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"Don's $2 Million Bought the Plane" by Daniel Hopsicker

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-27-07 06:18 PM
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"Don's $2 Million Bought the Plane" by Daniel Hopsicker

"Don's $2 Million Bought the Plane"
Oct 18, 2007
by Daniel Hopsicker

A pilot accused of owning the Gulfstream business jet (N987SA) which broke in two and crash-landed in the Mexican Yucatan carrying nearly 4 tons of cocaine has pointed a finger at a notorious convicted drug smuggler as the true owner of the drug-running airplane, the MadCowMorningNews can report exclusively.

Don Whittington, whose WORLD JET INC at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport was widely reported to have been deeply involved in CIA rendition flights, provided $2 million in cash to purchase the Gulfstream business jet, according to Greg Smith, one of two pilots in Fort Lauderdale Florida who have been accused of owning the plane.

The claim is the only discernible movement in the case to date.

Who owned drug plane that crashed in Mexico? asked the headline of Jay Root and Kevin Halls September 27, 2007 story in the McClatchy Newspapers, the first U.S. report of the incident.

The question has been met with stony silence by U.S. authorities, and remains unanswered, marking the second time in the past 18 months an American-registered aircraft carrying a multi-ton load of cocaine has been interdicted in Mexico... with no subsequent action taken by U.S. authorities against the American owners of the drug-running aircraft.

The war on drugs is a war on some drugs.
While more than three weeks has elapsed since the American-registered airplanes crash-landing, there has still been no official word on indictments, arrests, or even a determination from aviation officials of who exactly owned the plane that crashed in a field 45 kilometers outside Merida International Airport shortly after dawn on September 25th.

A list of questions sent last week to the FAA's media contact, Kathleen Bergin, remains unanswered. If you'd like to assist our government in understanding it's role in serving the people, please write her ( ) to remind her of her promise to respond.

However a phone call to Jeannette Moran, the DEAs Miami media contact, did produce this just-before-deadline voicemail response:

I know youre asking about the Gulfstream in the Yucatan, I do not know who has that case, or if its a DEA case, I dont know which division it might be out of... So I really cant help you with that, and I apologize. If you need anything else give me a call.

This encapsulates the situation perfectly. When a bank robber steals a few thousand dollars before holing up with a hostage, does the FBI take three weeks before divulging the name of the suspect?

But cases involving politically-connected American drug smugglers, ferrying multi-ton loads of dope worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are treated as matters of the highest national security.

Meaning: don't bother to ask...

But while U.S. officials arent talking, one of the two pilots at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport accused of owning the Gulfstream business jet told an aviation executive this week that the money to purchase the plane came from the owner of a jet charter business at the airport, where he sometimes works as a contract pilot.

Considered "most likely to go down"
According to the McClatchy report, Pilot Greg Smiths signature is on the FAA transfer of registration documents, along with that of fellow pilot Clyde OConnor.

Both pilots refused to talk to the media. Understandably, both are feeling the pressure. O'Connor was apprehended carrying firearms into Canada over the weekend while fleeing the U.S. for sunnier climes, in his case, the Azores.

The two men are among those considered most likely to take the fall for owning the plane when it was caught carrying 4 tons of cocaine, along with Brazilians Joao Malaga and Eduardo Dias Guimaraes, who were, according to FAA registration documents in our possession, the last registered owners of the plane.

When news of the planes discovery with a multi-ton load of cocaine became public, the Brazilians immediately began asserting to reporters that they had already sold the plane to Smith and OConnor.

Verifying their claim has proven impossible to date.

The Brazilian men are alleged to be aircraft brokers. But their "company," Donna Blue Aircraft, as we saw last week, is a paper entity. And just like the supposed aircraft broker in California to whom St Petersburg Floridas Frederic Geffon claims he sold the DC9 airliner caught with 5.5 tons of coke in the Yucatan 18 months ago, the men and their firm have no track record of purchasing and selling aircraft, which is what aircraft brokers do.

"Not likely to have $2 million anytime soon"
An aviation executive in frequent contact with Smiththe only one who hasn't yet fled the countryagreed to contact him for us to ask about the incident and get his comment on the situation.

Asked how he was, Smith allowed that he was doing goodconsidering.

Im having my ups and down, Smith admitted, sounding a little morose. You probably heard, I had a bit of an accident in Mexico.

The executive tried to lighten the mood. Are you good enough to loan me two million dollars? I hear youve come into quite a bit of money.

The reference is to the statement to authorities by Brazilian Joao Malaga of Donna Blue Aircraft (d/b/a), that the men had paid him $2 million in cash to purchase the Gulfstream.

Malagos statement was greeted with derision by insiders at the airport who know the men, neither considered anywhere near wealthy.

Smiths a good pilot, and dependable, and I never thought twice about hiring him to fly a charter for me, one aviation business manager at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport told us.

Except I had to be sure to always front him money for expenses, or Id get phone calls from the backside of nowhere telling me they didnt have enough money to gas up the plane to fly home.

Confession is good for the soul.
No, I didnt come into any money, Smith replied. It was Dons money that bought the plane.

If the allegation is true, it would not be the first time Don Whittington has been discovered wading hip-deep into the murky world of covert operations and international drug trafficking.

Many of the Learjets associated with CIA renditions came from the World Jet, Inc (including N-numbers N229WJ, N500ND, N252WJ), all of which have been tracked making numerous stops at Guantanamo.

Don Whittington (born January 23, 1946) is a former American racing driver from Lubbock, Texas. Like the Mob's front man in Vegas, Allen Glick, he and his brothers raced sports cars in the United States and Europe in the 70s and 80s, winning the 24-hour Le Mans in France and coming in sixth in one Indianapolis 500.

Authorities said they financed their racing operation with drug profits.

As we learned while writing Barry & the boys: The CIA, the Mob, and Americas Secret History, when the Whittington brothers were indicted for smuggling and tax evasion in the mid-80s, they lost their prized Learjet.

It ended up going to a man who was soon to become known as the biggest drug smuggler in American history until then, long-time CIA pilot Adler Berriman Seal.

The IRS found the connection so intriguing that when they found out about it years later, they subpoenaed Seal's records.

'The boys' history is our history
When, in turn, Seal himself got in trouble, his Lear jet (N13SN) went back to its true owner: the CIAs Paul Helliwell, called the "CIA's paymaster at the Bay of Pigs, through a Cayman front company he controlled called Intercontinental Holding.

Helliwells storied spook career, too illustrious and shady to recap here, included founding The Bank of World Commerce in the Bahamas, where CIA and Mob money flowed into secret numbered accounts by the billions-- Lansky money, most of it -- and then out again to the International Credit Bank of Switzerland before returning to the U.S. for reinvestment.

One of Whittington's drug smuggling associates, convicted at the same time he was, had been Gary Levitz, grandson of Levitz Furniture Corp founder Richard Levitz.

Court documents said Levitz deposited large sums of money into bank accounts in Nogales, Mexico, and helped disguise William Whittingtons narcotics profits by investing into legitimate business ventures.

Oh well. Imagine how Ferdinand Marcos felt
In an amusing postscript, after being released from prison one of the Whittington brothers dug up 220 pounds of gold they had stashed away before going to prison. The he took it to be cashed-in at a Delaware bank.

The government, notified of the transaction as a routine process, a DEA spokesmen said, leapt into action the way they only seem to do when money is involved, and seized the gold. And although the brothers were outraged enough to file a lawsuit, they never got their gold back.

Almost twenty years later, terror flight school owner Wally Hilliard didn't get his drug-running Lear jet out of the ads in Trade-a-Plane, either.

Hilliard's Lear, confiscated with 43 pounds of heroin onboard at the Orlando Executive Airport in July 2000, coincidentally (or not!) the same month that Mohamed Atta arrived to attend his flight school, had been sold to him by Don Whittington at World Jet Inc in Fort Lauderdale.

The man who had owned the Lear before Hilliard?

Gary Levitz, killed in 1999 when his modified P-51 Mustang crashed during the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada.

"Shit writer writing some shitty shit"
Whittington's angry response to the U.S. Government taking his gold while he was in prison is both telling, and typical.

Whittington, we'd been told by multiple sources, was no fan of ours, and resented having been written about in both of our books. When we phoned him for his response to pilot Greg Smith's allegation, he at first denied knowing who we were, then changed tack.

"You're a shitty writer," he told us. "You write shit. Nobody reads your shit anyway. So why should I talk to you?"

We couldn't think of a reason.

Even if we had, Whittington had already hung up.

Going round and round in the circle game

Gary Levitz even had ties in Venice, Florida, with a man whose name wed heard whispered about at the Venice Airport. Ben Bradleys a DEA informant at the Venice Airport who got arrested for beating his wife, aviation executive Coy Jacob told us bluntly, when we first asked around about Bradley.

Gary Levitz got in the drug trade. He rolled on the Whittington's, and so did Ben Bradley. He set people up in Ft. Lauderdale and was given some of their toys. His life was threatened, he went to Polk County, and ended up mooring his boat in Venice.

So CIA pilot Barry Seal got a Lear jet after a small-time informant snitched out the Whittington brothers, making one available.

Twenty years later Wally Hilliard got a Lear jet because a guy who got busted with the Whittington brothers dies in a crash, making one available.

Small world.

We are looking at a monster from the deep.

Beneath the surface of the story of the latest American-registered drug-running airplane whose American owner is going unpunished lies corruption on such a massive scale that the only rational response appears to be a boogie board, some suntan oil, and an extra large pitcher of margaritas.


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TomInTib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-27-07 07:01 PM
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1. This monster has a million tentacles.
Layers upon layers.

Check your Inbox later.
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xiamiam Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-28-07 08:29 AM
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2. k and r
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greatauntoftriplets Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-29-07 03:59 PM
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3. Locking.
This lead links to, which is a conservative website and is not allowed on Democratic Underground.

Additionally, when you link a copyrighted article, please limit yourself to a four-paragraph snip and the link.

Thanks for your understanding.

DU moderator
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