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IV. PEROFF WORKS ON Two New Cases
TIIE PEROFFS MOVE TO EUROPE
In the spring of 1972, Frank Peroff, his wife Judy and their five children-Debra Dee, Mindy Jo, Bambi Lee, Susan and David-left their home in the exclusive Spring Valley section of Orlando and mored to Europe.
Peroff told Senators that he wanted to make a new life for himself. He said he wanted to go straight, to be an honest man whom his wife and children could look up to. But things didn't turn out the way Peroff hoped. He testified:
When I left Florida, my real intention was to stop becoming a criminal. Unfortunately, I wasn't strong enough to do that. I kept going on with illegal activities, although probably not as strongly as I had while I was in the United States (p. 114). Peroff said he "became involved in various business schemes, both legal and illegal, throughout Europe ..." But the returns on these various pursuits must have been good. For their first three months in Europe the Peroffs lived in a well appointed villa in Nueva Andalusia, a town on the Costa del Sol in Spain. Then, Peroff said, his work required that he live in Italy so, in the summer of 1972, he moved his family to Rome where they resided in a large house at 16 Via Barballo (p. 11).
PEROFF'S CHANCE MEETING WITH “LOUIS" For the next six months or so, Frank Peroff went about his business in Rome. Then one day in early January, as he was walking by the Excelsior Hotel, Peroff had a chance meeting with a man he knew to be an employee of Conrad Bouchard. Peroff said the man, known to him as "Louis." told him that Bouchard was out of jail. Louis went on to say that Bouchard was very anxious to get in touch with Peroff and had been for some time.
Peroff testified that Louis quickly took him to a telephone and placed a call to Bouchard in Montreal. Peroff told Senators that this was the first time he had spoken with Bouchard since the Canadian racketeer's heroin arrest some 12 months before. Bouchard, Peroff said, was "very glad” to have his former colleague from the Bahamas on the phone. Bouchard "showed a large amount of enthusiasm," Peroff
Over the next few days, Bouchard from Montreal and Peroff from Rome talked to each other several times. Peroff said that during one call Bouchard introduced him to a man he later came to know as Tom Solarik. About a week went by, Peroff said, and then he received a call from Tom Solarik. Solarik introduced him to another man, Mike
said (p. 12).
Silverman. Peroff said Solarik and Silverman were calling from Amsterdam. They said they were coming to Rome and asked him to make reservations for them at the Excelsior Hotel. They arrived the next day, Peroff said. Subcommittee inquiry established that Silverman was also known as Nikolaye Silbermann (p. 12).
PEROFF JOINS SOLARIK AND SILVERMAN IN CRIME
Peroff said he met with Solarik and Silverman for about two hours. They said they had a half million dollars in counterfeit $100 and $50 bills and wanted Peroff to help them convert the bogus currency to real cash. Solarik and Silverman said they did not work for Conrad Bouchard but that they had been involved in criminal acts with him. In one of these activities—a recent narcotics transaction-Bouchard had made a mistake that had cost them $40,000. Now, by referring them to Peroff, Bouchard was trying to relieve his indebtedness, the two men told Peroff. Peroff explained to Senators:
In an effort to pay them [Solarik and Silverman] back, Bouchard had told them I would take this counterfeit money and convert it into good funds. Bouchard knew well my ability to perform in this field of crime. Because of this commitment on Bouchard's part, they had invested money in the
purchase of this counterfeit money (p. 13). Peroff said Solarik and Silverman had with them about $28,000 in counterfeit money when they arrived in Rome. Following their first meeting, Peroff said, the two men returned to Rome with another $450,000 in counterfeit. Peroff said he accepted the bogus money, agreed to try to dispose of it and stashed it away in his home (p. 14).
PEROFF GOES TO SECRET SERVICE
By his accepting of the phony currency, Peroff had become a party to a crime. And, he said, the more he thought about it, the more fearful he became. Peroff already suspected the Roman police had him under surveillance for other questionable deals he was involved in. In addition, he said, a "very complicated currency transaction” he was trying to work out with the Government of Zambia was at an uncertain stage and he thought Zambian officials might try to have him killed. In any event, he felt the Zambians were watching him and he felt the Roman police might be watching him too. With the arrival in Rome of Solarik and Silverman, Peroff said, he became more convinced than ever that people were following him around. This was not the time to get mixed up in a big counterfeiting deal, he concluded, as he explained to Senators:
I was becoming increasingly worried and it reached a point where I was very much convinced that I, in fact, could be arrested at any time ... I was almost certain at this point in time that my house could be searched and that if it was searched all of this counterfeit money would be discovered (pp. 13, 14).
Peroff remembered the Secret Service agent, Frank Leyva, he had met in London in March of 1972 and in Paris the following April in connection with the John Barnes counterfeit case. As chief of Secret Service operations in Europe, Leyva had his office in Paris. Peroff said he called Leyva there. He said he told Leyva that he had nearly a half million dollars in counterfeit currency and that he was willing to turn the bogus money over to Leyva. In return, Peroff said, he asked Leyva to fabricate a set of circumstances that would make it appear to Solarik and Silverman and everyone else that Peroff was not the informant. Peroff said Leyva agreed to the plan and referred him to the U.S. Customs Attache at the American Embassy in Rome, Mario Cozzi.
Peroff explained to Senators what he was thinking when he went to the Secret Service when he did:
I felt that by calling Mr. Leyva that, if in fact, my house was searched and the currency discovered, his knowledge of this money would protect me from any criminal prosecution. My motives were purely selfish in this regard (p. 14).
PEROFF WORKS WITH U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE
Mario Cozzi, the U.S. Customs Attache in Rome, and Frank Peroff held a series of meetings over the next few days, Peroff said. He said they discussed the counterfeit deal involving Solarik and Silverman. Peroff said they also discussed Peroff's knowledge of how persons were able to obtain fraudulent Panamanian and Canadian passports, Peroff said Cozzi had him go to London to place orders for such passports (p. 15).
Meanwhile, Solarik and Silverman had left Rome and gone to Paris. Peroff said he talked with them by phone. Then, he said, they returned to Canada. Peroff said that while Solarik and Silverman were in Canada, he was in London working on Mario Cozzi's fake passport assignment. Cozzi called him there, Peroff said, and told him to travel to Paris to meet with Frank Leyva of the Secret Service and with U.S. Customs personnel. Peroff said Leyva also called him to say the same thing (p. 15).
In Paris, Peroff said, he checked into a hotel near the American Embassy Annex and awaited further instructions. The annex, D-Building, is at 58 Bis rue La Boetie.
BNDD and Customs records reveal that Peroff told Federal agents as early as January 15, 1973 that Solarik and Silverman were in Europe to deal in narcotics as well as counterfeit money.
AGENTS EXPAND INQUIRY TO DRUGS
It was February of 1973 now—about a month had passed since his chance meeting with Louis outside the Excelsior in Rome-and to Peroff it became apparent that American law enforcement agents believed that in the Solarik-Silverman-Bouchard connection they were on to something significant. In Frank Leyva's Paris office, Peroff was introduced to several agents with the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) and two Customs agents. Vernon Pitsker
and George Corcoran. Peroff said these agents were now convinced that Solarik and Silverman had come to Europe primarily to buy narcotics—and that passing counterfeit currency was a secondary goal.
The law enforcement agents—except Leyva, who stayed behindtook Peroff to Customs Agent Vernon Pitsker's office where the discussions continued. The talks went on for the next two days, during which time, Peroff said, he was asked to try to penetrate the alleged drug conspiracy (p. 16).
Peroff said he agreed to their request even though it was against his better judgment. But, mindful that he was already deeply involved, he concluded he had no choice but to keep on cooperating. Peroff explained to Senators:
I was very reluctant to do what they had asked because I had never been involved in narcotics before as I considered it a dirty business. I finally consented, mainly because of the fact if I didn't, I felt that I would have a problem in explaining to anyone interested what happened to the counterfeit money (p. 17).
PEROFF BECOMES A DRUG INFORMANT
Once Peroff agreed to work on the drug inquiry, the second Customs Agent, George Corcoran, told Peroff to call Tom Solarik and Conrad Bouchard in Canada. Peroff said he placed the call from Corcoran's desk. He said he arranged to meet with Solarik in Paris the next day. The agents then told him to move into the P.L.M. Hotel St. Jacques in Paris, Peroff said.
Tom Solarik, a man named Kelly Amon and a Russian woman whose name Peroff could not remember met with Peroff at a Chinese restaurant in Paris. Peroff said that a few days later a man named Werner Patek arrived in Paris carrying what Peroff described as "a large sum of money." Peroff said Mike Silverman also arrived in Paris from Montreal.
Peroff said he was now able to confirm for American law enforcement agents that a narcotics deal was about to take place. Peroff said he even “found out where they were hiding the heroin." Peroff said he reported all his findings to a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) agent, Dick Falanga.
Subsequently, French police raided a room in the Rome Hotel in Paris, Peroff said, where they found a heroin cache and arrested Tom. Solarik, Mike Silverman, Werner Patek and the Russian woman. Peroff said the next day five Frenchmen were arrested. French authorities seized 25 kilos of heroin in all, Peroff said.
Peroff said that after the arrests were made BNDD Agent Falanga took him to the American Embassy where he was given a reward of $7,000. This sum, Peroff said, was also to cover his expenses. Peroff said he then took a flight back to Rome (pp. 17, 18).
OFFICIAL REPORTS CONFIRM PEROFF'S TESTIMONY
Richard A. Falanga, a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agent, wrote an account of the Solarik-Silbermann heroin case that confirmed virtually everything Frank Peroff told the Subcommittee about
the episode, except the amount of heroin seized. Peroff said 25 kilos; Falanga said 10. Copies of the Falanga document, dated February 14, 1973 and identified as BNDD Report of Investigation No. 57490, coupled with an Interpol Report No. 1295 of February 9, 1973, were obtained by the Subcommittee.
The reports said that on February 8, 1973 French police, working with U.S. Customs and BNDD agents, seized 10 kilograms of heroin and arrested Thomas (Tommy) Solarik, Nikolaye (Mike) Silbermann and Werner (“The Kraut”) Patek in a raid on Solarik's room in the Hotel Rome at 18 Rue de Constantinople, Paris.
Also arrested in connection with the heroin seizure, the reports said, was a Hungarian woman, Julia Kovacz Szige, identified as being a 30 year old singer from Budapest who was Silbermann's girlfriend. Another man, Kalev Amon, a Turk travelling under a Canadian passport, was suspected of being part of the heroin plot and was believed to have returned to Montreal.
BNDD Agent Falanga referred in his report to Frank Peroff but never by name. Peroff was termed “CI" for confidential informant; or he was called "SXA-3-0004” which was Peroff's identifying number given him by BNDD; or he was referred to simply as "the informant.” By whatever name, Frank Peroff, Falanga made clear, was the principal and most often the only source of information law enforcement authorities had to go on in investigating this heroin plot.
Typical of the language used in the Falanga report-and reflective of the dependence of agents on Peroff for information-are these excerpts:
On or about January 15, 1973, SXA-3-0004 provided U.S. Customs with the information that Thomas Solarik and his associate, Nikolaye Silbermann, were planning to travel from Rome, Italy to Paris, France for the purpose of buying a quantity of heroin.
.:. During the period Jan. 20-27 SXA-3-0004 was in periodic contact with the defendants.
On Jan. 27, prior to their departure, the defendants told the informant that the details for the heroin transaction had been satisfactorily worked out and that they were returning immediately to Montreal, Canada in order to gather the necessary money.
On Feb. 2, 1973, during a joint debriefing of SXA-30004 by BNDD and Customs in Paris, it was learned that Solarik was preparing to return to Paris. The CI placed a long distance telephone call to Solarik's residence in Montreal and was told by Solarik that he (the CI) should remain in Paris.
SXA-3-0004 contacted Solarik at the Hotel Rome on Feb. 3. as he had been instructed to do, and learned that although Solarik had arrived in Paris alone, he was in the company of one Kalev Amon.
Sunday, Feb. 4... Solarik mentioned to the CI that the third partner, known as the “Kraut” would arrive from Montreal with the balance of the money needed to purchase the heroin.