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VII. TIE PEROFFS IN PUERTO Rico
THE WIFE AND CHILDREN GO FIRST
One of the understandings in the 20-point agreement of April 11, 1973 between Frank Peroff and the Customs Service was that Peroff himself would go to Canada to serve in a “catalytic capacity to generate speedier movement” in the Bouchard case. In turn, Mrs. Peroff and the children were to move from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico where the Customs Service would house them for two months at a cost not to exceed $550 a month. Peroff was to provide his family with spending money;
In his testimony before the Subcommittee, Peroff said Customs agents did send his family to San Juan but they did not send him to Canada. Instead, he said, they had him move into a liotel at New York's Kennedy Airport for five or six days. Then. Peroff said, he was dispatched to Puerto Rico himself. Ile said Customs Agent Richard Dos Santos directed him to go, saying, “Get some sun” (p. 31). Files from the Custom Service New York office indicate that Perof! did go to Puerto Rico but not under quite the same circumstances Peroff described.
JUDY PEROFF DISLIKES SAN JUAN APARTMENT The Perofis, very particular about where they lived, had sharp differences with the Customs Service over what constituted suitable lodging. They rejected the Customs apartment in New York in Marchi and moved in to the New York Hilton. Something similar occurred a month later in San Juan.
Arriving in Puerto Rico April 13, 1973 without Frank, Judy Peroff and the children were met at the airport by Customs Agent'Octavio Pinol. He had gone to some lengths to find them a place, Pinol told the DEA-Customs inquiry. Mr. Cardona at the Villa Cristobal Apartments came up with what Pinol felt were nice quarters. But Judy Peroff didn't think so. Pinol said:
They got an apartment with three bedrooms, with the living room and a big couch, I received this family on about 11:30. I brought her there and she didn't like it, saying "I don't want this apartment. You bring me to a hotel," and we started an argument there. I called Richard Dos Santos that night and he convinced her to stay there for a couple of days
until we get a new apartment. Dos Santos wrote a memorandum to his boss, Albert W'. Seeley, in which he reported on the events that were set in motion when Judy Peroff found the Villa Cristobal not to her liking. A copy of this memorandum was made part of the hearing record.
In the memo, Dos Santos said the first call from Octavio Pinol came to him about 11:30 the night of April 13. Pinol continued calling, the last call being at 1 a.m. Dos Santos said Pinol was so distraught by
Mrs. Peroff's complaints that he became “dispirited and dejected." Pinol even offered to put up the Peroffs in his own home but there wasn't enough room there.
Dos Santos said the next morning he went to see Peroff at his room in the International Hotel in New York. Now Frank Peroff was complaining about the Villa Cristobal as apparently he had spoken with his wife during the night. Dos Santos said Peroff also complained that Customs should be continuing to pay his hotel bill there in New York. Peroff, who only a week before had met with Commissioner Acree to lodge a criticism of the Service, threatened to take similar action, Dos Santos said. Dos Santos reported that Peroff
.. said he was told he could go over my head if he was unhappy with my decision and I advised him that the buck
stopped with me for the time being. Returning to his office, Dos Santos spoke with Peroff on the phone. Peroff was now saying he wanted to go down to Puerto Rico himself to find more agreeable quarters for his family. Dos Santos told him he could but reminded him that Customs would pay no more than $500 a month rent on the new place and that Octavio Pinol and his coworkers in the San Juan Customs office would not act as moving men" for the Peroffs. In addition, Dos Santos said, Peroff was instructed to keep the New York office advised of his whereabouts at all times and was to be “ready to return to New York at a few hours notice.”
On April 16 at 11:45 a.m., Peroff, still in New York but about to depart for Puerto Rico, called 'Dos Santos. Dos Santos recalled that Peroff explained he had found an apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico and that the landlady, a Mrs. Weiss of Connecticut, wanted a twomonth lease with the $500 a month rent paid in advance.
Dos Santos said he told Peroff that Customs would not agree to those arrangements. Peroff then asked Dos Santos if Customs would provide him transportation to drive over to Connecticut and sign the lease with Mrs. Weiss. Dos Santos said the answer was no. Dos Santos said, “Peroff replied that Customs did not want to help him.” Dos Santos told Peroff that “Customs would meet its obligations.” Peroff flew to Puerto Rico April 16.
THE PUERTO RICO PERIOD WAS SIGNIFICANT
Frank Peroff, his wife Judy, their five children and their poodle lived in Puerto Rico from April of 1973 until July 17, 1973. Their stay on the Caribbean island came at an important stage in the development of the Bouchard narcotics inquiry, for it was during this time that Conrad Bouchard seemed determined to move forward, in league with Peroff and the executive jet, in a massive heroin transaction. Officials believed the Bouchard heroin deal might be as large as 200 kilograms. This would be a major drug seizure and an important step forward in the government's heroin control effort.
In addition, in Conrad Bouchard, a major narcotics dealer in his own right, federal agents hoped to be led to a more powerful mobster, Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni, and possibly Pepe's brothers, Vic and Frank Cotroni. Agents believed that Cotroni was involved in the Bouchard plan and in Cotroni they would have a principal in the major organized crime element in Canada.
Finally, during the Puerto Rico period, Conrad Bouchard told Peroff on the telephone that Robert Vesco, or Vesco's Canadian associate, Norman LeBlanc, would put up $300,000 to finance the heroin buy.
Anyone who was reading the newspapers in the summer of 1973 knew that Robert Vesco was a millionaire, a dealer in high finance, a big contributor to President Nixon's re-election campaign and an alleged swindler who was charged with looting an international mutual fund of more than $200 million. But no one had ever accused Vesco of being a dope peddler. Drug agents were cautious about believing Bouchard's words about Vesco. But neither did the authorities discount what Bouchard said. Thus, the investigation, potentially more explosive than ever, went forward.
Frank Peroff, the informer, the man whose private jet Conrad Bouchard was trying to build a crime around, was the key to it all. But Frank Peroff, crucial as he was, was turning out to be a difficult, hard to manage, frustrating and costly person for the law enforcement agents to deal with. A strained relationship developed between them and Peroff. When he was not given his way, he threatened agents that he would report them to their bosses. Peroff, one agent reported, claimed he would go to the President of the United States if necessary to have his own way.
The personality problems with Peroff coincided with a sweeping shakeup of the federal drug enforcement agencies. A new super agency was created, absorbing hundreds of drug investigators from the Customs Service, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement.
The Bouchard case, and Frank Peroff along with it, got caught up in the reorganization. Peroff's control agent, the investigator closest to him and from whom he received guidance, was a Customs agent. But under the new set-up he was made a subordinate to a former BNDD agent. Both men had different ways of doing things.
Peroff, for his part, could never reconcile himself to the new man in charge. For example, Peroff assumed that his total involvement in the heroin plot-indeed, the only reason Bouchard invited him in-was because Peroff had access to an executive jet, an aircraft which could be used to smuggle large supplies of heroin. But, with the government reorganization, the word came down to Peroff that he was to carry out his activities for Bouchard in a commercial airliner. Peroff objected strongly. Distrust grew.
Accordingly, as the changeover in federal jurisdiction occurred, there was an element of uncertainty as to who would be deciding the direction of the Bouchard inquiry. Similarly, expense money owed Peroff
, already late, was delayed even further, leading Peroff to be less manageable than ever, contributing to his growing sense that maybe the government was not as anxious to go ahead on the Bouchard case as he was.
PEROFF TOLD TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH BOUCHARD
Puerto Rico." But Dos Santos warned Peroff not to discuss the Bouchard case with Pinol. However, Peroff said, he was directed to keep in contact with Bouchard by telephone. Peroff said Customs Agent Pinol gave him equipment to record his calls with Bouchard (pp. 31, 32). Peroff testified:
My instructions from Dos Santos were to maintain contact with Bouchard, record all conversations and report only to Dos Santos by the telephone. I believe he was re-recording
these tapes as they were played back to him (p. 32). Peroff said that during the period when he was with his family in San Juan he spoke frequently with Bouchard on the telephone and that the calls were recorded. Reflective of how much time he spent on the phone with Bouchard, Peroff said, were his April, May and June telephone bills totaling about $3,000 (p. 32).
Peroff said Dos Santos "from time to time" told him what to say to Bouchard in the telephone conversations (p. 32).
Peroff said Customs Agent Pinol took care of his rent but that was all. Peroff said he was not being paid anything for other living expenses. He said it was his understanding that he was "on a per diem basis with U.S. Customs" in Puerto Rico but "I did not receive this per diem allowance which necessitated me putting my own money out” (p. 32).
THIE “DEBRIEFING OF FRANK JAMES”
Shorty after his April 16 arrival in Puerto Rico, Peroff made two trips. From April 25 through April 28 Peroff was in Montreal in pursuit of the Bouchard heroin inquiry. On May 2 and 3 Peroff was in New York meeting with law enforcement officials.
One of these officials—Thomas Fitzpatrick, Sr., the Customs Attache at the American Embassy in Ottawa-wrote a memorandum on his May 2 meeting with Peroff. Also attending the meeting were Customs Agent Richard Dos Santos and Sergent Paul Sauve of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Entitled the “Debriefing of Frank James”—Frank James was a Customs code name for Frank Peroff—the Fitzpatrick memorandum described the events of Peroff's March 22 trip to Windsor, Ontario in the Lear jet and the transaction Conrad Bouchard had with John Fecarotta of Detroit.
The memorandum also described what happened during Peroff's April 2.5 trip to Montreal. The Subcommittee obtained a copy of Fitzpatrick's memo and it was made a part of the hearing record. This stafi study will now review what Fitzpatrick had to say about the April 25 visit to Vontreal.
Fitzpatrick described a confrontation between Peroff and a "John the Doctor" in which Peroff was accused of providing French police with the information that led to the arrest of Thomas Solarik on heroin charges in Paris February 8, 1973. "John the Doctor," Fitzpatrick said, was believed to be Raymond Shepherd of Vancouver, British Columbia. Shepherd, a major heroin dealer, claimed to have bought the French police file on the Solarik case. Shepherd demanded to know from Peroff why Peroff's name, address and picture were in
the file yet he had never been arrested or picked up for questioning. Peroff insisted he was innocent
Fitzpatrick said, however, that Bouchard had faith in Peroff and, in any event, “John the Doctor" relented, apparently satisfied that Peroff was telling the truth. Accordingly, “John the Doctor” then proposed that perhaps Peroff's Lear jet could be used to smuggle out of France the remaining 40 kilograms of heroin left over from the thwarted Solarik project. Solarik had paid for the entire 50-kilogram shipment but he only had with him 10 kilos when police raided the room at the Rome Hotel, Fitzpatrick said.
"John the Doctor” was not alone in stepping forward with proposals for the use of Peroff's Lear jet. Other mob figures had ideas of their own.
One suggestion came from a man Fitzpatrick identified as Weiner Patek of Montreal. Patek proposed that Peroff's Lear jet be used to smuggle 20 kilograms of cocaine out of Bogota, Columbia and into Can cia. Patek may have been the same Werner Patek, also known as "the Kraut," who was involved in the Solarik-Silverman heroin plot in Paris.
Peroff was also reported to have discussed a gold smuggling proposition with a Montreal diamond merchant. Next, Claude Lemovne came forward with a smuggling idea, Fitzpatrick said. Lemoyne felt there was money to be made smuggling large gioups of Chinese into the United States. In addition, Fitzpatrick said, Lemoyne claimed to have $800,000 in counterfeit American Express checks ready to be traded, as well as several stolen paintings for sale.
Finally, Lemoyne wanted Peroff's recommendation on finding a chemist who could operate a heroin laboratory in Canada. Wishing to avoid doing future business with French and Corsican groups in Vlarseilles, Lemoyne hoped to bring morphine base (lirectly to Canada for processing. That way he could sidestep the Varseilles people, Fitzpatrick said. In connection with Lemoyne's last idea, Fitzpatrick noted that a Frenchman, George Younes, who had once been active in smuggling morphine base, was now living in Hull, Quebec Province.
The "go ahead" on the big heroin transaction seemed to hinge for now on the outcome of Bouchard's trial, Fitzpatrick said, adding that if a guilty verdict were returned Bouchard would want to use Perofl's Lear jet to escape. Fitzpatrick said the money for the 100-kilogram heroin deal "is being put up by interests in New York,” persons who were working through Giuseppe (Pepe) Cotroni. Fitzpatrick quoted Peroff as saying, however, that Bouchard would prefer not to have to do business with the Italians.”
Fitzpatrick also noted that “tentative plans" called for Peroff to fly his private jet to Marseilles or Nice, France. Claude Lemoyne and Louis Cote were to accompany him. Once the three picked up the 100 kilograms of heroin, they were to fly back to a Florida airport located between Palm Beach and Orlando, possibly Melbourne or Merritt Island.
Peroff told Fitzpatrick that if Bouchard went to jail Giuseppe Cotroni and John Fecarotta would step in and run the 100-kilogram transaction.