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The discussion became quite spirited and, Peroff said, virtually shattered his trust in federal agents directing the Bouchard case. In all his informant work, going back to early 1973, Peroff had been willing to do what agents told him to do because he believed they knew best. But now, with O'Neill unyielding on the airplane issue, his confidence in government officials was “practically gone," Peroff testi
fied (p. 72).
THE JULY 10 CONVERSATION WITIL BOUCHARD
Following the heated July 10 three-way phone discussions between Peroff, Dos Santos and O'Neill, Peroff called Bouchard again. In this conversation, which Peroff said he taped and identified as No. 5 of the five-part series, Bouchard told him that Giuseppe Cotroni—“or Pep, as he called him”—was the “mastermind” behind the heroin transaction (p. 73).
Peroff said Bouchard explained that Norman LeBlanc and Pepe Cotroni had been associates for many years and "a strong relationship existed between them.” Bouchard went on to say, Peroff testified, that Cotroni would be going to Costa Rica "sometime that week” to arrange the $300,000 pickup (p. 73).
In his side of the conversation, Peroff said, he reminded Bouchard that he was short on cash and that he had to have some money to fix up the executive jet. Peroff pointed out that the Canadian mobsters were not completely satisfied with the Lear jet he had flown into Montreal the previous March. They felt it should have more compartments to hide heroin in, Peroff said (pp. 73, 74).
ARGUMENT OVER AIRPLANE GROWS
Peroff said another three-way telephone discussion with John J. O'Neill
, Richard Dos Santos and himself took place Wednesday, July 11. Peroff said he could not remember if he played the Bouchard July 10 tape for the DEA men but he was certain that he did explain to them the substance of his previous day's talk with Bouchard (p. 74).
Now O'Neill was adamant that he should go to Costa Rica in a commercial airline, Peroff said. Peroff relented, offering a compromise. He said he proposed to O'Neill that he would fly commercial lif DEA would report the entire Bouchard episode to another federal agency with an interest in Robert Vesco. Peroff said O'Neill, outraged, rejected the proposal angrily. Peroff said O'Neill "flatly ordered me not to have any contact with any other agency." (P. 74.) Money problems were also discussed. Peroff said he explained to O'Neill and Dos Santos that according to the April 11 agreement arrived at in Customs headquarters in Washington he was to receive per diem expense money and would not have to spend any of his money.
But, he said, money received from Customs, and now DEA, had been too little and now he was nearly broke and his rent on the condominium was due. Peroff said O'Neill and Dos Santos assured him they were "taking care of it" but, he noted, "things were never taken care of.” (Pp. 74, 75.)
CONFLICT OVER WHEN AIRPLANE ROW BEGAN
Peroff said it was as early as July 9 when O'Neill first began proposing that he fly into Costa Rica aboard a commercial airline. Peroff said the issue was raised again July 10 and this time the discussion turned into a heated debate that lasted some three hours (p. 72).
Dos Santos testified similarly. He said that on or about July 10 O'Neill, trying to save money, proposed the idea of commercial travel by Peroff to Costa Rica. O'Neill made the proposal in a three-way conversation with Peroff and Dos Santos, Dos Santos said (p. 418).
O'Neill testified differently. He said he had no conversation with Peroff on July 10 (p. 538). O'Neill said the first time he discussed the idea of commercial air travel to Costa Rica was July 16, the day before Peroff left Puerto Rico for New York (p. 538). O'Neill said that Peroff objected “very, very vigorously" to the commercial aircraft proposal on July 16 but that was the first time he and Peroff ever discussed the issue (p. 539).
O'Neill said he talked with Peroff on the phone three times on July 6 when he heard the Bouchard tape mentioning Vesco; on July 16 when the airplane issue was discussed; and July 17 when Peroff and he spoke about Peroff's being in New York with his family (pp. 603, 604).
O'Neill said he could not remember if there were any other phone calls between him and Peroff but if there were they were of a “very, very fast nature” and had to do with expense money Peroff was demanding. O'Neill said nothing about the Vesco-LeBlanc lead was discussed; and in any event, O'Neill said, he had no recollection of any of these "very, very fast" calls ever taking place anyway (p. 604).
In his sworn statement for the joint DEA-Customs inquiry, O'Neill said he first heard the July 6 tape of the Peroff-Bouchard talk on July 10. "I first heard the tape sometime in mid-July, I think the date would be on a Friday, July 10, 1973,” O'Neill said. This assertion differed from his testimony before the Subcommittee when he said he did not talk to Peroff on July 10 and that the first he heard the July 6 tape was on July 6 (p. 604). O'Neill testified categorically that he had no conversation with Peroff July 10. But then O'Neill said maybe he did. Then he said he wasn't sure (p. 603).
O'NEILL DESCRIBES AIRPLANE DISPUTE John J. O'Neill summed up the differences he had with Peroff regarding the Costa Rica trip this way:
He told us first he didn't want to go to Costa Rica. On that score, we started out. He said, “I will go to Costa Rica only with my jet and nobody else and I will let you know what happens.” I said, “Ridiculous. You will go,
you do go, you go with, start on a commercial airline." (Pp. 628, 629.) O'Neill went on to testify that Peroff wanted to fly into Costa Rica, pick up the $300,000 and fly out "without notifying the Costa Rica Government that that money was to be used to purchase narcotics." (P. 629.) O'Neill said Peroff did not want to bring the Costa Rican Government into it because, according to Peroff, "Robert Vesco owned the Costa Rican Government." (P. 629.) O'Neill testified:
My reaction to that is it is absolutely impossible to do something like that (pp. 629,630). O'Neill said he had this discussion with Peroff on the telephone July 16. It was in this same three-way conversation-- Dos Santos was participating, too—when Peroff was told to come to New York for further talks (pp. 630,631),
However, further on in' his testimony, O'Neill provided more facts about the Costa Rica airplane disagreement he was having at the time with Peroff. O'Neill said Peroff actually did not refuse to go to Costa Rica initially, but he refused only when he was told he had to go commercial. O'Neill made the acknowledgement in this exchange with Subcommittee Investigator Philip Manuel during the hearings:
MANUEL. In other words, he wanted to go his own way but he didn't in the first instance refuse to go. Is that correct?
O'NEILL. That is correct (p. 631). But then O'Neill seemed to change his recollection again. This (liscussion ensued:
MANUEL. At what point did he refuse to go?
O'NEILL. On the 17th when he said that we were all crazy, that he didn't want to cooperate with us at all.
MANUEL. You mean he didn't refuse to go to Costa Rica before the 17th of July! Is that your testimony?
O'Neill. He refused to go on the 16th by commercial jet or by any way we were talking about. On the 17th is when he told us, the 16th he said he wouldn't go either. He stated that he would go, if he could go his way. We said, “It can't be done that way, Frank."
Then on the 17th, when he terminated his cooperation is when the second and final refusal was (pp. 631, 632). In his sworn statement for the joint DEA-Customs inquiry into the Peroff controversy, O'Neill gave an explanation of the airplane dispute. The explanation was not clear on the question of whether or not Peroff ever agreed to go to Costa Rica in a private jet. O'Neill referred to a telephone conversation he and Dos Santos had with Peroff about the Costa Rica trip. O'Neill said it was proposed that Peroff fly to Costa Rica by commercial aircraft and that a DEA agent be with him for protection. O'Neill then asserted:
Peroff said that that was absolutely out of the question and that he would not travel to Costa Rica with another agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration; that if he did go, which he would not, he would go by himself and would have to rent another jet to fly to Costa Rica, however, upon thinking the proposition over again, he said that Vesco had too much money, was too powerful and too influential, that he owned the government in Costa Rica and that under no circumstances would Peroff go to Costa Rica to get money
back from Vesco. That sentence, owing to its imprecise syntax, is unclear as to whether O'Neill meant Peroff rejected the idea of going to Costa Rica out of hand; or whether Peroff rejected the idea of going by commercial
aircraft; or whether Peroff refused to go to Costa Rica because he feared Vesco might have him killed.
The point of why Peroff did not go to Costa Rica is significant. The conclusion of the DEA-Customs inquiry, in fact, places great stress on the Costa Rica trip—and Peroff's alleged refusal to make the trip. The DEA-Customs inquiry concluded:
The investigation did establish that when Vesco's name came up, Mr. Peroff, an extremely difficult person to manage according to the agents, was requested to fly to Costa Rica for the purpose of exploring and further developing Vesco's alleged involvement and that Peroff refused to go despite the
fact he was assured protection. This conclusion omits the fact, attested to by O'Neill himself, that it was he, John J. O'Neill, who would not allow Peroff to fly to Costa Rica in an executive jet. For the DEA-Customs conclusion to be accurate, it should have indicated that Peroff did agree to go to Costa Rica in an executive jet.
In his testimony before the Investigations Subcommittee, O'Neill cited another consideration in his refusal to let Peroff fly to Costa Rica in a private jet. O'Neill said no definite instructions had been given to Peroff as to what he was to do in Costa Rica when he got there. O'Neill asked, “Does he go up to Robert Vesco and say, 'hello'?" (P. 632).
PEROFF IS SUMMONED TO NEW YORK Peroff testified that on about July 16, 1973 O'Neill told him to come to New York, and to come alone. Peroff, about to be evicted by his landlady, Mrs. Weiss of Connecticut, claimed to be virtually without financial resources. He told O'Neill he could not leave Puerto Rico without his family. Peroff said he announced that he would fly to New York only if his family could come with him (p. 75). Peroff testified:
there was no way that anyone could expect me to literally abandon my wife and five small children in Puerto Rico with no place to live and no funds when, in fact, I could bring them with me at no expense to the government because
I already had their tickets (p. 76). Peroff said O'Neill and Dos Santos agreed that the family could come to New York too (p. 75).
Perofl's reference to the family already having the tickets had to do with the reward and expense money he was given by the Secret Service following the capture of the counterfeit currency in Rome early in 1973. As a result of that assistance provided the government, Perofl's family was given transportation to Puerto Rico and return to the U.S. The Subcommittee obtained copies of the tickets Judy Peroff and the five Peroff children used to fly to New York July 17. The tickets were purchased by Mario Cozzi, the Customs Attache in Rome, in March of 1973.
THE EVENTS OF JULY 17 IN PUERTO RICO
It was appropriate for DEA Group Supervisor John J. O'Neill to have directed Peroff to leave Puerto Rico July 16. Perofl's rent was paid through the 16th as well. Accordingly, on July 17, 1973, O'Neill's loss
, Wayne Valentine, Assistant Director of the DEA New York region, sent a wire to the Puerto Rico DEA office in which travel was authorized for Frank Peroff from San Juan to New York City. A copy of the Valentine message was introduced as evidence at the hearings.
Referring to Peroff by his Customs code, No. D-73-1, Valentine's wire said the confidential informant was "required in New York for necessary debriefing" regarding “CI-72-0053," the code number for a James Episcopia lieroin investigation which apparently involved Bouchard. Valentine's cable directed that the Puerto Rico office provide an air ticket-in the form of a Government Travel Request to New York to Peroff and also give him "$50.00 for expenses incurred by informant in use of the telephone."
The Perolls made plans to leave Puerto Rico July 17. DEA Agent Octavio Pinol came to the apartment at the Park Plaza as the Peroffs were packing. Peroff said he made a present of several household articles to Pinol and then sold Pinol a television set. Pinol then drove the Peroffs to the airport and helped them check their luggage and board the plane (p. 76).
Pinol was later reprimanded by DEA for buying Peroff's TV set (p. 502). Pinol, defending his purchase, said Peroff did not want to take the TV with him to New York and insisted he buy it. "He insisted three or four times," Pinol said, "and I decided to buy it." Pinol added, "I'm very sorry to buy from him.”
Peroff said that before he boarded the plane he placed a final call to Richard Dos Santos. He said the reception he received from his control agent was unexpected. Peroff testified:
Dos Santos ... started talking to me in a way I could not believe. I told him that we were about to get on the plane and he said to me, “What do you mean, we?" He said, “You were supposed to come here by yourself.”
At this point, Dos Santos turned the phone over to O'Neill and O'Neill acted as though we hadn't talked at all in the last couple of days. He told me that unless I came to New York by myself, that as far as he was concerned I could "go to hell." This conversation developed into a loud shouting argument and it ended up with O'Neill hanging up on me
(p. 76). At the airport in San Juan. Octavio Pinol stayed with the family while Peroff left to make the phone call. Pinol told the DEA-Customs inquiry that when Peroff returned he was "very upset” and declared, "I'm going to make a big mess, I'm gonna complain, I'm gonna see the President.” Pinol thought Perofl's anger was triggered by a conflict orer money which Peroff claimed the government owed him.