Pete Brewton

Pete Brewton

Pete Brewton studied philosophy at Rice University. He went on to obtain a master's degree from New Mexico State University. An award-winning journalist he has worked for the Houston Chronicle, Houston Post and The Economist. Brewton has also taught investigative journalism at the University of Houston.

In 1992 Pete Brewton published The Mafia, CIA and George Bush. In the book Brewton explains how George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen, are members of a small circle of powerful Texas businessmen who have done business with the Mafia and enjoyed the covert assistance of the CIA. Brewton argues that money scammed from Savings & Loans went to fund covert CIA operations, including Iran-Contra and secret weapons deals. In the book, Brewton also explores the relationship that George H. W. Bush had with Ted Shackley, Carl E. Jenkins, Paul Helliwell, Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero and Thomas G. Clines.

Primary Sources

(1) Pete Brewton, The Mafia, CIA and George Bush (1992)

On July 29, 1986, North had a meeting with retired Air Force Major General Richard Secord, who was running the Contra resupply effort as well as handling arms shipments to Iran. They discussed Ron Martin and Sergio Brull, along with Miami gun dealer David Duncan and the use of an East German ship that Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was holding.

Brull was also named by Secord in an interview he had with the FBI in July 1986. Secord said Brull was an associate of Jack Terrell, who had been involved in efforts to resupply the Contras.

In 1989, Brull was sued by a bank in Haiti for allegedly absconding with the proceeds of a $1.4 million letter of credit that was to buy 5,000 tons of Brazilian sugar for Haiti. The bank couldn't locate Brull to serve him with the lawsuit and alleged that he had fled the country. The bank was able to track the $1.4 million that Brull took to a bank in Madrid, Spain."

Another member of this circle who was in Belize around this time was Carl Jenkins, an old CIA agent whose previous claim to fame was his role as Rafael "Chi Chi" Quintero's case officer during the Bay of Pigs fiasco." (Quintero, an infamous CIA operative who worked with Thomas Clines and Edwin Wilson, among others, was brought in by Secord and Clines to help with the Contra resupply effort.)" Jenkins is mentioned in a number of places in North's notebooks, including one memorable list by North that reads "Gene Wheaton, Carl Jenkins, [John] Hull, [Rob] Owen, [Oliver] North." This list was compiled by North on April 18, 1986, apparently during a telephone conversation with Alan Fiers, director of the CIA's Central American Task Force, who would later plead guilty to misleading Congress on the Contra affair.

Almost every time Jenkins appears in North's notebooks, he is in the company of Wheaton, the former Pentagon criminal investigator. Wheaton said Jenkins was using the tiny nation of Belize as a training area for Latin Americans and Laotians to fight in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas.

One of Jenkins's first assignments with the CIA was in the 1954 coup in Guatemala. Jenkins and his helicopter company in Guatemala were also customers of Commercial Helicopters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana." (This company got most of its financing from Louisiana mobster and savings-and-loan looter Herman K. Beebe, and one of its principals was a close friend of drug dealer and CIA asset Barry Seal. More on this later.)

On January 11, 1984, the day after North had scheduled a meeting with S. Cass Weiland and Senator Roth regarding Belize, North got another phone call from George Woodworth. He wrote in his notebook that it was about Weiland, who "wants to contact [the next word is illegible] people in Belize camps." The word that is illegible appears to be a four-letter word that begins with "dr" and ends with a "g." However, it doesn't appear to be the word "drug."

About the same time that Jenkins was training anti-Sandinistas in Belize and Corson's future attorney was saying the White House was interested in moving on a project in Belize, a friend of George Bush's, and Ronald Reagan's biggest campaign fundraiser in 1980 - i.e., Walter Mischer - was getting involved in small English-speaking Belize. He started out in 1984 in a shrimp business with his close friend, the late Houston developer Keith Jackson...

Ross, while denying that the company ever did business with his childhood buddy, Barry Seal, or the CIA, volunteered: "We used to lease helicopters from Flying Tiger Airlines." This airline company was established by General Claire Chennault in the 1950s as a cargo company, and became one of the largest private cargo companies in the world. It was not a CIA proprietary, but it did work for the CIA. It took its name from the group of pilots organized by Chennault during World War II to fly supplies to Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist Chinese. This group formed the foundation for the CIA's proprietary airline, Civil Air Transport, a branch of which became the infamous Air America.

Commercial Helicopters also negotiated the sale of helicopters to Saudi Arabia for use as medical ambulances, and provided parts and services to a helicopter company in Guatemala. This company, Helicopteros de Guatemala, was run by Wheaton's buddy Carl Jenkins, the old CIA agent from Louisiana who was living in Guatemala and training Contras in Belize. At the time Commercial Helicopters filed for bankruptcy, it was holding for repair about $150,000 worth of helicopter parts belonging to Jenkins's company.

A letter filed with the bankruptcy court on April 11,1985, from Gary Villiard, the general manager of Commercial Helicopters, states that on May 30, 1984, Jenkins and Ricardo Moratoya from Helicopteros de Guatemala instructed him to transport a helicopter owned by the company from New Orleans to Commercial Helicopters' facilities in Lafayette, and then to ship it to Guatemala along with an engine belonging to them. Villiard said in the letter that he complied.

Jenkins had other connections to the Ed Wilson/Tom Clines/Ted Shackley/Dick Secord group. As previously noted, he was Chi Chi Quintero's CIA case officer during the Bay of Pigs, after which Tom Clines became Quintero's case officer. (Shackley was Clines's boss and headed up the CIA's Miami station after the Bay of Pigs disaster; he was also involved in the CIA's use of the Mafia to try to assassinate Fidel Castro.)

Jenkins also headed a large CIA base in Laos from 1970 to 1973, during which time Shackley, Secord and Clines were all involved in CIA operations in that area. Also working with these individuals in that theater were General John Singlaub and a Marine officer named Oliver North.

(2) Pete Brewton, The Mafia, CIA and George Bush (1992)

Clemard Joseph Charles was recruited by the CIA in 1963, the same year the agency was sponsoring and paying exile and rebel groups to try to overthrow Papa Doc. We know Charles was recruited by the CIA then because of the findings in the late 1970s of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

The committee was investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy and tracking a man named George DeMohrenschildt, a White Russian count with extensive ties to the CIA. DeMohrenschildt had moved to Texas, worked in the oil business and befriended Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, there is some evidence that DeMohrenschildt was used by the CIA to keep an eye on Oswald. DeMohrenschildt had met Charles in Haiti, where he had business interests, including a share in the government sisal hemp operation. DeMohrenschildt was also keeping an eye on Clint Murchison's meat-packing business and cattle ranches there. At one time he had worked for Three States Oil and Gas, one of Murchison's oil companies.

DeMohrenschildt was also on close, friendly terms with Houston oilman John Mecom, Sr., according to a Houston private eye familiar with the Russian count. And the count and George Bush apparently knew each other. Bush's name and his Midland, Texas, address were in DeMohrenschildt's address book.

One CIA contract agent, Herbert Atkin, has reported that DeMohrenschildt's real job in Haiti in 1963 was to supervise a CIA-sponsored plan to overthrow Duvalier.

In May 1963, DeMohrenschildt arranged a meeting between Clemard Charles and Dorothy Matlack, who was Assistant Director of the Army Office of Intelligence, the U.S. Army's liaison with the CIA. According to DeMohrenschildt's CIA files, which the assassination committee obtained, the purpose of the meeting with Matlack was to arrange a rendezvous between Charles and a CIA representative. DeMohrenschildt attended the meeting with the CIA, to Matlack's surprise. "She did not know what role DeMohrenschildt was serving, but felt he 'dominated' Charles in some way," reads the committee's CIA memo, which then reported that Matlack stated, "I knew the Texan [DeMohrenschildt] wasn't there to sell hemp."

Finally, the kicker in the CIA memo: "Because of the potential political information Charles could give about the current situation in Haiti, the CIA became the primary contact with Charles."

That puts Charles's ability to obtain two aircraft from the United States in 1964 during an embargo and his subsequent 1967 jailing by Duvalier in a whole new light. For it was in 1967 that Mitch WerBell, along with some Haitians and Cuban exiles, were caught planning an invasion of Haiti from Florida.

WerBell was a veteran of the OSS office in China during World War II along with E. Howard Hunt, Paul Helliwell and John Singlaub. He told author Jonathan Kwitny that he did not work "for" the CIA, but "with" the CIA. He said the distinction was that he got paid by private groups and not by the CIA.

(3) Pete Brewton, The Mafia, CIA and George Bush (1992)

Lawrence A. Freeman was born in Washington, D.C., on January 5, 1939. He attended the University of Miami, getting a bachelor's degree in 1960 and a law degree in 1964. He joined the Air Force as a judge advocate, where he worked until 1969, and then he began work as an associate with the old CIA spook Paul Helliwell's law firm, Helliwell, Melrose and DeWolfe, in Miami.

In October 1988, Freeman was a witness in a federal court hearing in Denver, Colorado, in one of the longest-running IRS cases in history: the fight over more than $30 million in undeclared profits from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. No taxes were ever paid on the profits that were funneled through a maze of offshore trust accounts at Castle Bank, with the assistance of Burton Kanter and Paul Helliwell.

Freeman was called to testify about the existence of the two imaginary Greeks whom Helliwell conjured up. During his sworn testimony, Freeman discussed some of his background.

Freeman said he first met Helliwell when he traveled to the United States for a funeral in April 1969. "I advised my dad that I intended to separate from the service and continue to live in Europe, and my father, being a consul for the country of El Salvador, recommended that I speak with Paul Helliwell, who by coincidence my father knew because Paul Helliwell was the consul of Thailand.

"I met with Mr. Helliwell, and Mr. Helliwell suggested that I contact his business associate in Zurich, who was Phil Barry." Barry was in the OSS with Helliwell, Freeman said.

Later that year, Freeman was in Zurich to see Barry about arranging financing for an Arab airline in Egypt. Helliwell was also there, he stated, as was a man named George Bebas, to whom Helliwell introduced him. (Bebas was one of the two imaginary Greeks.)

"The only other thing that I can recall that happened that day is, I had dinner that evening with Mr. Helliwell and Bill Casey-William Casey, who was also of the OSS, who I believe was then in private practice. The gentleman later became the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and I believe sometime in early 1981 became the head of the CIA."

Freeman testified that he joined Helliwell's law firm in January 1970 and then six months later went to work as the in-house counsel for Castle Bank & Trust in Nassau, Bahamas. Castle Bank records show that Freeman was listed as a vice president in September 1970 and as a vice president and secretary in September of the following year. The previously listed secretary had been A. Alipranti (the other imaginary Greek).

Freeman said he returned to Helliwell's law firm in October or November of 1971, and then left to form his own firm in May 1972.

(Freeman's testimony in this case was abruptly halted by the judge after the IRS attorney, Gene Ciranni, asked Freeman about Jack DeVoe and Dr. Robert Freeman invoked attorney-client privilege and requested a private meeting with the judge, who afterwards would not allow Ciranni to question Freeman further.)

In a brief telephone conversation I had with him in 1989, just after he had gotten out of jail and could not practice law, Freeman refused to answer any questions. Asked if he had ever worked for the CIA, he replied, "I don't know." Then he caught himself and quickly said, "No comment."

(4) Pete Brewton, The Mafia, CIA and George Bush (1992)

In his 1991 book Masters of Paradise, Alan Block states that Kanter "had direct ties to organized crime," pointing to his connections with the La Costa resort, to mob associate and Teamsters Union pension fund guru Allen Dorfman, as well as to Cleveland mobster Morris Kleinman, who was probably one of the founding owners of Castle Bank.

Helliwell once reportedly told a Castle Bank colleague that they had to transfer some Kleinman accounts from a sister Caribbean bank to Castle Bank to protect them. "If you don't do it, Kanter will end up face down in the Chicago River," Helliwell said.

Block's book comes down stronger on the side of mob control and presence at Castle Bank than that of the CIA, but he does recognize the ground-breaking story in the Wall Street Journal by Jim Drinkhall in April 1980, which stated that the CIA was responsible for stopping a Justice Department investigation of Castle Bank. The CIA, it seemed, was using some Castle Bank accounts to fund covert activities.

Helliwell was identified by journalist Jim Drinkhall as being the reputed paymaster for the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion. Drinkhall also reported that Helliwell and the CIA used Castle Bank accounts to fund later anti-Castro activities.

According to author and journalist Jonathan Kwitny, "Amidst all the speculation that has swirled around CIA agents who were also involved in narcotics smuggling over the years, the one CIA career officer definitely known to have planned narcotics smuggling as an instrument of American foreign policy was Paul Helliwell."

Helliwell established one of the CIA's first proprietary front companies, called Sea Supply Corp., to funnel weapons to the anti-communist Chinese in Thailand in the 1950s. The Chinese manufactured heroin to help pay for their military needs, and the heroin was transported out of the isolated mountains on the pack mules of Helliwell's Sea Supply Corp.

Like Kanter and Helliwell, and like Walter Mischer and Robert Corson, Lawrence Freeman lived in a world where the distinctions between the CIA and organized crime become blurred. Not only did Freeman have direct business associations with Kanter and Helliwell, and indirect ties to Corson, he had other links to organized crime figures.