CODE Name Columbus FBI Operative
As a child growing up in the great whaling city of New Bedford, Massachusetts I came into contact with the negative effects of illegal drugs, its horror, and destruction.
My cousin Maria Furtado had emigrated here from Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal during the 1960s as had much of my family. She was very pretty with long brown hair, average weight and height with a sparkling smile, and full of life. She, as do all immigrants that come to the United States, had a potentially promising future to look forward to.
It didn’t take her long to get wrapped up into the drug culture. It was easy and inviting for her because two of her brothers who arrived here a few years before were already deeply involved in dealing drugs. She eventually became addicted to drugs, and was introduced to prostitution. Her lifestyle led to an arrest and conviction that she served out in a prison near Boston. She pled out her charges as most defendants do in order to receive a lesser sentence. Part of her plea agreement was to disclose who her narcotics contacts were. Upon her release from prison she was found dead the next morning in a Boston motel room, a punishment for informing. As of this day her assailant has not been brought to trial. Although she and I didn’t have a close relationship I still cared for her; after all she was family. Her unjustified and untimely death would be the first block among many that would compile in a foundation of my hate for street drugs.
For the second time in my early life the effects of dangerous and illicit street drugs would affect me even though I had traveled half way around the world. While I was fulfilling my enlistment in the U.S. Army I was stationed in Okinawa with the First Special Forces Group. One evening as I was coming back from a movie with a couple of friends, we arrived at the barracks to find an ambulance loading up one of our buddies Joe. The next morning we received word that he had died of arsenic poisoning. We were dumbfounded to learn Joe had been shooting Heroin into his veins. There were never any signs to indicate that he was an addict. Apparently his addiction was closely guarded.
Over the years Heroin in its pure form had been diluted with various other chemicals in order to make it more profitable for the dealers and more marketable for the users on the streets. During the early 1970s the drug culture went through a phase of diluting the Heroin with Arsenic. If too much Arsenic was used in the cutting process it would cause poisoning resulting in death as with what happened to Joe. His military occupation was repairing and packing parachutes. Soldiers who do this type of work are known as Riggers. The Riggers in our unit were very tightly knit and for some reason they were most affected by what is known as a drug culture hit. In the eighteen months I served with the 1st SFG they lost two more Riggers to drugs and one whose overdose almost killed him.
On October ninth, nineteen hundred and seventy-three, I left Okinawa for an assignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It wasn’t long before I realized there was a drug problem there as well. I voluntarily left Special Forces and volunteered to work in an undercover capacity for the Third Region Criminal Investigations Command, Fort Bragg Field Office. My undercover assignment was with Corps Support Command,
S-3 Training as a clerk. My orders were to gather information on drug dealings on the base and anyone dealing to military personnel. After spending five and a half months of working several small drug busts in Fort Bragg, my superiors decided it was time to move me to Whitesands Missile Range, New Mexico.
I arrived at Whitesands in April of 1974 and the blanket of dry dessert heat struck me as soon as I stepped of the plane. The drive was forty-five minutes by military bus to the “Range” and was I disappointed. Whitesands appeared so desolate and there was nothing appealing about it. There were no recreational activities on base other than a small movie theater.
The same day I was assigned to the 259th Military Police Company, and while checking into Personnel I discovered that I had the opportunity for an assignment to go anywhere in the world as long as I extended my enlistment for twelve months. I put in a request for an assignment to Presidio of San Francisco, California. After only thirty-five days at the desolate inferno of Whitesands I was extremely happy to leave.
In May 1974, I reported to the 115th Military Intelligence Group, Presidio of San
Francisco as my written orders indicated. My verbal orders were to check into the Sixth
Region Criminal Investigations Command, San Francisco Field Office, and to a Chief
Warrant Officer Robert White. Special Agent White was a tall, large framed black man.
He was about six feet, three inches, and about two hundred, and forty-five pounds. His hair line was receding and wore a bushy mustache that didn’t comply with Army regulations. He was knowledgeable, and great to work with. He was straight forward and didn’t beat around the bush. He told it like it was and didn’t candy coat anything.
That was fine with me; it’s how I preferred it. I didn’t like all the added bullshit that comes up in conversations when people try to undermine, and lead others to believe things are different from how they really are.
I went right to work and began scoping out the different areas of the base and kept my ears open. Apparently C.I.D. didn’t have much intelligence going for them. Only a few weeks had passed when I hit the mother load. There was a Staff Sergeant in Personnel that had unauthorized possession of United States Army Identification Cards
He was trying to peddle off the cards. I got one from him as a sample and turned it into
Chief Warrant Officer White and told him what I knew. The C.I.D. office ran a check on the serial number of the I.D. card and found it was one of two hundred and fifty that were issued to a unit in Viet Nam and had come up unaccounted for. That meant they were either lost or stolen. Being high priority, CID and I had to move fast to recover these cards. If these cards fell into the wrong hands they could be used to commit serious crimes against the United States Army and the United States Government. These cards could get civilians or enemies of the United States onto Military Installations and other potentially sensitive areas. There was just one problem everyone had to take into consideration. Was this I.D. Card incident going to expose me and cripple me from being further effective in the field? Nevertheless, it was a very high priority to recover the I.D. cards before they were distributed, if they hadn’t been already. They took the Staff Sergeant down and the two hundred and fifty I.D. cards were all recovered. On December 9,1974 I received my first “Letter Of Commendation”.It wasn’t awarded in formation in front of the whole company as awards in the Army are normally given. Instead, it was handed to me from Warrant Officer White in a sealed envelope. Nevertheless, when I opened the envelope and read the letter I felt a head rush, and chills running up my spine. That great sense of pride blanketed my entire body. I had done a great service and I felt really good about it (See appendix for copy of letter).
Along with great accomplishments sometimes follows pain. I was being reassigned from the 115th Military Intelligence Group to Headquarters and Headquarters Company
Garrison. Now somewhat exposed, my Colonel of the 115th (later redesignated 525th)
M.I. Group seemed to be upset with me. I suppose it was because I didn’t report my status to him. Nevertheless, I hated leaving the 115th because it was a prestigious assignment. I got to drive for the Colonel, got special assignments and did a little traveling to other military bases. Soon I was on my way making contacts and the corroborated information was enough to lead to several big busts. One deal in particular was about to come through with two dealers working as mechanics down at the motor pool. As we got together time and time again to feel each other out, they gave away a little more valuable information about themselves. What was a shocker was that both of them were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company Garrison, my company. My cover story was that I periodically went into Mexico, and smuggled drugs back across the boarder. If anyone ever bothered to check it out there wasn’t a problem because my new bride and I would leave San Francisco at least once a month to visit her family down in Fresno. I made up a convincing story that I was tired of making the trip and it was becoming increasingly risky so I was looking for a closer, more convenient supplier, and they were hopefully it. They got excited and I could tell their greed was beginning to get the best of them. I continued to report back to C.I.D. field office and brief them with the updated news. Time was getting very close and I was nearly ready to finalize the deal and go in for the kill. I was going to pounce on these bastards like a tiger pounces on its prey; when he musters that last burst of energy, after a long chase, he leaps, stretches out in complete form, and comes down with complete precision upon its prey. I knew this was going to be a great one. In the meantime, Mr. White had gotten suspended for some unknown reason. I was forced to go the rest of the way with Special Agent Childers. He was a Specialist Sixth Class or E-6. “Bonehead” Childers, as I called him, took me to meet the Narcs at the San Francisco Police Department, Hall Of Justice. I met with several of the Narcs. Let me remind you that this event took place in January 1975. At this point I can only remember two of them by name. I remember Oly, he was a big blonde, middle aged, ruff looking character, and you could tell he was running the show down there. I also meet with Bruce the undercover Narc that I would be working with. We began to exchange information. I was briefed on who, what, how, and how much stuff we would be dealing for. The S.F.P.D. Narcs would provide the buy money and Bruce would hang on to it.
Two days later on Thursday the deal was set for four thirty in the afternoon in the parking lot out in front of Headquarters Company Garrison. That was a great location because the parking lot was huge and always filled with cars. It was perfect for surveillance. Anyone could simply lose themselves in that parking lot and not be detected even if he had the slightest bit of skill in concealment. It was show time!
I was sitting in my blue and white 1974 Plymouth Duster out in the parking lot.
Bruce pulled up in his 1970 beat up Mercury Capri. I got in his car and we headed for the section in front of HHC Garrison. I had told our suckers that we would be in a green Mercury Capri. It was four thirty P.M. and they hadn’t showed up. I looked at my watch. It was 4:45 PM, and still no show. I could feel they were probably out there somewhere just watching our every move. Five o’clock came around and I began to wonder if it was going to happen at all. Bruce had a hand radio stuffed underneath his seat, but maintained radio silence. Then, out of the blue, a Honda Celica pulled up in front of us and Dave got out. He asked if we had the money and we told him,“Ya!” He wanted to know what we were going to want and I told him I needed to restock completely and we had plenty of money to spend so let’s get the show on the road because I was tired of waiting. He told us to follow him and keep up. We darted out of the base gate and started on our mystery ride. Right turns, left turns, up streets, down streets, then turns again. Then I noticed we were headed toward Highway 1, down towards the beach. Suddenly, he pulled over, got out and asked who was holding the money. Bruce said he was. Dave decided that he would get into the Capri with Bruce and take him in to see his boss, while I went with John his partner who was sitting in the Toyota Celica. I got into the Celica and, we each speed off in separate directions. I began to have second thoughts that perhaps this was a rip off or I was about to get myself into some real serious shit. John was a good size guy and looked like he was part Oriental. I began to wonder if this asshole knew Karate or something? Nevertheless, Karate or no Karate I was determined to get the slip on this guy and jack him up as soon as he pulled over. I wasn’t about to take any chances. I suddenly became really concerned and thought to myself; And where the hell is my back up?! I felt that perhaps those jerks had left my butt hanging out in the wind. Out of nowhere I see this green piece of junk American Motors Matador trying to pull up on us and cut us off on the right side I hadn’t noticed who it was even though he was making his move on my side. “Crazy son of a bitch” I thought. I began to wonder what was going on. In all of the confusion I began to cuss at him because he looked like he was trying to hit us. I finally got a good look at the driver and discovered it was “Bonehead Childers”. John pulled over into the Highway One Beach parking lot and jumped on the brakes. Not expecting the outcome he was just as startled as I was. With brakes squealing and smoke coming up in a cloud from the breaks, and tires, Childers and his partner were out and all over us like white on rice. They pulled us both out of the car with guns drawn. Even though I knew I was a good guy and this was my Cavalry I was truly shaken before I could regain control of my senses. They frisked us, cuffed us both and placed us into the back seat of the junky Matador. They searched the suspect vehicle and found paraphernalia in the glove box with residue. They bagged it and took it into custody. They drove us down to the Hall Of Justice. They parked in what seemed to be an underground garage filled with police vehicles both marked and unmarked, and rows and rows of motorcycles.
We went up a couple of flights and I remained handcuffed until we each got into our separate and individual interrogation rooms. Once they got me into my individual room they uncuffed me and began the debriefing process. I went over everything that happened in my own words, and then they went through a series of questions. With the suspects secure in their own interrogation rooms I came out with the coast clear and went to the restroom. When I came out Bruce was standing there with a nice cold coke in his hand for me. He congratulated me on a job well done and with a huge smile on his face.
He told me to hang loose and make myself at home because he had to get back in there with these clowns. I knew I had done a great job, standing there with a big head enjoying my cold Coke and relieved the worst was over when suddenly a Narc with long nappy hair and a long nasty beard sitting behind a computer began yelling, and at the same time trying to conceal his face. He kept yelling over and over, “Get this guy out of here!” I stood there looking around trying to figure out what, and who this guy was yelling about.
Then big Oly came darting out to find out what the commotion was all about. The long haired bum yells out at him “get this guy out of here” pointing at me. Oly got upset and said, “You a------- he’s Army CID”. There were other undercover Narcs at
separate desks busy doing their individual thing and they began to laugh in hysteria. This bum looking Narc saw me enter in cuffs and didn’t realize that I was one of the good guys. I tried to keep focused but couldn’t help thinking I needed to call my wife and let her know that everything was fine. I didn’t want her to be waiting up until late worrying about me. “Hay Bonehead, I need to call home,” I blurted out. I grabbed the closest phone and dialed, on the third ring she picked up, “Hello,” she said. “Honey it’s me, everything went great and everything is fine. I’ll be home late.” I could tell she was relieved I had made the call. I was just glad to have heard her voice after such a day.
It was already one A.M. I made my way over to a long table and began looking over all of the drugs on it. I wondered where this stuff had come from. A few moments later Childers came over and asked me, “How you like all this shit man?” Saying it with a big smile on his face. I turned and replied, “Someone really hit the jackpot!” Laughing he replied, “You did stupid, this is all from your bust!” I was unbelievably surprised, and began to look at everything closer, but I was careful not to touch. There were many small bundles of marijuana about kilo size. There was a stack of sheets of blotter acid. There were a couple of plastic wrapped packages of a white substance possibly Coke or Heroin
I assumed. There was so much it was unreal.
John was in one room, Dave in another, and in a third room had an unknown culprit.
The unknown culprit had just gotten out of prison two months earlier for a drug wrap and was out on parole. This unknown culprit was about to go back to prison with some added time to boot. I wondered if he thought it had been worth it all.
It was about three in the morning and I was just getting in. I had to be up by six A.M. and back to work in the Orderly Room like nothing happened. I was tired. It was as if I were holding down two jobs; it was difficult. John and Dave were released to the Provost Marshall on the Presidio. They were now facing criminal charges with the civilian authorities, military charges, and would possibly receive a bad conduct discharge.
Little did I know that this operation involved so much; it took the coordination of multiple agencies. The involvement included, of course, the Army CID, the San Francisco Police Department Narcotics Squad, the United States Customs Service, and the newly formed Drug Enforcement Administration. The big bonus was that there was a bear (helicopter) in the sky to insure that vehicles that were being tracked were not lost in traffic. It made me feel great to know that my “little” drug bust had so much priority.
On February 24, 1975 I was at the field office visiting with Bob White, he had just gotten off of suspension and cleared of what ever had happened. Major Crinan, the Field
Office Commander, came over to me shook my hand, congratulated me for a job well done, then handed me my second letter of commendation. Chief Warrant Officer White took the letter from me and read it aloud while other agents came in to listen and later congratulated me. It felt great to be recognized and did wonders for my self esteem to know that I had made a difference. Major Crinan later apologized for not being able to award the letters with a military awards ceremony, but I understood that keeping things under wrap was necessary. The letters I received wasn’t a lottery win or a medal I could pin on my chest for display, but it was a piece of paper with words written upon it that meant a great deal to me. It made me feel that I was really living up to a standard that I took an oath to uphold. It was the oath I pledged back on August 20, 1971 when I promised to defend the United States against enemies foreign and domestic. I felt if you were selling drugs to my fellow soldiers you were placing national security at risk and you were a domestic enemy of the United States, it was that simple. I attempted to set up more deals, but I was unsuccessful. Presidio was a small installation and small military community aboard it. Word traveled quickly and I was a marked man and no one wanted to talk “dope” with me. On August 13, 1975 I began checking out, my time in the Army was up after four long years. I stopped in at the Field Office to bid my farewells. Mr. White was there and nearly tied me to my seat to try and get me to reenlist. I should have but I was foolish then. It was a great career opportunity. On August 19, 1975 I left the Army that I loved and hated, forever. be sent to.