"Hero" or "Terrorist" Cuban Exile Luis Posada Carriles Feted in Miami Following Acquittal on 11 Counts; Deportation Sought by U.S. Government

Luis Posada Carriles was 30 years old at the time of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. He was sent to prison by the regime of Fidel Castro and subsequently sought asylum in Mexico. Posada then emigrated to the United States where he helped to organize President John F. Kennedy's and the CIA's failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. He then returned to the U.S. where he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was active in the CIA's Operation 40--a guerilla force which operated covertly to overthrow the Castro regime. Posada also developed close ties to anti-Castro groups in the U.S., including the Cuban American National Foundation.

Eventually suspected by the CIA of alleged involvement in several bombing plots, Posada relocated to Venezuela in 1968. Carriles became a chief of operations for Venezuela's intelligence agencies. The CIA severed all ties with Posada in 1976, on suspicion that he was allegedly involved in cocaine trafficking. That same year, he was arrested in Venezuela for alleged involvement in the bombing of Cubana airlines flight 455, which killed all 73 people on board. He was acquitted in a trial in military court, however the verdict was overturned and Posada was retried in a civil court. He escaped from prison in Venezuela and sought asylum in Chile.

Posada was imprisoned in Chile until 1985, when he escaped from prison again, dressing as a priest. He fled to El Salvador, where he again became involved in U.S. activities in the region, helping to provide supplies to the Contra forces opposed to the Sandinista regime of Nicaragua for the administration of President Ronald Reagan. Following the Reagan administration, Posada became a security advisor to the Guatemalan government. He was shot in Guatemala City in 1990, upon information and belief by Cuban agents.

Posada was implicated in a series of bombings in Cuba in 1997 which killed a Canadian citizen and wounded 11 other people. He was arrested in Panama City in 2000 with 200 pounds of explosives which were allegedly to be used to assassinate Castro, who was to visit Panama for the first time since 1959. In 2004, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned Posada and his alleged co-conspirators. Posada requested asylum in the United States in 2005, and he was detained by the Department of Homeland Security, which sought to deport him. He was released on bond in 2007, and was indicted on seven counts of alleged immigration fraud. In 2009, a grand jury in El Paso, Texas, issued a superseding indictment against Posada, charging him with 11 counts, including immigration fraud, obstruction of a terrorism investigation and terrorism charges relating to the 1997 Cuban bombings. As reported by the Miami Herald, Posada was tried in a 13 week trial in the Western District of Texas in 2010. The jury took 3 hours to find him not guilty on all charges. 

Last week, the 83 year-old Posada received a gala dinner in Miami by Cuban exile organizations including Alpha 66, intended to help defray his legal expenses. Posada's counsel stated that they believed that the jury was favorably disposed to Posada as a result of his military history. However, as a result of his 2004 Panamanian conviction, Posada is barred from seeking residency in the U.S. No other countries will accept Posada, however, besides Cuba and Venezuela, and the U.S. has refused to deport him to Cuba or Venezuela, citing concerns that he might be tortured. Venezuela has announced that it will re-file its petition to extradite Posada. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called Posada the "biggest terrorist" on the continent, and Castro has denounced Posada as a "coward."

Utah Man and Canadian Citizen Indicted In Georgia for Conspiracy, Mail and Wire Fraud, May Have Been Conned by Their European Contacts

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, Thomas Repke of Holladay, Nevada, has been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on 22 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The charges are based on allegations that Mr. Repke, through the companies Coadum Capital and Mansell Acquisition Co., allegedly defrauded more than 100 investors of more than $30 million. Mr. Repke and James Jeffrey, a Canadian citizen, are alleged to have promised investors monthly returns of 5 percent on their investments. The indictment charges that Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffrey promised investors that their money would be kept safe in escrow accounts, but allegedly transferred $20 million in investor funds to accounts in Switzerland and Malta, as well as allegedly diverting substantial funds to themselves, companies which they controlled and investments of family members. The defendants are alleged to have made false statements to investors about their monthly gains and account balances and to have used funds from investors to pay off other investors in what a Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Repke's and Mr. Jeffrey's uses of investor funds do not appear to have been totally selfish, however. Coadum is alleged to have used $425,000 of the funds to commission a 40-foot bronze statue of New York City firefighters for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for a memorial to September 11, 2001. Furthermore, in a novel twist, comments by Pat Huddleston, a receiver appointed to oversee companies operated by Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffries, indicates that the two men might have been victims themselves, deceived by individuals in Europe who they dealt with. "My investigation shows they were conned out of that money," Huddleston stated. "They might have believed they were making legitimate investments over there, but the person was essentially conning them."

Mr. Repke pleaded not guilty to the charges yesterday and was released on a $250,000 bond. The U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffrey.

Federal Prosecutors Observe "No Touch" Ruling on Possible Retrial of San Diego Councilman for Alleged Honest Services Fraud; Former Alaska Chief of Staff to Have Honest Services Conviction Dismissed

Last week was a good one for public officials charged with Federal crimes. First, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California announced that it would not seek a second trial of former San Diego Councilman Michael Zucchet on alleged honest services fraud charges pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 1346, relating to political contributions from the owner of a strip club, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Zucchet was indicted with two other City Council members and an aide in 2003. The government alleged that the Council members had a meeting with a lobbyist for the strip club owner for the alleged purpose of changing the City's "no touch" ordinances relating to strip clubs. The Council members, however, argued that they reported the contributions on their financial disclosure forms. The government's decision was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in U.S. v. Skilling, No. 08-2349, in which, as we have noted,  the Court held that the "honest services" mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. §1346, applies to bribery and kickback schemes, and not to mere "undisclosed self-dealing by a public official or private employee," alone.

Councilman Charles Lewis died before trial. Mr. Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted by a jury following trial in July of 2005. However, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller dismissed the jury's guilty verdict on seven counts against Mr. Zucchet. The Judge permitted the government to retry Mr. Zucchet on the two remaining counts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's ruling on appeal. Mr. Inzunza has also appealed his convictions. Mr. Zucchet resigned from the Council soon after his conviction, and is currently General Manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association.

Then, according to the Achorage Daily News, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska announced that it would agree to the dismissal of the honest services fraud conviction of Jim Clark. Mr. Clark was the former Chief of Staff to Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, a lobbyist and attorney, and was once viewed as the most powerful unelected official in Alaska. The U.S. Attorney's Office announced that Mr. Clark's 2008 guilty plea was to a felony that no longer exists, pursuant to the Supreme Court's Skilling decision. Mr. Clark pled guilty to alleged conspiring with former officials of the defunct oil-field services company Veco Corp. to channel $68,550 in illegal contributions to Governor Murkowski's political campaign -- without the Governor's knowledge. He is expected to be a witness for the government in a possible upcoming trial of State Representative Bruce Weyhrauch on bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges. Mr. Clark's law license, which was suspended following his guilty plea, is expected to be reinstated by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Report Alleges Bush Administration DOJ Shielded BP and Executives from Criminal Prosecution over Alaska Spill

As the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico turns two months old, an article in Digital Journal details how the government considered bringing criminal charges against British Petroleum and its executives during the Bush Administration. The article quotes Scott West, a former Special Agent in Charge for the Environmental Protection Agency. West was in charge of investigating the rupture of a pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, which occurred in March 2006. The rupture went undetected for nearly a week due to malfunctions in monitoring equipment, and spilled more than a quarter of a million gallons of crude oil. The rupture was reportedly the size of a pencil eraser and was caused by corrosion. BP shut down five oil processing centers for nearly two weeks, causing a rise in gas prices.

EPA's criminal division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice spent thousands of hours investigating the rupture, and supposedly was considering criminal charges against BP and certain of its executives for ignoring warnings from employees about the condition of pipeline and the monitoring equipment.

However, the article claims that the DOJ allegedly "killed" the investigation in August of 2007. BP pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and paid a $20 million fine. BP also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government in relation to an explosion at a refinery in Texas City which resulted in 15 deaths.