his physical characteristics are significantly different from the
person described by Cabezas.
- Cabezas was shown 16 photographs of individuals. These
included two photographs of the CIA independent contractor who used the alias "Ivan
Gomez" that were taken in the early to mid-1980s, one of which was a
photograph of the CIA independent contractor in an operational disguise.
Cabezas identified two photographs of different individuals as the "Ivan
Gomez" with whom he claimed to have met. Neither individual he selected
was the CIA independent contractor who used the alias "Ivan Gomez,"
and both are photographs of individuals who have never had any relationship with
- Individual Statements: Zavala. Zavala denies ever
being introduced to an "Ivan Gomez" who claimed to represent CIA.
Zavala recalls, however, meeting with Cabezas and others at the San Jose hotel
in question in late 1981 or early 1982 to discuss a drug deal. Zavala says he
knew the individuals who participated in this meeting and none claimed any CIA
- Zavala says that one of the 16 photographs that had been shown to
Cabezas looks vaguely familiar to him, but he is unable to recall why. The
photograph Zavala thought looked familiar is not one of the two persons whose
photographs were selected by Cabezas, nor did Zavala select either of the two
photographs of the CIA independent contractor who used the alias of "Ivan
- Individual Statements: Others. Zavala's wife Doris
Salomon says she does not know the "Ivan Gomez" described by Cabezas.
She claims not to recognize any of the persons pictured in the 16 photographs
that were shown to Cabezas and Zavala.
- Troilo Sanchez does not recall meeting anyone named "Ivan Gomez."
He also denies ever meeting to discuss drug trafficking or the Contras with
anyone who claimed to represent CIA. Nevertheless, Sanchez claims that Norwin
Meneses introduced him to an individual in Costa Rica named "Roberto"
in 1987--not in 1981 or 1982; "Roberto" reportedly claimed he worked
for CIA. provided a photograph of the person he claims is "Roberto."
The "Roberto" in the photograph bears no resemblance to photographs
of the CIA independent contractor who used the alias "Ivan Gomez."
Were those arrested connected with the Contras?
- As noted above, two of the individuals--Julio Zavala and Carlos
Cabezas--arrested in connection with The Frogman Case claimed that their drug
trafficking activity was tied to the Contras.
- During a search of Zavala's residence by federal law enforcement
authorities on February 15, 1983, a weapon, cocaine and thousands of dollars in
cash were seized.believed at the time by federal prosecutors that the
money was related to Zavala's drug trafficking activities. In 1984, however,
federal prosecutors decided to return $36,800 to Zavala after the Court received
letters from two individuals who claimed to represent Contra organizations. In
their letters, the officials claimed that the money that had been seized during
the search of Zavala's residence belonged to their organizations.
- Media Allegations. On March 16, 1986, the San Francisco
Examiner published an article pertaining to The Frogman Case titled "Big
Bay Area Cocaine Ring Tied to Contras." The article reported that Zavala,
then serving a 10-year sentence in a federal penitentiary in Seagoville, Texas
following his conviction on federal conspiracy and continuing criminal
enterprise (CCE) charges, had been interviewed by telephone in connection with
- According to the article, Zavala claimed that he had delivered $500,000
to Francisco Aviles Saenz, whom the article identified as being associated with
two Costa Rican-based Contra groups--the Conservative Party of Nicaraguans in
Exile (PCNE) and the Nicaraguan Democratic Union/Nicaraguan Revolutionary Armed
Forces (UDN/FARN). The article quoted Zavala as saying, "I was
participating in a lot of the movement against the government of Nicaragua."
Further, the San Francisco Examiner article claimed that Zavala had
said, "I was helping out with money and equipment, and sometimes I was
helping out by making connections with people who had weapons."
- The 1986 San Francisco Examiner article also reported that Zavala
had received two letters at the time of his trial in 1984. One had been signed
by Aviles, the "political secretary" of PCNE, and by Vicente
Rappaccioli, the PCNE's "treasurer." Reportedly, this letter
identified Zavala as an assistant treasurer of the PCNE in the United States.
According to the San Francisco Examiner article, Aviles stated in the
other letter--that he signed as the UDN/FARN's "International Secretary"--that
Zavala had made several trips to Costa Rica on behalf of UDN/FARN and had
received $45,000, described as having been "collected amongst our
collaborators" for "purchases characteristic of this organization."
These letters also indicated that the money seized from Zavala's home at the
time of his February 1983 arrest had been for "the reinstatement of
democracy in Nicaragua."
- In conjunction with the letters, Zavala's court-appointed attorney
alleged that CIA was involved in Contra drug trafficking activities. The
attorney filed an affidavit identifying Zavala as a member and treasurer of the
"conservative party" (not further defined) and claiming that the
seized money belonged to that party. Zavala was reported by the article to have
said that Aviles personally gave him $45,000.
- According to the San Francisco Examiner article,
Aviles admitted in a telephone interview from Costa Rica that he had
written the letter for Zavala, but said he only met Zavala once, when he gave
him "about $35,000" to buy shirts, pants and boots for PCNE soldiers.
He did not explain why the letter said he gave $45,000 to Zavala.
- The article also named Doris Salomon--Zavala's wife and reportedly a
Contra fund raiser--as the person who had arranged for the two letters to be
provided to Zavala in 1984. Further, the San Francisco Examiner article
stated that Horacio Pereira, a businessman in Costa Rica who was alleged to have
supplied cocaine to Zavala, had told Carlos Cabezas that profits from the sale
of cocaine by Zavala and Cabezas went to the Contras.
- CIA Records. As a result of this article, CIA officials
conducted a review of Agency records in 1986 to determine whether there was any
truth to these assertions. An April 10, 1986 DO/Latin America Division (DO/LA
Division) memorandum indicated that searches of Agency records had revealed no
information regarding Julio Zavala's wife, Doris Salomon. However, CIA records
did contain information describing Horacio Pereira--one of the individuals who
had been implicated in The Frogman Case as a cocaine supplier to Zavala--as an
associate of Sebastian Pinel, described as a Nicaraguan exile and suspected drug
dealer who was then living in Buena Vista, California.
- CIA Headquarters also asked two DO LA Division Stations and an FR
Division Station on April 9, 1986 for any information in their files that might
be pertinent to the newspaper allegations. The FR Division Station was also
instructed by Headquarters to contact the FBI for "any concrete information
from Cabezas/Zavala case which linked them with anti-Sandinista forces,"
including to whom they were linked and at what point and how Contra leaders
might have become involved.
- Two cables from the FR Division Station reported on April 10, 1986 what
had been learned from the FBI. These cables noted that:
- The FBI had treated The Frogman Case as purely a criminal matter, with the
FBI impression being that Zavala and Cabezas were "professional drug
dealers and nothing more";
- The FBI was not aware of any link between Zavala or Cabezas and the
- The FBI reported that $36,800 that had been seized during the search of
Zavala's residence had been returned to Zavala on September 7, 1984 via a
cashier's check; and,
- The FBI had offered to broker a meeting between United States Attorney
Joseph Russoniello and CIA to discuss The Frogman Case. However, CIA decided
against such a meeting because of the politicized atmosphere in which
Russoniello worked and the assumed undesirability of having it become public
that CIA was making such inquiries.
- An LA Division Station also responded in a cable to Headquarters on
April 10, 1986. This cable reported that the San Francisco Examiner
assertion that Chamorro was linked to California drug traffickers was "completely
false." The report said that one of the individuals named in the newspaper
article, Francisco Aviles, had not joined Chamorro's organization until February
1984, and that Chamorro had confronted Aviles with the March 1986 newspaper
allegations linking him with drug trafficking on behalf of the Contras in 1983.
When Aviles was unable to provide a credible explanation, according to the
report, Chamorro dismissed him from the organization.
- An April 11, 1986 cable from the same LA Division Station to
Headquarters reported additional information. The report said Aviles had not
occupied the position of UDN/FARN Secretary of International Relations that the
March 1986 newspaper article assigned to him.ng to this report,
Aviles had provided letters on behalf of the Contras requesting that cash seized
from Zavala's residence be returned. When Aviles was unable to explain to
Chamorro why he took this action, Aviles was summarily expelled from UNO/FARN in
March 1986. The Station report indicated that this source said that Aviles
acted independently and may have taken advantage of an opportunity to make some
- Another LA Division Station responded to Headquarters in an April 11,
1986 cable that reported the results of a meeting with UNO/FARN leader Fernando
Chamorro. The cable stated that:
- Chamorro and his staff had never met Carlos Cabezas, Julio Zavala, Horacio
Pereira, or Doris Salomon;
- UNO/FARN had never accepted large donations of money from any
organizations that did not explain the source of the contributions;
- Francisco Aviles was not involved in Southern Front activities in 1983
when The Frogman Case arrests were made; and Chamorro and many of his followers
were located in Honduras--not in Costa Rica--at the time; and
- Aviles had been informed verbally that he had been expelled from UNO/FARN.
A written order to that effect was to follow shortly.
The LA Division Station cable also reported that Chamorro had claimed that
Vicente Rappaccioli, who was also identified in the March 1986 newspaper article
as having Contra connections, was not involved with Nicaraguan resistance
On April 11, 1986, Headquarters advised several LA Division Stations to
take no further action. Headquarters reported it had determined that Aviles and
Rappaccioli had acted purely on their own authority when they provided letters
on behalf of Zavala and had not done so at the behest of Chamorro's Contra group.
- CIA files indicate that the April 11, 1986 Headquarters instruction
that the LA Division Stations take no further action was based on information
provided by one of the LA Division Stations that reportedly Aviles had changed
his story. Contrary to what he reportedly told the San Francisco Examiner,
he now claimed that he had never provided Zavala with any money.
- According to this report, Chamorro had said that Aviles had originally
said Zavala had been given $50,000 of UDN/FARN's money. Now, however, Aviles
was stating that Doris Salomon--whom the report mistakenly said had been
indicted in connection with The Frogman Case--had approached Aviles and asked
him to write a letter on behalf of Zavala saying the money belonged to UDN/FARN.
Although Aviles indicated UDN/FARN would get a donation as a result of his
providing Salomon with the letter, the report indicated that Aviles may have
received a bribe instead.
- Individual Statements: Zavala. Zavala contends that
he never donated any money--including drug trafficking proceeds--to the Contras.
Zavala asserts that the Contras never asked him to sell drugs and that he has
no knowledge that Contra-affiliated persons engaged in drug trafficking.
Further, he says that he had only one direct contact with any Contra-affiliated
organization or individual, this being a meeting with then-Contra Francisco
Aviles Saenz in early 1983.
- Zavala says that he was traveling to Costa Rica on a biweekly or
monthly basis in the early 1980s on business unrelated to the Contras. On one
of those occasions, his wife, Doris Salomon, introduced him to Aviles at Aviles'
home in San Jose. It was at this meeting that the issue of support to the
Contras came up, and it was agreed that Zavala would use $45,000 given to him by
Aviles to make purchases in the United States of weapons and communications
equipment for the Contras. Zavala claims that, once the purchases
were made, Aviles was to make the appropriate arrangements to ship the weapons
and equipment to Central America. Aviles, according to Zavala, never disclosed
to Zavala where the money had come from.
- Zavala says he subsequently contacted a person from El Paso, Texas
regarding the possible purchase of arms and equipment. Zavala claims no
recollection of the types or quantities of equipment he was to purchase, nor the
name of the El Paso contact. However, he recalls researching cost and
availability and concluding that the $45,000 would not buy much of what was
needed. Subsequently, the El Paso contact agreed to come to San Francisco to
meet with Zavala.
- On the night before the El Paso contact's visit, Zavala claims he
placed $65,000 in cash in a night stand located in his bedroom. The cash
consisted of the $45,000 that he had been provided by Aviles, plus $20,000 of
Zavala's personal funds. Zavala says he remembers the dollar amount exactly
because he intended to use the money to show the El Paso contact that he had
sufficient money for the purchase. Zavala claims that he only planned to
discuss his options with the contact, but not to make any purchases at that
time. No meeting took place between the El Paso contact and Zavala because, on
the day the contact was to fly to San Francisco for the meeting, Zavala was
arrested and the money was seized by federal law enforcement authorities.
- According to Zavala, Aviles provided Zavala's attorney with the letters
that are referred to in the 1986 San Francisco Examiner article. Zavala
claims he never met Rappaccioli and does not know what role, if any, Rappaccioli
played in the Contra movement. Zavala speculates that Aviles arranged for a
letter to be signed by Rappaccioli to add strength to the claim that the seized
money belonged to the Contras.
- Zavala says he was never affiliated with the PCNE or UDN/FARN and is
unable to identify these organizations. In fact, he claims not to have followed
Nicaraguan internal matters closely at all, having immigrated to the United
States in 1961. While Zavala concedes that he may have told the San
Francisco Examiner, and later the FBI, that he had contributed money
to the Contras, he also claims that he was "misquoted" in the 1986
San Francisco Examiner article which reported that he had said he
donated $500,000 to the Contras.
- Zavala provided a handwritten, sworn statement asserting in part:
. . . .
I don't have any knowledge of CIA involvement in drug trafficking
I do not have any knowledge of Contras official [sic] or
personal [sic] involvement in drug trafficking activities;
Relating to personal or drug related [illegible], I never donated any
money to the Contra cause;
I was given $45,000 from Mr. Aviles to purchase communication gear for
El Partido Liberal Catolico. The transportation of this equipment was their
. . . .
- Individual Statements: Cabezas. Cabezas, currently an
attorney in Nicaragua, was arrested in San Francisco in 1983, convicted and
sentenced in 1984 in connection with The Frogman Case. According to the March
1986 San Francisco Examiner article, Cabezas claimed he had worked with
two Southern Front Contra groups, UDN/FARN and Democratic Revolutionary
Alliance (ARDE). Further, the article stated that he had claimed the proceeds
from his cocaine sales "belonged to . . . the Contra revolution."
- Cabezas says he began working with Zavala in October 1981 and that his
job was to distribute cocaine to Zavala's street dealers and to collect the
profits for their own personal gain. Zavala, according to Cabezas,
had a narcotics distribution network from which Zavala alone profited. However,
Zavala also was part, says Cabezas, of a second, parallel network that brought
cocaine into the United States for the purpose of raising funds for the Contras.
Cabezas claims that the money seized from Zavala's residence at the
time of Zavala's 1983 arrest was drug money that had been collected from a
dealer and not money provided to Zavala by the Contras for the purchase of
- Cabezas says that he began importing cocaine sometime after October
1981 when he smuggled one or two kilograms of powdered cocaine into the United
States. The cocaine, according to Cabezas, was concealed in woven hand-baskets
that had been filled with cocaine in Costa Rica by a friend of Nicaraguan drug
dealers Troilo Sanchez and Horacio Pereira. Cabezas states that he
stayed with Pereira in Honduras for two or three days and Pereira gave him a
small woven straw basket just before Cabezas left for the United States.
According to Cabezas, Pereira instructed him to buy a bottle of whisky to place
in the basket and, upon arrival in San Francisco, to give the basket to Zavala
personally. Cabezas says that he delivered the basket and watched Zavala take a
"razor" knife and slit the basket open. It was only then that Cabezas
says he realized he had carried what he estimates to have been one to two
kilograms of high-quality powdered cocaine.
- Cabezas also claims that he attended a December 1981 meeting involving
Troilo Sanchez, Horacio Pereira, Zavala, and Zavala's wife Doris Salomon at a
hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. He believes this meeting was the genesis of an
effort to raise money for the Contras by selling drugs. Although the original
reason for the meeting was purely social, Cabezas says Sanchez and Pereira
raised the idea of selling cocaine as a means to raise funds for the Contras.
Cabezas says Pereira and Sanchez discussed the idea with him because both knew
of Cabezas' role in the Zavala organization. Although it was Sanchez' and
Pereira's idea to raise funds for the Contras by engaging in drug trafficking,
Cabezas says it was Zavala who came up with the idea that Cabezas serve as a
go-between by collecting the money from street dealers and delivering it to
- Cabezas states that he undertook a trip for this Contra fund raising
enterprise sometime in early 1982. Cabezas recalls traveling to San Pedro Sula,
Honduras at that time and spending two or three days with Pereira. Pereira
reportedly told Cabezas that they were there to meet a Peruvian who would be
bringing drugs for shipment to the United States. Cabezas says that he received
the cocaine and brought it to the United States where it sold quickly. He says
he returned to Honduras a short time later and delivered approximately $100,000
from the sale of the cocaine to Pereira. Cabezas recalls that, after this first
delivery, "Contra mules"--typically airline flight attendants--would
bring the cocaine to the United States one kilogram at a time in woven baskets.
Cabezas says he would disassemble the baskets and extract the cocaine, which was
then given to Zavala's street dealer network for sale. In all,
Cabezas claims, he made more than 20 trips to Honduras and Costa Rica during
1982, delivering more than $1 million to Sanchez and Pereira.
- Cabezas says that two of Troilo Sanchez' brothers--Aristides and
Fernando--were Contra leaders. Cabezas alleges that he delivered an unspecified
amount of money for the Contras from drug trafficking to Aristides Sanchez in
Miami on at least one occasion, possibly in 1982 or early 1983. Cabezas says
that he never specifically told Aristides Sanchez that the money came from drug
proceeds, but only said that it was from Troilo. Cabezas says he assumes
Aristides Sanchez must have known what Troilo was involved in.
- A few months later, Cabezas recalls, he was told by Pereira and Troilo
Sanchez that Zavala could no longer be trusted with the "Contra side"
of the operation because Zavala was skimming money to pay his personal cocaine
distribution debts to the Colombian cartels. Cabezas states that the two
operations had operated in parallel up to that point and that
proceeds from cocaine sales were separated into two accounts--Contra and
Colombian. Once Zavala came under suspicion, however, Pereira instructed
Cabezas to collect the "Contra profits" and to deliver the money
directly to Pereira and Troilo Sanchez.
- Cabezas says he personally witnessed Pereira deliver money to a Contra
combatant named Juaquin Vega in Danli, on the Nicaraguan/Honduran border, where
Cabezas says the money was used "to feed the troops and help the families
of Contra soldiers." On average, Cabezas says, he carried
$64,000 on each of his 20 trips to Central America, although he also claims that
he and another person once delivered about $250,000 to Pereira and Sanchez.
Cabezas says he was paid approximately $2,000-$2,500 monthly by Pereira and
another $500 by Zavala for what he says were "non-Contra" drug
trafficking activities. Cabezas claims that he kept meticulous financial
records of his trips in a ledger and that this ledger was seized by the FBI at
the time of his arrest in 1983 as part of The Frogman Case.
- Individual Statements: Others. Zavala characterizes
Cabezas--who testified against him in the prosecution of The Frogman Case--as "very
sneaky." Rather, Zavala says he believes Cabezas' drug-related activities
were for his personal enrichment, although Zavala concedes that he was "cut"
off from Cabezas' dealings with Pereira and Troilo Sanchez. Zavala is clear
that, prior to the break with Cabezas, he saw nothing and was told nothing that
would suggest to him that Cabezas was selling drugs for the Contras.
- Cabezas says that he told an FBI Special Agent following the 1983
arrest, about his activities in raising funds for the Contras through the sale
of cocaine. The FBI Special Agent, however, says he has no
recollection of Cabezas telling him about his Contra fund raising activities.
- Troilo Sanchez disputes most portions of Cabezas' story. Sanchez
claims that he was not personally involved with the Contras, although his
brothers--Enrique, Aristides, Fernando, and Victor--were. According
to Sanchez, Cabezas and Pereira were drug trafficking partners, but he does not
know if Zavala sold drugs as well. Sanchez recalls that he, Cabezas, Pereira
and Zavala frequently got together in San Jose to go dancing, but he does not
remember attending any meetings at a San Jose hotel to discuss selling cocaine
to raise funds for the Contras. Sanchez denies knowing of anyone trafficking in
drugs to earn profits for the Contras, although he concedes that persons such as
Cabezas may have used the Contras as a facade or excuse for their unlawful
- Individual Statements: Salomon. Doris
Salomon, who is Zavala's wife, has been incarcerated in a California prison
since her 1994 conviction on drug charges unrelated to The Frogman Case.
claims she never donated any money to the Contras, but she says that she
performed humanitarian work for the Contras while living in Costa Rica. Such
work included asking hospitals to donate stocks of medicine that were nearing
expiration dates and would otherwise be disposed of. Salomon also
claims to have provided humanitarian support to the Sandinistas in 1979 while
living in Baja, California.
- Regarding her husband, Zavala, Salomon says that she is not aware that
he ever donated money to the Contras. Moreover, Salomon claims Zavala "never
told me that he donated money to the Contras." Salomon does not believe
the quote attributed to Zavala by the San Francisco Examiner that he had
donated $500,000 to the Contras.
- Salomon provided a sworn statement affirming:
That I never had any relationships with the CIA and the Contras, or any
selling of drugs for the Contras. I have no personal knowledge of the CIA
dealing with drugs for the Contras. I have no personal knowledge of my husband
selling drugs for the Contras. I did voluntary work on behalf of the Contras in
humanitary [sic] way in San Jose Costa Rica that had nothing to do with
Salomon says she recalls seeing Cabezas and Troilo Sanchez at a San Jose,
Costa Rica hotel in 1981. However, she denies having any personal knowledge
that either of them provided Zavala with cocaine. Salomon also
denies ever discussing drug trafficking with Cabezas or Sanchez.
- Salomon says that Zavala never told her he had received money from
Aviles and she says that she has no knowledge that Zavala ever transported
anything to Costa Rica for the Contras. Salomon says she recalls Cabezas
boasting--probably in 1981--that he "knew people in the Contras."
Thus, she believes it is possible that Cabezas could have had a relationship
with the Contras. However, Salomon comments that "Cabezas is a liar to me."
- As to how Zavala obtained the two letters that linked the cash seized
from his home at the time of his arrest to the Contra cause, Salomon recalls
that her husband contacted her by telephone or letter from the jail in San
Francisco sometime after his arrest. According to Salomon, Zavala asked her to
contact a person named "Francisco" in San Jose, Costa Rica and advise
him of what happened. She says this was Aviles. Salomon does not recall if
Zavala told her whether the cash belonged to Aviles personally or to an
organization Aviles represented. Salomon claims to have no recollection of what
Aviles' reaction was or what he may have said when Salomon informed him that the
money had been seized.
- According to Salomon, Zavala only asked her to inform Aviles about the
seizure of the money. She has no recollection of Zavala instructing her to have
Aviles write any letters on Zavala's behalf. She assumes that Aviles took it
upon himself to write the letters, or wrote the letters based upon a
pre-existing arrangement with Zavala. In any event, Salomon says she
is aware that Aviles prepared one or more letters for her husband and that the
letters were sent to the Federal District Court in San Francisco. She says
Aviles may have even shown her a copy of at least one of the letters at some
point. Salomon contends she did not pay Aviles for the letters.
- Salomon says she has never met Vicente Rappaccioli and does not know
why Rappaccioli signed his name to one of the two letters on behalf of Zavala.
She speculates that Rappaccioli probably did so at Aviles' request.
- Individual Statements: Aviles. Francisco Aviles, a
resident of Léon, Nicaragua, denies the March 1986 San Francisco
Examiner report that he gave Zavala $45,000 to purchase weapons and
equipment for the Contras. "I never gave Zavala one cent. We did not have
any money to give," Aviles claims. Aviles does, however, admit
that he told the San Francisco Examiner he gave Zavala $35,000. He says
he did this with the intent to try to create some sense of indebtedness by
Zavala toward Aviles' Contra political organization.
- Aviles explains that, while he was living in Costa Rica in late 1981 or
early 1982 and associated with the PCNE, he received a telephone call from
Zavala or someone associated with Zavala with an offer of financial help for the
Contras. Aviles says he and Rappaccioli attempted to check Zavala out and did
not learn anything derogatory. Accordingly, Aviles says he met with Zavala and
Rappaccioli in Costa Rica. Aviles says that Zavala claimed he could get
contributions for the Contras from Nicaraguans living in the United States.
Aviles claims that this meeting was the only time he ever met Zavala personally.
Aviles says he provided a letter--signed by Aviles and Rappaccioli--that "authorized
Zavala to fund-raise for the Contras."
- Aviles says he received a call from Doris Salomon about 18 months after
his meeting with Zavala and Rappaccioli. Salomon informed Aviles that Zavala
had been arrested and was in a U.S. prison because of a "problem with his
passport." Salomon, according to Aviles, made no mention that the arrest
was on drug-related charges. Aviles recalls being told by Salomon
that Zavala needed a letter to establish that the money seized at his home had
represented "funds raised for the Contra Movement." Aviles recalls
that he prepared such a letter, addressed it either to "the judge" or "to
whom it may concern," and sent the letter to either the U.S. Embassy, San
Jose or a person at the U.S. Embassy whose name he cannot recall.
- Aviles says that he only learned later through press reports that the
money in question represented drug profits, and not funds donated by other
Nicaraguans for the Contra cause. Aviles contends, "We would never have
[written the letter requested by Salomon] had we known the money was from drugs."
- Aviles acknowledges providing at least one additional letter to Zavala.
Sometime in 1985, Aviles says he received a telephone call from Zavala, who
Aviles only subsequently learned was calling from a U.S. prison. Aviles claims
that Zavala continued to claim that his legal problems related to his passport
and asked Aviles for a "reference letter" to be used with the Federal
District Court to show that Zavala was a member of the Contras. Aviles says he
wrote a short letter to this effect that he then sent to Salomon.
- Sometime later, though possibly still in 1985, Aviles says he received
a check from either the FBI or the Court for about $30,000.recalls
being concerned at the time that the money might have been derived from Zavala's
drug trafficking. He says that by then he believed he was dealing with the "Mafia"
or drug cartels and began to be concerned about his safety. He recalls
returning the check uncashed to either Doris Salomon or her mother, along with a
power of attorney so that they could cash it, as a way of protecting himself.
- Aviles claims he returned the check "because it was blood money,
and we wanted nothing to do with it." Aviles denies that either
he or Rappaccioli received any compensation from Zavala for writing the letter
that authorized him to raise funds for the Contras. Aviles also denies that he
received compensation for the "reference letter" that he sent to
Salomon in response to Zavala's telephone call from a U.S. prison, or for
returning the check-- uncashed and with a power of attorney--to Doris Salomon or
- Individual Statements: Others. Joseph Russoniello was
the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California when The
Frogman Case was prosecuted. He recalls no link among Zavala, Cabezas, the
seized funds, and the Contras other than the subsequent statements of Zavala and
Cabezas. He is also not aware of any information indicating any link between
the defendants and CIA.
- Mark Zanides was the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) who
prosecuted Zavala in The Frogman Case. He recalls that law enforcement wiretaps
that were in place during the months preceding the arrests revealed that Zavala
spent most of his time "drunk" and trying to figure out how to pay his
drug suppliers. Based on his knowledge of Zavala's activities,
Zanides calls it "inconceivable" that Zavala could have donated
$500,000 to the Contras as was reported by the San Francisco Examiner in
1986. Additionally, Zanides says he was "surprised" to learn that
Zavala even had $36,000 in his home at the time of the raid. Nevertheless,
Zanides says, "I don't think [Zavala] made much money selling dope, [but]
moved a fair amount of it." Zanides does not recall any
information from the wiretaps that indicated any connection between Zavala's
drug trafficking activity and the Contras.
- Judd Iversen, the attorney who defended Zavala in The Frogman Case,
recalls that Zavala told him at the time that Doris Salomon was a Contra fund
raiser. It was through this connection, Iversen believes, that Zavala became
involved in Contra activities. Zavala did not impress Iversen as a person who
was interested in politics, and Iversen states that Zavala "just went along
with the [Contra] fund raising because he liked Doris." Iversen expresses
extreme skepticism regarding Zavala's reported statement to the San
Francisco Examiner that he sent $500,000 to the Contras.
- The FBI Special Agent who was the lead FBI agent in the investigation
relating to The Frogman Case says he has no recollection of any information
indicating that Zavala was involved with the Contras. He also states he "never
felt, from what [he] could see, that the Contras were involved." Moreover,
he says he does not remember any information indicating that Zavala was
operating two trafficking organizations, one of which was for the benefit of the
- The FBI Special Agent also does not recall any information indicating
that Cabezas had any relation to the Contras or that his trafficking in drugs
was a means of funding the Contras. He says, "I don't remember Cabezas
saying he was selling drugs for the Contras. I wouldn't have believed him."
If there was such a connection with the Contras, "that would have been a
great defense for them."
- The FBI Special Agent says he has no recollection that any information
relating to the Contras was discovered during the course of the investigation,
although he adds that the investigation necessarily would not have confirmed to
whom Zavala might have sent money derived from his drug trafficking. This FBI
Special Agent also says he has no recollection that any information linking the
cocaine to the Contras was derived from the U.S. Government wiretaps of Zavala
and Cabezas. However, he recalls roughly 10,000 conversations were recorded,
and he cannot recall any references on the wiretaps to the Contras. Had there
been such a reference, the FBI Special Agent says he believes he would have made
note of it. The FBI Special Agent also comments that it is possible that the
linguists responsible for translating the recorded conversations may not have
considered a comment relating to the Contras to warrant its inclusion into the
written summary of the conversation.
- Another FBI Special Agent who dealt with Cabezas following his
conviction in 1984 and his later release from prison in 1992 says
that, although Cabezas did tell him in 1987 that he sold cocaine for the
Contras, Cabezas provided few details regarding that claim or how much of the
proceeds might have been provided to the Contras.
- With respect to Zavala, this FBI Special Agent states that "Zavala
was only in it for the money." Additionally, the FBI Special Agent recalls
talking to Zavala and that Zavala "never talked about the Contras."
- A third FBI Special Agent arrested Zavala during the raid on Zavala's
home. He recalls that when $30,000 to $40,000 was discovered in the night stand
at Zavala's home, Zavala made no statement or claims as to the ownership of the
money. This FBI Special Agent says he has no recollection of Zavala, Cabezas,
or any of the other defendants in the case claiming that their drug trafficking
activities were for the benefit of the Contras.
- The FBI Special Agent who arrested Zavala also recalls no information
relating to the Contras being derived from any of the wiretaps. As best he
recalls, none of the logs that described each taped telephone call, and none of
the transcripts or translations of those telephone calls, mentioned the Contras.
- Norwin Meneses says he was never part of the Zavala organization
although he acknowledges that he knew Zavala and Cabezas. Although
individuals implicated in The Frogman Case also admit that they knew Norwin
Meneses, no information has been found to indicate that they worked together to
traffic in drugs on behalf of the Contras. Zavala says he met Meneses only one
or two times. These meetings, says Zavala, did not involve the sale of drugs.
According to Zavala, an associate of his may have purchased drugs from Meneses
when the associate and Meneses were living in Managua.
- Salomon says she met Norwin Meneses and his nephews "many years
ago." Salomon states that she did not know Meneses well because their
political views differed. Salomon says it is her understanding that Meneses was
a drug trafficker even before the Sandinista Revolution.
- Cabezas claims he knows Norwin Meneses and that Meneses was a drug
dealer. According to Cabezas, Meneses had no connection to the Zavala
organization. Cabezas says he does not believe that Meneses was
affiliated with any Contra organization or that Meneses made any donations to
- Troilo Sanchez says he believes Meneses was a drug trafficker for the
Contras, but can provide no information to support this belief. He says Meneses
used other people and organizations as cover but was only interested in
benefiting himself. Sanchez claims he met Meneses through Horacio Pereira.
Pereira and Meneses, according to Cabezas, worked together as drug traffickers
even as far back as the Somoza regime in the 1970s.
- CIA Records. According to CIA records, Aristides and Fernando
Sanchez were active in the Contra movement. No indication has been found that
Aristides or Fernando had contact with Cabezas.
- Did any of the individuals who were arrested in "The Frogman
Case" have any relationship with CIA? Were the drug trafficking activities
of any of those individuals linked to the Contras?
No information has been
found to indicate that CIA or individuals acting on behalf of CIA had any
relationship with Julio Zavala, Carlos Cabezas, or others who were arrested or
charged in connection with the 1983 Frogman Case, though a relative of one of
them did have a relationship with CIA until mid-1982.
- No information has been found to indicate that Julio Zavala, Carlos
Cabezas or other Frogman Case defendants were connected to the Contras or that
the Contras benefited from their drug trafficking activities. No information
has been found to support Cabezas' claim that he provided financial assistance
to the Contras from his drug trafficking activities. While two individuals who
were active in the Contra movement wrote letters indicating that the money
seized money from Zavala belonged to the Contras, it appears this was done
through Zavala's wife's connections to old family friends and not because Zavala
was active in the Contra movement.
Was CIA involved in the investigation of The Frogman Case?
- As mentioned earlier, a relative of one of those arrested or charged in
the 1983 Frogman Case did have a relationship with CIA until mid-1982. That
relationship began in the late 1970s based upon the individual's access to
information concerning Nicaraguan Sandinista activities. By 1982, the Agency
had decided that the asset was not "worth the considerable expenditure of
resources involved," and terminated the relationship. No information has
been found to indicate the former asset engaged in any activities that were
contrary to U.S. law or that interfered with the investigation of The Frogman
Case or The Frogman Case arrests that occurred in January and February 1983.
- Was CIA involved in the investigation of The Frogman Case? No
information has been found to indicate that CIA or anyone acting on behalf of
CIA was involved in the criminal investigation of Julio Zavala and his
associates, though a relative of one of those arrested or charged did have a
relationship with CIA until mid-1982.
- CIA Records. CIA records indicate that the Agency first learned
of The Frogman Case on July 30, 1984 when a cable from an LA Division Station
informed Headquarters that the local representative of a U.S. law enforcement
entity had brought a DoS telegram to its attention. The DoS telegram indicated
that an AUSA for the Northern District of California and an FBI Special Agent
were requesting permission to travel to San Jose to question two "anti-Sandinistas"
in connection with the prosecution of a cocaine trafficking case identified as
U.S. v Zavala.
- Although the AUSA and the FBI Special Agent were not identified by name
in the LA Division cable, the DoS telegram did identify them. Further the DoS
telegram stated that AUSA Zanides and the FBI Special Agent would be attending "court-ordered
depositions on Francisco Aviles Saenz and Vincente [sic] Rappaccioli
- Vicente Rappaccioli Marquis, who was proposed to be deposed, is
identified in CIA records as having been a member of the board of directors of
the PCNE. No information has been found to indicate that CIA ever
had any relationship with this individual. However, CIA personnel in the LA
Division Station apparently misidentified him as a former Agency asset.
- In its July 30, 1984 cable informing Headquarters of the planned
depositions in San Jose, the LA Division Station identified Francisco Aviles
Saenz by name. However, the LA Division Station cable did not provide
Headquarters with the name of the second individual. Instead, the Station cable
referred to this second individual by a CIA cryptonym that had been assigned in
1980 to the misidentified former asset. According to the Station
cable, the misidentified former asset had also been associated with the Contra
- The Station also reported that both Francisco Aviles and the
misidentified former asset had been members of a Nicaraguan exile group.
Although that group is not further discussed in the Station cable, Agency
records indicate that the group unwittingly received CIA support.
- The July 30, 1984 cable from the LA Division Station also asked
Headquarters and several other field stations for any additional information
that might be available in their files concerning Aviles and the misidentified
former asset. The cable also asked for information regarding who Zavala was,
the charges against him and whether there was any connection between Zavala,
Aviles and the misidentified former asset. In closing, the LA Division Station
noted that it was "concerned that this kind of uncoordinated activity
[i.e., the AUSA and FBI visit and depositions] could have serious implications
for anti-Sandinista activities in Costa Rica and elsewhere."
- Agency records indicate that Vicente Rappaccioli Marquis--who was to be deposed and with whom the Agency had no
relationship--was born on July 15, 1928. The misidentified former Agency asset
differed in age from Rappaccioli by more than 10 years. By mid-1981, regular
CIA contact with the misidentified former asset had ceased, and all contact
appears to have ended sometime in 1982.
- A Headquarters desk officer assigned to the DO/Central America Task
Force (CATF) preliminarily responded to the LA Division Station in an August 1,
1984 cable. The CATF cable cited a 1983 media report that identified
Zavala as a 39-year-old illegal alien from South San Francisco named Julio C.
Zavala Moreno. The cable also reported that CIA had no information in its
records concerning Zavala.
- With respect to Aviles, the August 1, 1984 CATF cable stated that CIA
records indicated that Aviles, a member of the Nicaraguan Democratic
Conservative Party (PCN), had attended an August 1982 conference in Miami in
which senior members of the PCN had created a faction of the party in exile--the
PCNE. At that conference, according to CIA records, Aviles had been elected to
be the secretary of the PCNE's board of directors. The August 1, 1984 cable
also stated that the Agency had no information to indicate any connection
between Aviles, Zavala and the misidentified former asset. Finally, the cable
stated that the Agency was contacting the FBI for information regarding Zavala.
- CIA records also show that the CATF desk officer sent a brief note and
a copy of the July 30, 1983 LA Division Station cable to the Freedom, Privacy
and Litigation Group (FPLG) of the DO's Information Management Staff (IMS).
At that time, FPLG was the DO's focal point for matters relating to litigation
that involved DO information.
- An August 2, 1984 memorandum from FPLG to the CATF desk officer in CIA
records indicated that the Agency's Office of General Counsel (OGC) had been
made aware of the case, probably by FPLG, by that date. The
memorandum stated that the proposed depositions of Aviles and the misidentified
former asset would relate to whether approximately $30,000 that was seized from
Zavala at the time of his arrest was acquired through business transactions,
rather than cocaine trafficking. Further, the memorandum indicated that FPLG
and OGC representatives were planning to meet with "the AUSA" on
August 7, 1984, following which "the AUSA" would go to Costa Rica to
take the depositions later in August. The FPLG memorandum did not specify the
identities of the Agency's representatives or the location of the planned
meeting with the AUSA.
- The August 2, 1984 FPLG memorandum also asked that the CATF desk
officer provide a "summary" of the activities of Aviles and the
misidentified former asset in preparation for the FPLG and OGC meeting with the
AUSA. Finally, the FPLG memorandum indicated that, once "the AUSA"
provided further details, the Agency could "determine whether our equities
will be affected." No information has been found to indicate
any CATF response to this memorandum's commentary or request for a summary of
the activities of Aviles and the misidentified former asset.
- On August 3, 1984, Headquarters advised the LA Division Station of what
had been learned about the Zavala case. The cable, originated by FPLG,
indicated that the depositions that were scheduled for August 16, 1984 in Costa
Rica were in response to a motion by Zavala's attorney and are "subject to
court order that [the U.S.] Government not interfere or discourage compliance."
The genesis for this statement may have been a recently unsealed transcript of
a June 12, 1984 in camera proceeding relating to a motion by Zavala's
attorney under Rule 15 of the Federal Criminal Code and Rules which pertains to
depositions. The transcript of that proceeding indicated that the
late Robert Peckham, the presiding U.S. District Court Judge, stated at that
time, in part:
Now, there is a serious problem, though, that perhaps we should mention
now, and perhaps even address first, and that is, that in the papers Mr. Zavala,
through his counsel, indicates that the deponent's identify [sic] must
remain secret to prevent the CIA from coercing the witnesses and to altering
their proffered testimony.
- The August 3, 1984 Headquarters cable to the LA Division Station also
indicated that testimony in the Zavala case would concern the "source of
money confiscated in cocaine raid in San Francisco." The Station was
advised that--to avoid giving Zavala's defense attorneys a "possible issue"--the
Station should make no effort to contact the two individuals who were to be
deposed. Further, Headquarters advised the LA Division Station that there was
no reason to believe that Zavala's attorneys were aware that the misidentified
former asset had any association with CIA. The Headquarters cable also stated,
without further explanation, that the depositions "may be avoided if
planned legal action is successful." Finally, the Station was informed
that FPLG and OGC representatives "will meet 7 August with Assistant U.S.
Attorney to draft [a] course of action."
- On August 3, another LA Division Station responded to the request for
information about Aviles and informed Headquarters that Aviles was not well
regarded. The Station further reported that Aviles had been asked to leave a
Contra support group in Costa Rica around August 1983 when questions were raised
regarding his handling of the group's funds.
- The exact date of the FPLG and OGC meeting with the AUSA has not been
determined although, as indicated earlier, the meeting was scheduled for August
7, 1984. On August 16, 1984, the U.S. Embassy in San Jose informed
the LA Division Station that the planned visit of AUSA Zanides and an FBI
Special Agent had been canceled. The Station informed Headquarters of this
development on August 17, 1984 and indicated that an Embassy official had said
that the visit of the "U.S. Attorney" had been canceled by the "Funny
Farm," a term that the LA Division Station took to mean CIA.
The LA Division Station went on to say that it had told the Embassy official
that CIA had no interest in the case following receipt of the August 1, 1984
cable from the CATF branch. The Station also suggested that Headquarters might
"wish [to] ascertain if [the "Funny Farm"] reference was indeed
to [CIA] and, if so, correct the misunderstanding." Additionally,
Headquarters was asked to inform the LA Division Station of any actions it had
taken in regard to the depositions so that "we may reassure the [Embassy
official] that [CIA] had no hand in cancellation of trip."
- On August 14, 1984, a memorandum to FPLG from another IMS entity
provided additional information concerning the results of the review of CIA
records for any information regarding Zavala. The memorandum stated that there
was no indication that Zavala was in the United States illegally or that he had
he ever been the subject of any request for CIA records under the Privacy Act or
Freedom of Information Act. On September 28, 1984, Chief/FPLG forwarded the
memorandum to OGC for information.
- On August 24, 1984, Headquarters sent a cable to three LA Division
Stations informing them that CIA had indeed been a factor in the decision of the
San Francisco United States Attorney's Office to return the money to Zavala and
cancel the deposition trip to Costa Rica. This cable stated:
Following discreet approach to senior Department of Justice
official, [OGC] personally contacted the Chief of Criminal Division and Chief of
Drug Task Force in U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco to ascertain
details of the subject prosecution and to avoid inquiry into activities or other
- We were advised that Zavala had been arrested on 13 February 1983
in San Francisco and subsequently indicted on charges of "possession with
intent to distribute" and "continuing criminal enterprise (CCE)."
At the time of his arrest, a substantial quantity of cocaine was seized in
addition to approximately $36,000 in U.S. currency. Although Zavala has pleaded
guilty to "possession," he will require the U.S. to go to trial on the
CCE charge which carries a minimum sentence of 80 months. Prior to Zavala's
arrest, he had been the subject of a wiretap for some four months. During this
period he and certain family members had inexplicably traveled to San Jose.
- On the day of the [OGC] visit to San Francisco, the U.S. Attorney
learned that one Francisco Aviles Saenz had executed an affidavit in San Jose
which claimed that the money seized from Zavala belonged to [a Contra support
group], that it had been collected from supporters of the party, and that these
supporters included certain unnamed but official United States "organs."
The copy which we saw, but could not retain pending authorization from the
Court, was an official English translation and appeared to be one of many that
had been made by defendant or his attorneys.
- With a general briefing concerning the background of and
relationship between [the misidentified former asset], Aviles and [CIA]
interests, it was agreed by all that any litigation concerning the currency
seizure would be fruitless. In essence the United States Attorney could never
disprove the defendant's allegation that his was [a Contra support group] or
[CIA] money, especially in light of the roles which [the misidentified former
asset] and Aviles have played in the anti-Sandinista community. Accordingly,
at [OGC's] request the U.S. Attorney has agreed to return the money to Zavala
and to make no use of it during the trial of Zavala on the CCE charge.
- It was for this reason that the scheduled depositions in San Jose
have been canceled. Notably, [OGC] also learned that both [the misidentified
former asset] and Aviles were volunteer witnesses for the defendant and planned
to testify at their deposition as to the source of the money in question. We
can only guess at what other testimony may have been forthcoming. As matter now
stands, [CIA] equities are fully protected, but [OGC] will continue to monitor
the prosecution closely so that any further disclosures or allegations by
defendant or his confidants can be deflected.
- While this particular aspect was successfully resolved, the
possibility of potential damage to [CIA] interests was not lost on the U.S.
Attorney or [Headquarters]. By virtue of [the misidentified former asset's]
relationship as former [covert action] asset and member of board of directors of
[a Contra organization], Aviles role as director of the [Contra support group]
office in San Jose, and their formal claim of drug-tainted money, case could be
made that [CIA] funds are being diverted by [CIA] assets into the drug trade.
Indeed, close relationship between Zavala, a convicted drug dealer, and [the
misidentified former asset] and Aviles could prove most damaging especially if
any relationship, no matter how indirect, were to continue. As long as [the
misidentified former asset] and Aviles continue to play any role in the
anti-Sandinista movement, any public disclosure of the foregoing would have as a
certain element the fact that they were "linked to" or "assets of"
- While the United States Attorney was most deferential to our
interests, it was strongly suggested that we take every measure possible to
ascertain any involvement by [the misidentified former asset] or Aviles in
narcotics trade and/or the possibility as to whether [CIA] funds given to [a
Contra support group] might arguably have been diverted. No action other than
discreet inquiries should be undertaken without [Headquarters] approval and no
discussion of U.S. vs. Zavala issue with Aviles or [the misidentified former
asset] may take place without U.S. Attorney approval. We would appreciate any
information [twoLA Division Stations] can provide to clarify these issues.
8. . . .
9. . . .
10. . . .
No further information has been found in CIA files regarding the precise
nature of the "discreet approach" to DoJ that was referred to in the
first sentence of this cable. It also has not been possible to identify with
any degree of certainty the senior DoJ official who reportedly discussed the
Zavala case with an OGC attorney. A number of former OGC officials believe that
Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard was the person
most likely to have represented DoJ in such a discussion, but he has no
recollection of the matter.
- Information in the OGC file regarding the Zavala case appears to
indicate that the majority of the text of the August 24, 1984 cable was
originally written by OGC, although the Chief of the CATF branch concerned was
indicated as the originator of the cable. The OGC file contains eight
documents, including handwritten notes. One of the documents is a draft of the
August 24, 1984 cable to the three LA Division Stations. With the exception of
minor revisions and the addition of operational information in paragraphs 8, 9
and 10, the text of the cable sent to the three LA Division Stations on August
24, 1984 is the same as that contained in draft form in the OGC file.
- An August 22, 1984 OGC cover note to FPLG, subject "United
States v. Zavales [sic]" and signed by OGC Assistant
General Counsel Lee S. Strickland, stated:
Please find attached a proposed draft cable for [the LA Division]
station concerning the subject prosecution. While paragraphs 6 and 7 are rather
strong, I believe the station must be made aware of the potential for disaster.
While the allegations might be entirely false, there are sufficient factual
details which would cause certain damage to our image and program in Central
- OGC travel records for the period have been destroyed in accordance
with routine U.S. Government records management schedules. A surviving abstract
summary of those records is of insufficient detail to establish whether it was
in fact Strickland who traveled to San Francisco on behalf of OGC during the
relevant time period. Entries in the abstract summary indicate that a number of
OGC personnel traveled during the general time period but the name of the
traveler, the specific dates of such travel and the destination are, in many
cases, not specified. Several entries in the abstract summary list San
Francisco as one such destination, but the name of the traveler is not specified.
- The LA Division Station, in a September 8, 1984 response to the August
24, 1984 Headquarters cable, reported that it had additional information
pertaining to the misidentified former asset. According to the report, the
misidentified former asset had last been seen about March 1982 in Managua,
Nicaragua. Since that contact, the misidentified former asset had reportedly
married and was currently living somewhere in a foreign country. According to
the report, the misidentified former asset was a "good man."
- An OGC weekly report regularly prepared by General Counsel Stanley
Sporkin for senior CIA officials made reference to the Zavala case.
The October 26, 1984 report contained several factual errors, including
mischaracterizing Aviles as a CIA assettating his position with the
Contra support group. The relevant portion of the weekly report, which
closely approximated the wording of the August 24, 1984 Headquarters cable to
the LA Division Station in many respects, stated:
U.S. v. Zavala: During our quarterly review of Agency litigations, we
decided to provide summaries of cases which the Director might find interesting.
This is such a case. Several months ago, the [the LA Division] station queried
Headquarters concerning a proposed visit by two U.S. Attorneys from San
Francisco to interview two individuals who were assets--one [the misidentified
former asset] and one the Chairman of the Board of Directors of a [Contra
support group] funding mechanism (Francisco Aviles). Following a discreet
approach to a senior Department of Justice official, we contacted the Chief of
Criminal Division and Chief of Drug Task Force in U.S. Attorney's Office in San
Francisco to ascertain details of the subject prosecution.
We were advised that Zavala had been arrested on 13 February 1983 in
San Francisco and subsequently indicted on charges of "possession with
intent to distribute" and "continuing criminal enterprise" (CCE).
At the time of his arrest, a substantial quantity of cocaine was seized in
addition to approximately $36,000 in U.S. currency. Although Zavala has pleaded
guilty to "possession," he will require the U.S. to go to trial on the
CCE charge which carries a minimum sentence of 80 months. Prior to Zavala's
arrest, he had been the subject of a wiretap for some four months. During this
period, he and certain family members had inexplicably traveled to San Jose.
Contemporary with our visit to San Francisco, the U.S. Attorney learned
that Aviles, one of our assets,uted an affidavit in San Jose which
claimed that the money seized from Zavala belonged to [a] political exile party
. . . , that it had been collected from supporters of the party, and that these
supporters included certain unnamed but official United States "organ[ization]s."
The copy which we saw was an official English translation and appeared to be
one of many that had been made by defendant or his attorneys.
This matter raises obvious questions concerning the people we are
supporting in Central America and we are continuing our inquiry into this matter
internally in conjunction with all concerned components.
- Then-Counsel to the DO Ernest Mayerfeld forwarded the OGC weekly report
to the Deputy Director for Operations with a brief memorandum on October 30,
1984. Mayerfeld's memorandum suggested the Zavala case was not as serious as
portrayed in OGC's weekly report:
This is an item taken from weekly news sheet put out by Stan Sporkin.
This one covers last week's events. I don't know whether you had heard about
this case - I had not. I talked to the lawyer that is handling this case, who
tells me that the graymail aspects of this case are quite routine and he has
every reason to believe that he can avoid, with the excellent cooperation of the
San Francisco prosecutor, any public disclosure of our involvement. I do not
think this is a big flap and ought not to be made into one. On the basis of
what I know so far, I feel the final paragraph of the attached [weekly report]
- On November 2, 1984, Headquarters sent a cable to two LA Division
Stations asking for information regarding Aviles and his role in Contra support
groups. The Stations both responded on November 5, and one of them suggested
that Headquarters contact a CIA officer who had formerly been assigned to that
Station and might possess relevant background information. On November 7, 1984,
Headquarters sent a cable to that officer explaining that certain information
was needed by Headquarters "to prepare a report regarding the involvement
of . . . Francisco Aviles in U.S. v. Zavala case now in litigation in
San Francisco." In a November 8 response to Headquarters, the CIA officer
said he had no information to offer.
- U.S. District Court/U.S. Attorney's Office Records. During the
prosecution of Zavala, the defense attorneys filed a motion in June 1984 to
place under seal the Aviles and Rappaccioli letters and other related documents
that claimed that the money seized from Zavala's home belonged to the Contras.
The motion was granted by the Court. On August 8, 1984, the U.S. Attorney's
Office's motion to remove the documents from under seal was granted by the
Court. However, the next day, the Court vacated the unsealing order. AUSA
Zanides recalls that, upon learning of the contents of the letters when they
were unsealed, the U.S. Attorney immediately moved to re-seal the materials
pending a further review. This was done because the U.S. Attorney did not know
whether the persons named in the letters were assets of CIA.
- The documents that had been sealed have now been removed from seal by
the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after CIA and
DoJ asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to file a motion requesting that this be
done. The documents that were formerly under seal include:
- Document number 639--a Supplemental Declaration of Judd C. Iversen in
Support of Deposition that was filed with the Court on June 18, 1984;
- Document number 730--a transcript of a June 12, 1984 in camera
proceeding involving arguments by the defense and the prosecution relating to
the Rule 15 motion;
- Document number 745--a Declaration of Judd C. Iversen in Support of
Motion for Order Granting Leave to Take Deposition dated June 4, 1984 and
filed with the Court on August 28, 1984. This document included as attachments:
- An unsigned receipt for $45,000 in Spanish on PCNE letterhead that is
dated January 24, 1983 and with an English translation of the Spanish text typed
above the PCNE letterhead. A forensic analysis requested by CIA/OIG from DoJ's
INS Forensic Document Laboratory indicates that the receipt is a composite
document, i.e., it is a photocopy of two documents butted together;
- A photocopied document--in Spanish--titled TESORERIA ("Treasury"),
signed by Vicente Rappaccioli, on PCNE letterhead. In the document, Zavala is
identified as having been named "ASISTENTE DE ESTA TESORERIA GENERAL DEL
PARTIDO CONSERVADOR, AUTHORIZADO PARA COLECTAR DENTRO DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS
DINERO PARA LA LIBERACION DE NICARAGUA DEL COMUNISMO INTERNACIONAL."
("Assistant to the General Treasury of the Conservative Party,
authorized to collect within the United States money for the liberalization [sic]
of Nicaragua from international communism.");
- An unsigned photocopy of an English translation of document (b) but with
different type face and on plain bond paper;
- A photocopied document--in Spanish--addressed A QUIEN CONCIERNE ("To
Whom It May Concern") on PCNE letterhead. The document is signed by Aviles
as the "SECRETARIO POLITICO" ("Political Secretary") and by
Rappaccioli as the "TESORERO" ("Treasurer"). Following a
brief description of the PCNE's goals and objectives, the document continues
". . . . ES MIEMBRO DEL PARTIDO CONSERVADOR COMO ASISTENTE DE TESORERIA
Y SE ENCUENTRA EN LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS DE NORTE AMERICA PROMOVIENDO LA
REINSTAURACION DE LA DEMOCRACIA EN NICARAGUA, PARA DICHA MISION LE FUE ENTREGADA
LA CANTIDAD DE CUARENTA Y CINCO MIL DOLARES EN EFECTIVO, EN LA ULTIMA SEMANA DE
ENERO DE MIL NOVECIENTOS OCHENTA Y TRES EN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA. LA RETENCION
DE ESTE DINERO PERJUDICANDO EL PROCESO DE LIBERACION, CON SUS CONSECUENCIAS
NATURALES. (". . . is a member of the Conservative Party as assistant
treasurer and is located in the United States of America promoting the
reinstatement of democracy in Nicaragua, for which mission he received forty
five thousand dollars in cash, on the last week of January, 1983 in San Jose,
Costa Rica. The retention of this money is prejudicing the progress of
liberation, with natural consequences.")
ROGAMOSLE MUY ENGARECIDAMENTE A LAS AUTORIDADES CORRESPONDIENTES DEVOLVERNOS
DICHO DINERO." ("We dearly implore that the
corresponding authorities return said money.");
- An unsigned photocopy of an English translation of document (d) on plain
- Several photocopies of newspaper clippings. One of the clippings was of
a front page article from the July 14, 1983 edition of the San Francisco
Examiner titled "CIA Buildup in Nicaragua." The other article was
from an unidentified Spanish-language newspaper pertaining to The Frogman Case
and was titled "Somocistas en Trafico de Drogas." ("[Counterrevolutionary]
- Document 684--a notarized letter in Spanish, signed by Aviles, on UDN
letterhead. It appears to be an original and is dated May 15, 1984. In
addition, it has attached to it a separate English language "official
translation" notarized on May 29, 1984 by an officer of the U. S. Embassy
in San Jose. Following a brief introductory paragraph regarding the goals and
objectives of the UDN, the letter--and its "official translation"--includes
the following statements by Aviles:
- "Qué el señor Julio Cesar Zavala Moreno es miembro de
esta organización desde hace varios anos." ("That Mrs.
Julio Cesar Zavala Moreno [sic] is a member of this organization
since several years ago.")
- "Antes de la última semana de enero de 1983 hizo varios
viajes a Costa Rica trabajando para ésta organización." ("That
before the last week of January, 1983 he made several trips to Costa Rica,
working for this organization.")
- "En su último viaje se le entrego la suma de cuarenta y cinco
mil dólares en efectivo para compras propias de nuestra actividad."
("That on his last trip the amount of forty-five thousand dollars in
cash was given to him for purchases characteristic to this organization.")
- "Dicho dinero fué recaudado entre nuestros coloboradores aquí
en Costa Rica." ("That said money was collected amongst our
collaborators, here in Costa Rica.")
- "El Organismo del Gobierno Americano, varias veces nos ha prestado
ayuda para la lucha anticomunista que se realiza en Nicaragua." ("That
the American Government Organism [sic] has assisted us many
times in the anticommunist fight which is taken [sic] place in
- "La retención de dicho dinero esta perjudicandonos el proceso
de liberación que ya estamos en la etapa final." ("That
the retention of said money is damaging the freeding [sic]
process which is in its last stage.")
"El suscrito firmante esta dispuesto de ofrecer testimonio de lo
anteriormente relacionado ante la Embajada Americana en San José, Costa
Rica, si fuese necesario." ("That the undersigned is willing to
offer evidence with regard to what has been stated above before the American
Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, if necessary.")
Other documents relating to the Rule 15 motion found in U.S. Attorney's
Office records may have been subject to the original sealing order. However,
the documents described above are the totality of documents that the U.S.
District Clerk's Office identified as removed from seal by virtue of the August
6, 1997 U.S. District Court order.
- A September 25, 1984 memorandum from OGC Attorney Strickland to FPLG
indicated that the U.S. Attorney's Office consulted with CIA on September 24
regarding the sealing of documents relating to the letters. In discussing a
declaration in which defense attorney Iversen alleged, among other things, "that
the CIA has engaged in the cocaine trade," the Strickland memorandum stated:
No information has been found to indicate that FPLG responded--by telephone
or otherwise--to Strickland's memorandum.
- The declaration that Strickland referred to in his September 25, 1984
memorandum may be document number 745--Declaration of Judd C. Iversen in
Support of Motion for Order Granting Leave to Take Deposition. That
declaration by defense attorney Iversen stated, in part:
. . . .
- Based on the information I have received, I am informed and
believe that agents of the United States government were intricately involved in
the alleged conspiracy and either sanctioned the use of cocaine trafficking to
raise funds for contra revolutionary activity and/or entrapped Defendant into
participating under the belief that such activity was sanctioned.
- I am informed and believe that the depositions of the Secretary
and Treasurer of the Conservative Party of Nicaraguans (Francisco Avilessanez [sic],
Esq. and Vicente Rappaccioli Marquis) are necessary testimony to present the
defense of entrapment and/or outrageous Government conduct on behalf of
- I am informed and believe that the CIA engaged in drug trafficking
during the Viet Nam War [sic] as a means to fund covert operations.
. . . .
- The Zavala case files in the U.S. Attorney's Office include an August
6, 1984 memorandum concerning an August 3 telephone conversation between AUSA
Zanides and Marvin Cahn, one of Zavala's two defense attorneys. This
conversation occurred at least four days prior to any visit by OGC attorney
Strickland with Zanides. The memorandum indicated that the seized money and
proposed depositions in Costa Rica were among several matters that were
discussed. It noted that Zanides told Cahn that "Washington was having
fits with the money situation with regard to the trip to Costa Rica."
- According to the memorandum, Zanides asked Cahn "what it was that
[the Zavala defense attorneys] really wanted from the depositions and if an
explanation of the source of the money" was the main issue. Cahn was noted
to have said that the money was the major issue, and Zanides wrote that he then
asked "Would it be necessary to go to Costa Rica if I decided to forget the
money." According to Zanides' memorandum, Cahn "thought that would be
okay, but he would have to talk to Judd Iversen and get back to [Zanides]."
- The Zavala case files in the U.S. Attorney's Office also contain an
August 27, 1984 memorandum concerning an August 20 telephone conversation
between Zanides and OGC attorney Strickland regarding information in CIA files
pertaining to Zavala.rd to this information, this
memorandum noted that:
On August 20, 1984, I returned the call of Strickland . . . .
In sum, Strickland advised that all traces with respect to Julio Zavala
had come back totally negative. Strickland advised that he had not merely
requested the so-called 201 trace, but a trace for any information whatsoever.
It was all negative.
He asked whether or not he could get a copy of the documents currently
under seal, and I told him the Court would have to remove the seal before we
could obtain any copies.
- Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Zavala's attorneys agreed
in an October 1984 "Stipulation Regarding Disposition of Funds" that:
- The U.S. would not introduce the "sum of $36,800" it seized from
Zavala's home as evidence; and
- A cashier's check for $36,800 would be made payable to Zavala and Aviles "and
presented to Julio Zavala through his undersigned counsel in San Francisco."
Relevant U.S. District Court records indicate that the Stipulation was
signed by Zavala's defense attorneys Judd Iversen and Marvin Cahn on October 1,
by AUSA Mark Zanides on October 2, and by Zavala on October 4, 1984.
- Records of the U.S. Attorney's Office indicate that a cashier's check
for $36,800, dated September 27, 1984 and identifying Aviles and Zavala as the
payees, was hand delivered to defense attorney Iversen in early October 1984.
Records of the U.S. Attorney's Office also indicate that AUSA Zanides signed for
the check from the FBI on September 27, 1984. A letter transmitting
the check from Zanides to defense attorney Iversen is dated October 2, 1984.
- The cashier's check was for a total of $36,800, not the $36,020 amount
that was reportedly seized from Zavala at the time of his arrest.
Although the reason for the discrepancy is unclear, one possible explanation is
that the additional $780 represents interest accrued while the money was in the
possession of the U.S. Government.
- Individual Statements: Aviles. Aviles initially
questioned whether the letters he had provided the Court and that had been
placed under seal in 1984 had been altered. Aviles examined a photocopy of the
May 15, 1984 letter he had sent and questioned whether various paragraphs had
been "cut and pasted." Subsequently, Aviles conceded that
his earlier statements were not correct and that the letter appeared to be
genuine. A forensic analysis of the original letter conducted by the DoJ's INS
Forensic Document Laboratory at the request of CIA/OIG found no apparent
evidence of tampering.
- Individual Statements: Zavala. Zavala recalls that,
after the Aviles and Rappaccioli letters arrived from Costa Rica claiming that
the money belonged to the Contras, defense attorney Iversen wanted to go to
Costa Rica and get depositions from Aviles and Rappaccioli. Zavala
also recalls that AUSA Zanides made clear that he did not want to go to Costa
Rica to take the depositions, but did not explain why. In any event, Zavala
says that Zanides approached Zavala or Iversen with an offer to forego
introducing the seized money into evidence if the defense request for the
depositions was dropped. Zavala says the money was not his to begin with and
that he insisted the money be returned to its rightful owner. Zanides agreed to
return the money several days later, according to Zavala.
- Zavala recalls that two checks were actually issued. The first was
made out to both him and Aviles and was given to defense attorney Iversen by
Zanides. Iversen then reportedly turned the check over to Zavala's
mother-in-law who had been given limited power of attorney by both Zavala and
Aviles. Zavala's mother-in-law's name is the same as that of her daughter,
Doris Salomon. Zavala says that his mother-in-law told him that, when she tried
to cash the check, the FBI was notified and--apparently believing that Zavala's
fugitive wife Salomon was attempting to cash the check--raced to the bank,
confiscated the cashier's check and temporarily detained his mother-in-law.
- Zavala says he became quite angry at what he perceived to be the U.S.
Government's reneging on the agreement to return the money. Zavala says he was
also angry that Aviles was made a co-payee on the check. Zavala argues that,
since the money was seized from him, the check should have been made out to him
exclusively. Zavala claims that, following further negotiations between his
attorneys and the U.S. Attorney's Office, a second check was made out to him
exclusively. It was cashed at a local savings and loan by his mother-in-law,
using the limited power of attorney she had received from Zavala. Zavala
recalls that some of the money was returned to Aviles by Zavala's mother-in-law,
but does not know the exact amount Aviles received.
- Individual Statements: U.S. Attorney's Office Personnel.
Joseph Russoniello, the former U.S. Attorney in San Francisco during whose
tenure The Frogman Case was prosecuted, says that he was not much involved in
The Frogman Case and does not recall many details. Russoniello says that he has
no recollection of ever discussing the case with a CIA representative and has no
knowledge of anyone in his office being contacted by CIA concerning the Zavala
case. Regarding the proposed depositions in Costa Rica, Russoniello recalls
that, when he heard that the amount of money in dispute was about $36,000, his "first
and last reaction" was that it would cost a great deal to take the
depositions and that "it wasn't worth it."
- In a March 19, 1986 letter that he wrote in response to the March 16,
1986 article in the San Francisco Examiner, Russoniello took issue with
the newspaper's inference that Zavala and other defendants in The Frogman Case
may have been given preferential treatment by his office because of their
association with the Contras. The text of Russoniello's letter is as follows:
I was at first surprised and then mildly amused as I read your Sunday,
March 16, front page story "linking" a Bay Area cocaine ring with the
Nicaraguan contras. My amusement turned to outrage, however, when I reflected
on what the story said or intimated about the role the U.S. Attorney's office
played in this drama.
The story gave the clear impression to those who read it, including at
least three Congresspersons whose views you reported as front page "news"
the following day, that Julio Zavala had been given preferential treatment by
the U.S. Attorney's office because of his association with the contras and that
we had covered up the proof of this treatment and the truth of the matter of his
contra connection. Both impressions are wrong and you were outfitted with
enough of the facts to dispel this impression but did not print them, for
whatever reason . . . . the least of which must have been space constraints
since you did find room to print a five column photograph taken perhaps as long
as 24 hours after the pre-dawn arrests and seizures of January 17, 1983.
Zavala was not given special treatment, unless you consider "special
treatment" to be our best efforts to get him sentenced to fifteen years in
prison rather than the ten years the Court imposed. He pleaded guilty to one
Conspiracy and one Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine count which left
the charge of conducting a Continuing Criminal Enterprise carrying a minimum of
ten years and life top [sic] sentence unresolved. Despite pressure from
the Court to dismiss the charge (a page from the Court transcript is enclosed
for your perusal) we insisted and got a trial at which Zavala had the right to
present whatever evidence he chose in mitigation or explanation of his conduct.
He was convicted. We recommended fifteen years. As is its prerogative in the
federal system, the Court sentenced him to serve a mandatory minimum ten years.
Zavala offered no evidence of U.S. Government complicity or CIA sponsorship
at trial and no evidence of humanitarian purpose or patriotic overzealousness at
We did no favors for Zavala's then-girlfriend, now his wife, Doris
Salomon. Whatever may have been her past political interests, she was convicted
on drug trafficking in 1981 and fled from the United States. We did not oblige
her efforts to hide in Costa Rica but extradited her to San Francisco where she
was sentenced to three years in prison on March 5, 1985. We had recommended a
substantial prison term because of her "lack of contrition and continuing
We did return $36,020 to Zavala. It had nothing to do with any
claim that the funds came from the contras or belonged to the contras. It had
to do with the fact that it would have cost the taxpayers who were expected by
the Court to pay for all travel by all counsel at least that much to fund the
excursion to Costa Rica to take the necessary depositions for the problematical
result we might be permitted to keep the seized funds. It made no economic
sense to me to do this. No "higher ups" were involved, as
Congresswoman Boxer wrongfully surmises. The U.S. Attorney had the authority
then to compromise claims up to a $100,000 ceiling and I exercised that
authority. The authority has since been increased to $200,000. While $36,000
may seem like a significant sum and people might disagree with our decision to
return it, against the background that the cocaine seized had a value of $100
million and that we have millions of dollars in property and currency subject to
forfeiture in this district at any given time ($20 million at present) and that
little was to be gained from expending valuable agent and attorney time in
further quest of what were by comparison "nickels and dimes," the
decision was reasonable, justifiable and I make no apology for having made it.
Regarding the alleged coverup, it must be borne in mind that most of
the information concerning the Court-approved wiretaps, the Cabezas trial
testimony and the like is in the public record of the Court and has been for at
least one year. Only the declarations of certain persons who made claim to the
money were sealed at the government's request and then, not because of the truth
of what was stated but because the mere allegations, true or not, related to
national security as that term is defined by the Classified Information
Procedures Act. We were duty bound, not by fiat but by an Act of Congress, to
protect that information from unauthorized disclosure and we did. There is no
more to it.
As to the contention that defendants Zavala and Cabejas' [sic]
drug dealings were tied to the contras and inspired or supported, perhaps by the
CIA, while the accusation is scintillating, I remind you that there is
absolutely no evidence of CIA involvement and there is absolutely no evidence to
warrant the insinuation the defendants were connected to the contras except that
their own statements they offered after the fact of arrest and in a futile
attempt to explain away their own conduct claim so. Such alibiing is not
uncommon among the criminally accused and its validity is usually suspect for
that reason. Even if some inference could have been drawn from their own
statement that might have otherwise raised a suspicion of "contra"
connection, going to print eighteen months after the events reported (the
declarations were unsealed August 8, 1984) but coincident with the President's
well publicized speech to the Nation in which he sought support for aid to the
contras removed any doubt but that this story was one of the most blatant
attempts at contrived news-making we have witnessed in recent years.
We examined 11,000 intercepted telephone calls covering the period
August 22, 1982 to February 26, 1983 and have reviewed them again to be certain
of the facts. There is no reference to any contra activity; no known contra
leaders are identified by name or by inference. Given that wiretaps disclosed
the most intimate details of drug trafficking, one would have expected some
reference to the contras . . . . there was none.
What is really shameful about this story, though, is that it has taken
the hint of scandal to arouse certain members of Congress to the issue of drug
trafficking and its impact on the Bay Area. Were it not for the opportunity
your story provided we might never have heard them speak out on the subject at
all. I hope they'll be as quick to apologize when they have all the facts as
they were to condemn when they had read only a part of the full story.
Moreover, lost in the shuffle is the fact that literally dozens of
federal agents from several agencies worked together tirelessly to develop and
successfully prosecute the cases that led to the conviction of thirty-two
members of a sophisticated, well-established international drug smuggling ring.
It does a disservice to them to permit the hint of scandal to linger
. . . .
Very truly yours,
JOSEPH P. RUSSONIELLO
United States Attorney
- AUSA Zanides says he was assigned as lead attorney in the Zavala case
on the day the arrest warrant regarding Zavala was executed. This was probably,
he recalls, on or about February 15, 1983. Zanides recalls that Zavala's
indictment did not identify any specific amount of cash to be forfeited because
it was not known with any certainty at the time of the indictment that Zavala
had large amounts of cash in his residence. According to Zanides, any cash
seized was forfeitable if it constituted proceeds from criminal activity.
- Although the August 24, 1984 cable from Headquarters to the three LA
Division Stations indicated that OGC initiated contact with the United States
Attorney's Office, Zanides recalls that it was he who first "reached out"
to advise CIA of the Zavala matter and to determine what information CIA could
provide. CIA, according to Zanides, reported back to him that it had found no
information in its files pertaining to Zavala. In any event, Zanides says he
received a visit from a CIA attorney to discuss the Zavala case. Zanides says
he does not recall the name of the CIA attorney who visited him at the time.
After examining eight photographs, Zanides selected a photograph of Lee
Strickland as closely resembling the CIA attorney with whom he met. Zanides
says he is not sure of the timing of the visit, but estimates that it was the
summer of 1984.
- Zanides says that he and the CIA attorney engaged in an "opaque
conversation" and that the CIA attorney provided little or no explanation
regarding what the CIA's interests were in the case. Nevertheless, Zanides
recalls the CIA attorney stressing to him that the CIA would be "immensely
grateful if these depositions did not go forward." He says he cannot
recall whether the CIA attorney told him that CIA had any connection with the
two individuals who were to be deposed, but he "did not infer they were CIA
assets." Zanides recalls, however, that the CIA attorney was "very
concerned about the public identification" of the individuals who were to
- Zanides' recollection of the meeting is that the CIA attorney was only
interested in the persons who were to be deposed and that the CIA attorney did
not indicate to him that there was any CIA interest in Zavala or the seized
money. Zanides also says that CIA "never asked for special
favor [in the case], no one from CIA asked me to give the money back to Zavala
in so many words."
- Zanides says he recalls making handwritten notes at the time of his
meeting with the CIA attorney. However, no such notes could be located in the
files of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Zanides is also confident that he advised
James Lassart, then-Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in
the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, and possibly even Russoniello, of
the meeting with the CIA lawyer.
- Zanides states that "we did not need the money [as evidence] for
the case." Zanides is adamant that the money would have been introduced as
evidence and not given back to Zavala had there been any question regarding the
need to use the money in the case against Zavala. As Zanides recalls, the
seized money did not become an issue until June 1984, long after Zavala's
arrest, when defense attorney Judd Iversen unexpectedly submitted a Rule 15
motion to the court.
- Zanides says he has no recollection of being directly involved in the
preparations to go to Costa Rica to take the depositions, although he does
recall that he may have had concerns regarding where the depositions were to be
conducted. Zanides says his preference was to use the U.S. Embassy in San Jose.
In any event, Zanides is confident that Russoniello made the decision to return
the money to Zavala, thus negating the need to take any depositions in Costa
- Zanides recalls that Russoniello believed that the trip to Costa Rica
was too expensive. In explaining why the trip would have been so expensive,
Zanides says that the traveling party had expanded to include himself, an FBI
Special Agent, a court reporter, Zavala's two defense attorneys, and possibly a
translator. Zanides says he was not disappointed that the trip was canceled
since it would have entailed another week of trial preparation. In any event,
Zanides says that the trip to Costa Rica "was never on as far as I was
- Zanides recalls believing at the time that Zavala's defense attorneys
wanted to accompany the prosecuting attorneys to Costa Rica so they could use
the opportunity to try to impeach a confidential informant. As recalled by
Zanides, defense attorney Iversen wanted the Zavala defense team to go to Costa
Rica "so they could mess with" this confidential informant.
- James Lassart, then-Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task
Force in the San Francisco United States Attorney's Office, recalls some sort of
civil action involving the forfeiture of the seized money in the Zavala case and
that the government faced a choice between chasing witnesses in Central America
or giving the money back. Lassart says a decision of that nature would have
been made--if not by Russoniello personally--at least with direct participation
of Russoniello. He recalls that Russoniello made the decision--based on cost
effectiveness--not to take the depositions in Costa Rica. Thus, the matter was
"resolved." Lassart says he does not recall why the
depositions were needed in the first place. Lassart says, "It would have
had to be the idea of the defense attorney. We would have had to be driven down
there kicking and screaming."
- John Gibbons, then-Chief of the Criminal Division for the San Francisco
United States Attorney's Office, is identified by name in notes found in OGC's
Zavala case file. However, Gibbons says he does not recall
discussing the Zavala case with a CIA attorney, and he is not able to offer any
insights into the trip to Costa Rica or the return of the seized money to Zavala.
- Individual Statements: CIA Personnel. The now-retired
FPLG representative says that she has no specific recollection of the events
relating to the Zavala case. The CATF desk officer says he also has
no recollection of his interactions with the FPLG representative or of the
August 1, 1984 cable to an LA Division Station that identified him as the
originator and stated that the Agency had no information relating to Zavala.
The CATF desk officer says his responsibilities included file searches,
preparing cables and other correspondence. He recalls that inquiries to the FBI
were invariably via cable, and not in person.
- Former OGC attorney Strickland says he has no recollection of the
Zavala case. He recalls traveling to San Francisco on behalf of CIA on several
occasions, but does not recall whether these trips were related to the Zavala
prosecution. After reviewing relevant documents, Strickland says he has no
doubt that he did go to San Francisco to meet with representatives of the U.S.
Attorney's Office in connection with the Zavala case.
- Strickland says he has no recollection of the circumstances under which
he became involved, but observes that the small number of documents in the OGC
file regarding the Zavala case suggests that the case was "not a big deal"
at the time. The Zavala case file is marked with the handwritten
notation "closed-confirmed by [telephone conversation] with AUSA-LSS 1-5-86."
Strickland recognizes the handwriting and the "LSS" initials as his
own and speculates he probably contacted AUSA Zanides to determine the final
resolution of the case. Strickland says the meeting referred to in the August
24, 1984 Headquarters cable between OGC and the chiefs of the Criminal Division
and Drug Task Force indicates to him that CIA had "gone in at the top"
in its contacts with the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the case.
- Strickland says his duties in OGC were in the Litigation Division and
focused primarily on civil cases. A criminal case such as the Zavala
prosecution that possibly involved CIA assets or operations would more typically
have been handled by OGC's Operational Support Division, or possibly by the OGC
Counsel for the DO. Strickland says that he recalls working on about a half
dozen criminal cases at most while he was in OGC. To place this
number in perspective, Strickland says that he carried a case load that could
have been as high as 200 cases at any particular time. Strickland's
1984 Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) notes that the majority of his work was
on matters unrelated to criminal prosecutions and says that Strickland "carries
one of the heaviest workloads in the Office."
- Strickland states that the sentence in the August 24, 1984 Headquarters
cable to the three LA Division Stations that pertains to the return of the money
to Zavala--i.e., "Accordingly, at [OGC] request the U.S. Attorney has
agreed to return the money to Zavala and to make no use of it during the trial
of Zavala on the CCE charge"--may have been "inartfully worded,"
i.e., it gives too much credit to OGC's influence on the decision. Strickland
observes that there may have been a fear at the time that, if the money were not
returned, Aviles might have instituted some type of judicial action in an effort
to have the money returned on behalf of the Contras. The publicity resulting
from such an action would have been of concern to CIA.
- Strickland speculates that it is possible that AUSA Zanides or others
at the U.S. Attorney's Office were not pursuing the money aspect of the case for
their own reasons, and that Strickland--in response to that information--may
have suggested that the money be given back to Zavala. This would have
eliminated the need to take the depositions in Costa Rica, and prevented any
further attention to the matter by the Zavala defense. Strickland notes that,
if the money were not to be used to support criminal charges and were not to be
subject to a civil forfeiture proceeding, the remaining option was to return it.
- In this context, Strickland suggests that his presentation to AUSA
Zanides when he traveled to San Francisco may not have been a "hard sell."
Strickland makes clear that he would no doubt remember if the United States
Attorney's Office had opposed the idea of returning the money and engaged in a "knock
down and drag out fight" over the matter.
- Former CIA General Counsel and current U.S. Federal District Court
Judge Stanley Sporkin says he has no recollection of The Frogman Case. Sporkin
says that the relevant CIA records suggest to him that the Agency clearly did
not want this information on the front page of the newspapers.
- Sporkin notes that OGC representatives kept him and other Agency
officials properly advised as is evidenced by OGC's weekly report for the period
ending October 26, 1984, a report that Sporkin personally signed. Sporkin adds
that "we clearly were not trying to help [Zavala] keep drug money."
In explaining the purpose for discussing the Zavala case in OGC's weekly report
to senior CIA managers, Sporkin says, "I did what a lawyer is required to
do, send [relevant material] to the client."
- Although Sporkin has no current recollection of the Zavala case, he
Maybe we should have found out more whether [sic] or not the
money was drug proceeds, but the U.S. Attorney would not want any other agency
to be involved in investigating a case he was prosecuting.
In any event, Sporkin adds, "Under my regime [as General Counsel], it
was my policy not to succumb to graymail and a person who violated the law would
be vigorously prosecuted as the law required."
- Former Deputy General Counsel Edward Dietel comments that the Zavala
case "wasn't explosive except for the money part." Dietel
says that there would have been no violation of any OGC procedure at that time
if Sporkin was kept informed of the case by the responsible lawyer. In any
event, "a request like that would have had to have had [Sporkin's] blessing."
- Dietel recalls that OGC had a "lot of dealings" with the
United States Attorney's Office in San Francisco in the 1980s relating to a "steady
flow" of cases. These cases typically were handled by a small group of
about ten OGC attorneys. He does not recall whether Strickland was a member of
this small group. Moreover, Dietel says there were regular case review meetings
in which General Counsel Sporkin would meet with a representative of each OGC
division to review each case. There were also oral briefings of Sporkin on an
ad hoc basis, as well as memoranda and other means by which Sporkin was kept
informed of significant events. How each case was documented in OGC records,
however, was not always consistent since "we had more work than time to do
- George Clarke, then-Chief of OGC's Litigation Division and Strickland's
immediate supervisor, says he has no recollection of The Frogman Case although "it
has a vague ring to it." He recalls that OGC's Operational Support
Division typically handled criminal cases, but that the Operational Support
Division would use Litigation Division attorneys to assist it as necessary.
The OGC files pertaining to the Zavala case do not indicate whether Operational
Support Division asked for Litigation Division assistance with respect to the
Zavala case. Clarke notes, however, that a copy of the August 3, 1984
Headquarters cable appears to have been routed to the then-Chief of the
Operational Support Division, Litigation Division attorneys sometimes handled
some cases under the supervision of the Chief of the Operational Support
Division and that over time Clarke worked to end this practice and have all
litigation handled by the Litigation Division. The former Chief of Operational
Support--who no longer works for CIA--says he has no specific recollection of
this case nor does he recall any case in which he asked Lee Strickland to
represent CIA as the case attorney.
- Then-Deputy Chief of OGC's Litigation Division Page Moffett says he has
no recollection of The Frogman Case. He says, "We would not have just
called up the AUSA and dealt with him; for a variety of reasons, we would have
contacted [the Department of Justice] first." Moffett believes the
sentence in the August 24, 1984 Headquarters cable to the three LA Division
Stations that pertains to the return of the money to Zavala--i.e., "Accordingly,
at [OGC] request the U.S. Attorney has agreed to return the money to Zavala and
to make no use of it during the trial of Zavala on the CCE charge"--might
have been hyperbole. Moffett adds, "We never asked [an AUSA] to drop a
prosecution," and "We tried not to intrude in a prosecutor's decision."
Additionally, "If [John] Gibbons [Chief of the Criminal Division at the
San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office] thought it was not appropriate, then he
would not have returned the money."
- Individual Statements: Zavala's Defense Attorneys.
Judd Iversen, one of Zavala's two defense attorneys, says that Russoniello
described the money that was refunded to Zavala as "chump change."
Iversen agrees that, in terms of the expense necessary to obtain the depositions
in San Jose, the prosecution's decision to return the money was a "practical
move." Iversen adds that it would have been evident to him if there were
other motivating factors that influenced the decision to return the money. His
sense is that Lassart is a man of integrity and that "if the CIA was
involved, the prosecution would not have handled the case as they did."
Iversen further observes that it "probably made no sense from the U.S.
Attorney's perspective" to travel all the way to Costa Rica for the
- Iversen says the cost of travel by members of the defense team to Costa
Rica would have been paid from funds provided by the Criminal Justice Act. The
funds for the expenses of such travel by U.S. Attorney's Office representatives,
on the other hand, would have come from the U.S. Attorney's budget.
- Iversen says he remembers it was a "nightmare" to cash the
check that returned Zavala's money since one of the payees was in "South
America." Although he has no specific recollection of Zavala's
mother-in-law's role regarding the check, Iversen says he may have said
something to Zavala about a power of attorney in relation to the check, but "it
was not my task to cash the check." The check could have been mailed or
delivered to Iversen by the U.S. Marshals for Zavala. Iversen has no
recollection of a second, replacement check being provided, although he believes
Zavala's wife Doris Salomon may have had some involvement in the cashing of the
- Iversen also claims that Marvin Cahn, Zavala's other defense attorney,
was called by someone from DoS who reportedly said that the defense attorneys
should not travel to Costa Rica and threatened to pull their passports if they
did. Cahn recalls having had telephone discussions with DoS
officials regarding Embassy support to the depositions trip. However, he
recalls absolutely no threat, explicit or implicit, regarding his passport
should he have gone to Costa Rica. Cahn makes clear that, had such threats been
made, he would have protested this both in Court and in the media.
- Cahn does not accept the contention of Zanides, Lassart and Russoniello
that the money was given back to Zavala to avoid the cost of taking the
depositions. He recalls that the prosecution initially argued that going to
Costa Rica to take depositions might involve some element of personal risk,
possibly because of the general turmoil in the region. Cahn calls this argument
- Cahn also recalls that Russoniello, in justifying the return of the
money, claimed that the amount of money involved was not worth contesting. Cahn
characterizes Russoniello's assertion as "absolutely ridiculous,"
noting that he recalls that the U.S. Attorney's Office fought hard in other
cases to retain seized assets of even lesser value than the money seized from
- When the money was returned, Cahn recalls having thought that "something
is going on." Moreover, Cahn suspects that the prosecution did not want
the two individuals in Costa Rica to be deposed because that could have led to
the disclosure of some type of U.S. Government activity in Central America.
Cahn speculates that this was the reason Russoniello chose to return the money
and forego using it as evidence against Zavala.
To what extent and why did CIA become involved in the prosecution
of The Frogman Case? CIA did make contact with prosecutors in the Zavala
prosecution in order to protect what CIA believed was an operational equity,
i.e., a Contra support group in which it had an operational interest. A CIA
cable indicates that approximately $36,000 seized from Zavala at the time of his
arrest was returned to Zavala--based on the claim they were Contra funds--by the
prosecutors at CIA's request. However, the prosecutors state that the decision
to return Zavala's money was based on other considerations, not CIA's
representations, and that there was no evidentiary value to retaining the money.
In any event, the actions taken by CIA to have the cash returned did not appear
to be intended to influence the outcome of Zavala's trial, which resulted in his
- A June 12, 1985 routing slip from the DO transmitted to CIA's
Comptroller, as an attachment, proposed DO responses to May 2, 1985 questions
from the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) regarding the Contras. One
question related to allegations of corruption by Contra officials. Included in
the lengthy DO response to that particular question was the statement that there
was, "according to the FBI, no obvious connection between Zavala and
Cabezas and the Nicaraguan resistance." No information has been
found to indicate whether or how CIA conveyed this information to the HAC.
- In the late 1980s, as part of an investigation into matters related to
the Contra war, a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC)
examined alleged Contra links to drug trafficking. CIA records indicate that
CIA officials met with the Chief Counsel of the SFRC on May 8, 1986 to discuss
the SFRC's investigation. A May 8, 1986 CIA memorandum for the record regarding
this meeting noted that the SFRC "had received a letter written by the U.S.
Attorney in San Francisco that refuted the charges that members of the
democratic resistance had been involved in drug smuggling." Attached to
the memorandum was a copy of the March 19, 1986 letter from United States
Attorney Russoniello to the San Francisco Examiner
responding, among other things, to charges that The Frogman Case defendants were
in any way connected to the Contras.
- As part of its investigation, the SFRC asked the FBI to provide the
Committee with documents relating to the "San Francisco narcotics
investigation on Julio Zavala." As a result of the SFRC
request, the FBI asked CIA on February 20, 1987 to review three of the FBI
documents that referred to CIA.
- On April 17, 1987, following a review of the FBI documents, CIA informed
the FBI that it could not "consent to the FBI providing the SFRC with this
information. The documents reveal an Agency source, and it is our policy not to
provide such information to a committee which is not charged with the oversight
of intelligence agencies."
Chronology of Key Developments Related to The Frogman Case
July 11 -- CIA cable makes reference to Julio Zavala as source of drugs for Nicaraguan Government official.
June 17 -- CIA terminates relationship with the relative of one of the individuals arrested or convicted in connection with The Frogman Case.
January 17 -- Law enforcement authorities arrest 12 individuals and seize 430 pounds of cocaine in San Francisco.
February 15 -- Arrest of Julio Zavala, Carlos Cabezas and others. Cocaine, cash and other items seized from Zavala's home.
July 6 -- Zavala enters guilty plea to conspiracy to import cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
July 27 -- DoS telegram requests U.S. Embassy, San Jose permission for AUSA Zanides and FBI Special Agent to visit San Jose for "court-ordered depositions" of Francisco Aviles and Vicente Rappaccioli.
July 30 -- LA Division Station informs CIA Headquarters of the DoS telegram. Station misidentifies Rappaccioli as a former asset and Aviles as former San Jose office manager
for a Contra support group.
August 1 -- CIA Headquarters informs LA Division Station no CIA records exist concerning Zavala and there is no known connection between the misidentified former asset, Aviles and Zavala.
August 2 -- FPLG memorandum indicates CIA representatives are to meet with "the AUSA" on August 7.
August 3 --
- CIA Headquarters informs LA Division Station that the misidentified former asset and Aviles "will testify as to source of money confiscated in cocaine raid in San Francisco" and that CIA representatives will meet with AUSA on August 7 "to draft course of action."
Telephone conversation between AUSA Zanides and Zavala defense attorney Cahn regarding whether depositions would be necessary if AUSA Zanides "decided to forget the money
August 7 -- Date FPLG memorandum indicates CIA representatives are to meet with AUSA.
August 17 -- LA Division Station reports "U.S. Attorney" visit
August 20 -- OGC attorney Strickland informs AUSA Zanides in telephone conversation that CIA has no information in its files pertaining to Zavala.
August 24 -- CIA Headquarters informs LA Division Station that U.S. Attorney's Office, at OGC request, returned money that had been seized in Zavala's home, thus negating need for Aviles and the misidentified former asset depositions.
September 8 -- LA Division Station reports that the misidentified former
asset had married and was believed to be living in a foreign country.
September 24 -- U.S. Attorney's Office asks OGC attorney Strickland if there is any reason to seal Iversen declaration that alleges that "CIA has engaged in the cocaine trade."
September 27 -- Date of cashier's check that returned $36,800 to Zavala.
October 1-4 -- AUSA Zanides, defense attorneys Iversen and Cahn, and Zavala sign Stipulation Regarding Disposition of Funds" pertaining to "sum of $36,800."
October 2 -- Date of transmittal letter for cashier's check from AUSA Zanides to defense attorney Iversen.
October 26 -- OGC weekly report to senior CIA officials makes reference to Zavala case and "raises obvious questions concerning the people we are supporting . . . . "
October 30 -- Memorandum to Deputy Director for Operations from Counsel to DO downplays concerns expressed in OGC weekly report.
November -- Series of CIA cables asking LA Division Stations for information pertaining to Contra support groups and Aviles.
March 19 -- Zavala found guilty of operating a Continuous Criminal Enterprise and other related charges.
March 29 -- Zavala sentenced to 10 years confinement.
June -- House Appropriations Committee response prepared by CIA that there was, "according to the FBI no obvious connection between Zavala and Cabezas and the Nicaraguan Resistance."
September -- Aviles polygraphed during security processing for position with UNO/FARN General Staff.
March 16 -- San Francisco Examiner publishes article linking
Contras with drug trafficking activities of Zavala and Cabezas.
March 19 -- Date of U.S. Attorney Russoniello's letter to the editors of the San Francisco Examiner refuting many aspects of the March 16 article.
April 9 -- CIA Headquarters asks two LA Division Stations and an FR Division Station for information pertinent to the San Francisco Examiner article.
April 10 --
LA Division Station reports that allegations linking Fernando Chamorro to California drug traffickers are "completely false." Aviles reportedly dismissed from UNO/FARN as a result of the article.
- FR Division Station reports that FBI treated The Frogman Case as purely criminal matter with no known link between Zavala, Cabezas and the Contras
April 11 --
- LA Division Station reports that Aviles acted independently, possibly in exchange for money.
- LA Division Station reports that Fernando Chamorro denied having knowledge or involvement with Zavala and others named in the San Francisco Examiner article.
- CIA Headquarters reports that Aviles and Rappaccioli had acted purely on their own authority when they provided letters on behalf of Zavala to the U.S. District Court
May 8 -- In meeting with CIA officials, Chief Counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) indicates that he had "received
a letter written by the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco that refuted the
charges that members of the democratic resistance had been involved in drug smuggling."
February 20 -- In response to a SFRC request for FBI documents pertaining to The Frogman Case, FBI asks CIA to review documents that contain CIA information.
April 17 -- Following internal review, CIA informs FBI that it could not "consent to your providing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with this information . . . . "