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DETROIT AGENTS QUESTION PEROFF
In his testimony before the Subcommittee, Peroff did not refer to the debriefing he attended in New York with Customs Attache Thomas Fitzpatrick, Sr., May 2. But, Peroff did remember another meeting with other federal officials.
Peroff said that while in New York on this trip he stayed at the Statler-Hilton and that his room at the hotel was the site of a meeting he had with Richard Dos Santos and two men whom Dos Santos identified as being Customs agents detailed to a "strike foree in Detroit.” The two agents questioned him, Peroff said, while Dos Santos stood by. Peroff said the interview was recorded (p. 34).
Peroff testified that this was the first time that the name of Robert Vesco came up in discussions with federal investigators. He said Vesco's name was raised several times as he was questioned about a hotel that was owned by a man named D. K. Ludwig, about a large farm in the Bahamas which was to be purchased for smuggling operátions and about the occasion when Peroff met Vesco at the Xanadu Hotel in the Bahamas.
Customs Agent Richard Dos Santos testified that such a meeting did take place May 3, 1973. He said Peroff was interrogated by Customs Agents John Verklan and Gary Liming in the Statler-Hilton for about two hours. Dos Santos said Verklan, the Customs representative on the Organized Crime Strike Force in Detroit, asked Peroff about criminal activities in the Detroit area, with particular emphasis on the flight Bouchard had made to Windsor, Ontario in Peroff's Lear jet (pp. 307, 308).
THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE STATLER-HILTON MEETING
The Subcommittee obtained from Customs a transcript of the recording of the May 3, 1973 interrogation of Frank Peroff by John Verklan and Gary Liming. The transcript was made part of the hearing record. The transcript has many phonetic spellings of names. Peroff's references to Robert Vesco are typed "Bestco."
The reference to "Bestco" occurred when Verklan asked Peroff about allegations that white businessmen, fearful of black rule, were moving their cash assets out of the Bahamas through illicit means. Peroff said this was not always the case, that if the white businessmen got on the right side of "Bestco” they had little to worry about. Peroff said:
... you got to understand what that guy's done to put the money back in into the islands, I mean he has changed everything. If you can make your your deal with Bestco, you are
safe—I mean you are cool-you have no problems there. The transcript quoted Peroff as saying he had been to a meeting attended by crime figures and Bahamian leaders held on a large farm near Bimini where future economic ventures were planned. Representatives of "Bestco" were there and plans were made for turning the farm into a kind of headquarters for investments and "multi million dollar deals” with no Bahamian import tax, Peroff said.
According to the transcript given the Subcommittee, once Peroff raised the name "Bestco" and said "Bestco” was very influential in
Bahamian affairs, the Customs agents asked him no questions about just who this person “Bestco” was. In addition, the transcript, as given to the Subcommittee by Customs, contradicts Peroff's assertion that Customs agents asked him about Vesco. The transcript indicates that Peroff raised the name “Bestco" and Customs agents did not. However, the transcript, purportedly complete, is incomplete, beginning and ending abruptly and suggesting the possibility that sections of the interview were either not transcribed or, if they were, those sections may have been lost.
The transcript of the May 3 interview does provide other information related to the Bouchard investigation. Peroff said, for example, that when in March in 1973 he flew Bouchard, Claude Lemoyne and Louis Cote to Windsor they talked during the flight about those places in a Lear jet where heroin could be hidden.
Peroff told them that he could stash heroin in "a big electronic compartment” in the underside of the aircraft and in another vacant area in the nose of the plane. In the nose alone, he said, he could store 30 or 40 kilograms of heroin. Next, Peroff said, he could hide 200 kilograms beneath the floor of the cabin of the airplane. This last storage site would be the most difficult for Customs officials to detect, Peroff explained, because to get to it would require removing 70 or 80 screws. "No Customs guy is going to go out there with a screwdriver,” Peroff said, unless, he added, the Customs man knew there was heroin aboard in the first place.
In the transcript, Peroff went on to say that the Windsor trip was Giuseppe Cotroni's idea, that Bouchard preferred not to deal in drugs with the Detroit group and would rather conduct these transactions through his contacts in New York. Bouchard went to Windsor only because Cotroni ordered it. Peroff said.
Noting something that struck him at the time--something that was also noted in the Customs surveillance report on the Windsor trip Peroff said that at first Bouchard would not let his briefcase "out of his hands" but that when he came back to the Colosseo Restaurant, to rejoin his associates for the trip back to the airport, he left the briefcase lying in the waiting taxi. Such security precautions aside, Peroff said, his understanding was that Bouchard had sold John Fecarotta five kilograms of heroin for $30,000 and, Peroff said, it could be that the briefcase had contained the heroin.
Customs Agent John Verklan also questioned Peroff about his tentative flight plan on the return from Europe in which the 100 kilograms of heroin were to be transported to North America. Verklan said that, Aving back from Europe, Peroff would probably go into Montreal. Peroff replied that Douglas McCombs, the Customs agent in Washington coordinating the effort, had instructed him not to fly to Canada but to land in the U.S. Verklan questioned Peroff in this manner:
VERKLAN. You got a Lear jet. You are coming from France, what's the first land fall you got to make for refueling!
PEROFF. Iceland. You probably go out of Shannon, you
VERKLAN. Now second land fall, Bangor, Maine?
VERKLAN. You have to make Canadian soil first, is that right? PEROFF. Yeah, I guess so, Newfoundland.
VERKLAN. There is no way to make it without stopping in Canada.
PEROFF. In the Lear-it all depends on the weather, on the winds.
VERKLAN. Now, let's say you make Canada. As you see it now you would fly on to Detroit and Chicago, is that correct?
PEROFF. Not necessarily. It really—I've sort of left that open where that's going to be my choice.
VERKLAN. But that's where they wanted to go.
PEROFF. My guess is yes. If you are going to take an airplane apart, and take the stuff out, you had better do it in a relatively private
VERKLAN. Then again if you make the borders and you are flying domestic you can leave it on the seat for that matter. PEROFF. That's right.
VERKLAN. It's safer to fly the heroin from New York to Detroit in your jet than it is to get it in a car and put in baggage or whatever.
Perorr. Absolutely. There is no question about that. You have all the privacy in the world. No question.
VERKLAN. Now what is the plan? You'll come back yourself
PEROFF. No, no. Lemoyne and Cote are my escorts.
PEROFY. Yeah. both of them are. Cote and Lemoyne. I
VERKLAN. In other words, they are riding shotgun is what it amounts to
PEROFF. Exactly right. Lemoyne represents Connie (Conrad Bouchard) and Cote represents the money.
VERKLAN. What's the time table?
PEROFF. I thought it was going faster, but apparently they
PEROFF. Yeah, well, he's planning—even if he is convicted,
VERKLAN. Did he say where?
PEROFF. Where he's going to go to, no. As the questioning progressed, it became apparent that, in Peroff's view, Conrad Bouchard and Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni were reluctant partners in the heroin proposal. They were not very excited about doing business with each other. But Cotroni had the resources to finance the deal, Peroff said, while Bouchard had the contacts in France to supply the heroin. Peroff agreed with Verklan when he said, the "Cotroni group needs Bouchard for the French connection."
Even so, Peroff went on to say, Claude Lemoyne had made trips to Europe for Bouchard to pick up heroin before and could do it again. "So what it boils down to,” Verklan said, “Bouchard isn't necessary anymore.” Peroff agreed, nointing out that certain Canadian mobsters had reached the same conclusion. Not surprisingly, Peroff said, Claude Lemoyne and Conrad Bouchard, friends for 25 years, were increasingly distant with one another. “Connie don't want me to talk in front of Lemoyne," Peroff said.
According to the transcript of the May 3 interview, Peroff said the problem between Bouchard and Lemoyne was reflected in a disagreement in Montreal at that time on how to divide up the profit from the sale of the five kilograms of heroin in Windsor. Verklan asked Peroff if he foresaw Bouchard and others getting killed in gangland violence in Montreal. Peroff said the RCMP had asked him the same thing. Peroff said that Bouchard had told him there was "a million dollar war going on" in Canada and "somebody is going to get killed."
Peroff said Giuseppe Cotroni's brother, Vic Cotroni, had no involvement in the heroin transaction. He said Vic Cotroni reportedly did not like to "touch junk with his hands.” Giuseppe Cotroni did not mind dealing in drugs, Peroff said.
As for the split from the heroin transaction, Peroff said his understanding was that 100 to 150 kilograms of heroin would be bought at $3,000 a kilo. Peroff said Mafia operatives in Detroit would manage the heroin once it arrived in the U.S. and that proceeds would be divided three ways between Italian crime families in Detroit, New York and Chicago. From the transcript, it was not altogether clear what Peroff believed Bouchard's profit would be but Peroff seemed to be saving that Bouchard would be paid after the heroin was sold to distributors. Peroff said, for example, that Bouchard had told him that in New York heroin was selling for $30,000 to $32,000 a kilo.
Peroff said that Bouchard was not a member of the mob but was “strictly independent and spends a lot of money." Peroff said that owing to Bouchard's desperate financial condition, organized crime elements were hesitant to give him the cash to buy the heroin himself because they feared "he might run away” with the money.
IN MONTREAL, PEROFF, BOUCHARD DISCUSS HASHISH
Peroff's recollection of the April trip included a new element in the inquiry-hashish.
Peroff said that on this visit he flew into Montreal on commercial aircraft. He said Customs Agent Richard Dos Santos joined him. Peroff said he believed they stayed at the Martinque Hotel,
As in his previous trips to Montreal, Peroff said, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wired his room with electronic surveillance equipment. RCMP and U.S. Customs agents also took rooms in the hotel, although on different floors than Peroff (pp. 32, 33).
Peroff called Bouchard to say he was in town. Accompanied by Claude Lemoyne, Bouchard came to Peroff's room. Bouchard got right to the point. He proposed that Peroff fly into Pakistan aboard his private jet, make a pickup of a large supply of hashish and smuggle it back into the U.S. or Canada.
Uncertain as to how he should respond to Bouchard's proposition, Peroff was noncommittal. He didn't know what to say since the original plan had been to bring in heroin, not hashish. Peroff, a Jew, testified that he did tell Bouchard that he did not like the idea of flying his private jet into a Moslem nation. Peroff told Senators:
I stalled Bouchard so I could relay this information to the agents and their first reaction was that they did not think it was possible—that the drug agencies were not concerned
with hashish (p. 33). The agents were surprised, then, when Customs headquarters in Washington and RCMP headquarters in Ottawa gave the hashish plan "a green light," Peroff said. He added, however, that the agents instructed him to tell Bouchard that he would not pick up the hashish in Pakistan but he would do it in Israel or Lebanon (p. 33).
New information may have been provided from the headquarters levels, for now the Customs and RCMP agents doubted that Bouchard truly wanted to smuggle hashish. Peroff said agents now believed the cargo would actually be a "morphine base covered with hashish." (p. 33.)
Peroff added that the Mounties were of the opinion that Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni was involved, that Cotroni planned to build a drug refining laboratory in the Laurentian Mountains, a low-lying range in Quebec Province (p. 33).
Bouchard and Peroff continued to discuss the hashish deal. Then, Peroff said, he told Bouchard he was leaving Montreal and would call him the next day. Peroff said he flew by commercial aircraft to New York. Customs Agent Richard Dos Santos had him check into the Hotel Lexington, Peroff said.
From the hotel room, Peroff said, he called Bouchard. With Dos Santos recording the call, Peroff and Bouchard talked. Peroff testified about their conversation:
It was this phone call that I was told, in fact, there was a firm narcotics or heroin deal made. Bouchard said to me, "They will deal in the powder-forget about the hash," and that the pickup spot because he believed I also had some
special talents in this city, would be Rome (p. 34). Peroff said Customs Agent Dos Santos then directed him to return to San Juan. Back in Puerto Rico, Peroff continued his frequent telephone contact with Bouchard and “reported all pertintent information” from these conversations to the Customs office in New York (p. 31).
DOS SANTOS TESTIFIES ABOUT HASHISH DEAL
Peroff's control a gent. Richard Dos Santos, testified that on May 14, 1973 Peroff was sent to Montreal to confer with Bouchard. Dos Santos also went to Montreal on this occasion (p. 371). Dos Santos said the Roval Canadian Mounted Police had Peroff's hotel room and telephone under electronic surveillance. Customs records reveal Peroff actually was sent to Montreal May 13.
Dos Santos said Bouchard proposed to Peroff that they employ Peroff's executive jet to fly into Florida with a ton or a ton and a half