Skip to main content

Full text of ""The Informant" by John Rothchild"

See other formats




( 


January 1982 


Harpers 


MIAMI DOES BUSINESS 


-- DRUGS AND TERRORISM IN AMERICA'S CASABLANCA 








¥ 
Mitigate’ +s 





i NOLƏNINNJg 


TO 
= gI 


BABY 


rs 
SPH =<00000N Nar FPE 


E- 


THE INFORMANT 


Meet the biggest dealer in Miami’s biggest industry 


IAMI RESIDENTS don’t wear many 

clothes, but they have more to hide, 

per capita, than inhabitants of any 

other city in the nation. They plot 
secret military missions in Cuba and carry out 
secret commercial missions in Colombia. At 
dockside bars, exiles from corrupt regimes and 
other political intriguers mingle with smug- 
glers and other conventional criminals. In New 
York or Washington, one asks, “What does he 
do?” In Miami, one asks, “What does he re- 
ally do?” 

To describe crime as Miami’s problem would 
be like describing oil as Houston’s problem. 
The Quechua Indians of Peru, who have no 
word for “problem” in their language, give 
us a noble example of resignation that might 
be applied to this rogue city. The police and 
the courts, however, cannot respond as Que- 
chuas, and they depend on informants to 
guide them through the murk. A city as full 
of criminal conspiracies as Miami is an infor- 
mant’s mecca. That is why there are days when 
the criminal justice system (as it is optimisti- 
cally called) sometimes seems to be run by 
Ricardo “the Monkey” Morales. 

For fourteen years, this stocky and intimi- 
dating Cuban exile has whispered into ears at 
the FBI, the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Ad- 
ministration, the Internal Revenue Service, the 
Miami and county police, and the state and 
federal prosecutor’s offices. He has informed 
about terrorism, then about drugs, and now, 
in his most inspired effort to date, about ter- 


by John Rothchild 


rorism with drugs. But Morales is not just an 
observer. In Morales’s latest judicial happen- 
ing, Tick-Talks (so named because it involved 
a bugged wall clock), Ricardo “the Monkey” 
Morales has made most of the major decisions 
for both the defendants and the prosecutors. 
His role in this legal proceeding is like that of 
a patient who directs his own gallbladder op- 
eration. 


HE CUBANS began to flood Miami after 

Castro’s overthrow of Batista in 1959, 

They were looking over their shoul- 

ders, hoping to return and recapture 
their homeland, but that hasn’t happened. 
Many of their American hosts expected that 
the Cuban culture would have been diluted in 
the melting pot by now, but that hasn’t hap- 
pened, either. Miami was once a Southern 
town, but the city has grown to resemble San- 
tiago or Guayaquil much more than it resem- 
bles Birmingham or Mobile. Latin American 
inhabitants have been partially assimilated, of 
course, but they have affected Miami much 
more than Miami them. There are now nearly 
200,000 Cubans in the city alone ( out of 
a total population of 350,000), and 600,000 
in Dade County as a whole (out of 1.6 mil- 
lion). These figures don’t include 125,000 who 
arrived as recently as the 1980 Mariel boat- 
lift. They have been joined by 16,000 Nicara- 
guans and a growing number of Salvadorans. 
In Miami, Spanish is a more useful language 


John Rothchild lives 
and writes in Miami. 


29 


30 


CAST OF CHARACTERS 


RICARDO “THE MONKEY 
MORALES 

HANK ADORNO 

SIDNEY ARONOVITZ 

JOE BALL 

ORLANDO BOSCH 

TAYLOR BRANCH 


FIDEL CASTRO 
RINA COHAN 
THE CONDOM BROTHERS 


MR. CZUKAS 
D. C. DIAZ 
RAUL DIAZ 


PHILIP DOHERTY 

JOSÉ “PEPE 70” 
GONZALES 

HILDA INCLAN 

CARLOS THE JACKAL 

JOHN F. KENNEDY 


RAUL MARTINEZ 
ROBERTO ORTEGA 
ROLANDO OTERO 
POLLACK, SPAIN & 
O’ DONNELL 
CARLOS QUESADA 


RUDY “THE RED BEARD” 
RODRIGUEZ 


JOHN ROTHCHILD 
ELIDIO RUIZ 


JERRY SANFORD 


HELGA SILVA 
SAM SMARGON 


FRANKLIN SOSA 
FRANCISCO TAMAYO 


MONTY TRAINER 
FAUSTO VILLAR 


RAFAEL VILLAVERDE 
RAUL VILLAVERDE 


ATLEE WAMPLER 
GEORGE YOSS 





The Informant 


Florida state attorney 

Federal district court judge 

FBI agent 

Terrorist pediatrician 

Journalist; acquaintance of 
Morales 

Unpopular in Miami 

Florida state attorney 

Friends of Quesada; fre- 
quenters of the Mutiny Bar 

U.S. Customs inspector 

Miami police officer 

Sergeant, later lieutenant, of 
the Dade County Public 
Safety Department 

Miami assistant police chief 

Associate of Quesada; 
informant 

Journalist 

European terrorist 

Ordered Bay of Pigs; no 
follow-through 

Miami police sergeant 

Not important 

Anti-Castro activist 


A law firm 


Drug dealer; off-and-on friend 
of Morales; informant 

Convicted drug dealer; 
informant 

Journalist 

Murder suspect; found dead 
on Morales’s doorstep 

Federal prosecutor; later 
defense attorney 

Journalist on Miami Herald 

Florida state attorney; later 
U.S. attorney 

Associate of Quesada; 
informant 

Associate of Quesada; 
informant 

Bar owner 

Associate of Quesada; 
informant 

Former CIA employee; social 
worker; indicted for drug 
dealing 

Rafael’s brother; also indicted 

U.S. attorney 

Florida state attorney 


than English at gas stations, in sidewalk en- 
counters, and even in stores like the Wool- 
worth’s in Miami Beach. Many of the exiles 
float in with only the clothes on their backs, 
while rich Venezuelans and Colombians fly in 
above them to buy condominiums and fancy 
dresses. The economy is thriving. 

A Cuban journalist friend of mine says, 
“Cubans no longer expect to retake their coun- 
try. Now they want Dade County.” Already 
Miami has a Latin mayor, and for the first time 
its city council is controlled by Cubans. Now 
Latinization is moving outward to smaller, con- 
tiguous cities such as Miami Beach, and toward 
the Dade County line. The triumph of the 
Cubans has created a secondary immigration, 
that of the Gringos who are leaving this area 
and heading for Ft. Lauderdale in Broward 
County, where one can still order a McDon- 
ald’s hamburger in English. 

Most Cuban immigrants have been remark- 
ably industrious and law-abiding. The speed 
at which they worked up from nothing to con- 
trol this city and its businesses would have 
been the envy of the Italians and Irish who 
came to New York in the last century. Yet an 
active minority of Cubans has created unique 
legal problems for Miami—unique not only in 
quantity but also in quality. The CIA is partly 
responsible for the peculiarities, because in 
the 1960s the agency used this city as a base 
for its war against Castro. Hundreds of young 
Cubans were trained in this war, not only to 
use machine guns and plastic explosive but 
also to outsmart the American institutions that 
were not apprised of the battle plans. When 
the CIA pulled out, these Cubans didn’t just 
throw away their detonators and go home, 
which partially explains why Miami Herald 
reporter Helga Silva has a fourteen-page list 
of unsolved political murders, and why end- 
less grand juries have been called on to ponder 
terrorist affairs. 

When Florida became the national center 
for the importing of cocaine and marijuana 
during the 1970s, Miami was asked to fight 
another unwinnable war, this time against it- 
self. Law-enforcement agencies now struggle 
against the city’s biggest business. Drug cases 
account for more than 50 percent of the crim- 
inal proceedings in town; U.S. attorney Atlee 
Wampler has estimated that if his office closed 
its doors to new cases, it would take all his 
full-time prosecutors more than nine years just 
to handle the backlog. A significant part of 
Miami’s population winks at drug smuggling 
the way terrorism was winked at a decade ago. 

Like many of his fellow Cubans, Ricardo 
Morales supported Castro at first. He was 
trained as a Castro secret-police agent, and his 


The Miami Herald 


last job in Cuba was handling security inves- 
tigations at Havana airport. He was in his 
early twenties when he defected in 1960. When 
he got to Miami, he was recruited by the CIA, 
which taught him about bombs and about the 
recoilless rifle, and he took part in various se- 
cret missions following the failure of the Bay 
of Pigs. When the CIA refused to sponsor fu- 
ture raids, Morales left the agency in disgust. 
That was in 1963. But he returned to take a 
special assignment in the Congo during 1964 
and 1965, partly out of respect for a couple 
of colorful CIA operatives and partly because 
he needed the action. When Morales left the 
Congo, he had acquired a reputation for in- 
tensity that exceeds the normal civilized lim- 
its. He had the courage to go to the edge of 
Africa to support his friends, and he had the 
ballistics training to dispatch them if they be- 
came his enemies. Morales has been impress- 
ing Miami with high-voltage performances 
ever since. 


A man I know once made a surprise visit 
to Morales’s apartment. He told Morales’s 
girlfriend, who answered the door, that he 
wanted to have a friendly chat with Ricardo. 
He was invited to sit in the living room 
while Morales finished taking a shower. 
When Morales entered the room, he marched 
directly to the visitor’s briefcase and opened 


*it without asking permission. The visitor 
was too startled to object. Morales dredged 
up the tape recorder, which was already 
running. He removed the tape cassette and 
put it in his shirt pocket; he shook out the 
batteries and placed them at opposite ends 
of the mantelpiece, like trophies. Then he 
returned the neutralized recorder to the 
briefcase. So far, Morales had not said a 
word. Then Morales pulled out his revolver 
and laid it on the coffee table. He had dis- 
armed his visitor, and now he was offering 
up his own concealed weapon for the vis- 
itor’s inspection. My friend lacked the wit 
to empty the gun and place the bullets on 
the mantelpiece, next to the batteries. Mo- 
rales got out a couple of glasses from a 
cabinet and poured some Chivas Regal. His 
mood had shifted from menacing to jovial. 
“Now,” he said, “we can talk.” Thats the 
Morales style. 


Bombs and babies 


NE DOES NOT grow up hoping to be 
an informant. Morales got his first op- 
portunity after his arrest in 1968. 
His fingerprints matched those found 
on the remains of a bomb that had detonated 
in the office of a firm that sold medical sup- 
plies back to Cuba. The newspaper clipping 





“The salvation 
of informants 
in Miami is 
that there is 
usually some- 
body else to 
get.” 


Ricardo “The Monkey” 
Morales under arrest 


31 


John Rothchild shows a handsome young man with a crew cut, 


THE 
INFORMANT 


32 


ooking more like Ricky Ricardo of “I Love 
Lucy” than a veteran of the Cuban revolution 
and the Congo wars. The CIA might have lost 
interest in blowing up Castro, but its Cuban 
ex-operatives were still practicing on small 
stores, police stations, and travel agencies in 
Miami. Ad hoc military brigades formed, 
broke up, and reformed, often claiming to be 
following orders from the Invisible Govern- 
ment, 

Morales was an important early arrest in the 
FBI’s pursuit of the elusive groupings. But his 
fingerprints were barely dry before the charges 
were dropped and Morales was on the tem- 
porary FBI payroll. In the lingo, Morales was 
“flipped.” The FBI wanted to use him to get 
somebody else. The salvation of informants in 
Miami is that there is usually somebody else 
to get. 

In this case, the somebody else was Orlando 
Bosch, the terrorist pediatrician. Yes, an ex- 
ploding baby doctor. Morales got himself a 
job making bombs for Bosch. He made phony 
bombs while reporting details of Bosch’s up- 
coming missions back to the FBI. Bosch 
couldn’t understand why his bombs didn’t go 
off, but he kept trying. He and some associ- 
ates were arrested in the act of shelling a Cu- 
ba-bound Polish freighter in the Miami har- 
bor. Morales’s testimony at the trial helped 
convict Bosch and send him to prison in late 
1968. 

By 1972 the terrorist pediatrician was walk- 
ing the streets again, and the scowl on his 
cadaverous face would not make an infant coo. 
The local prediction was that Morales would 
replace ships headed for Cuba as Bosch’s fa- 
vorite target. A bomb did explode under Mo- 
rales’s car in 1974, driving shrapnel an inch 
into the asphalt of West Flagler Street. “I’m 
not saying it was Dr. Bosch,” Morales said as 
he surveyed the damage. The Monkey reacted 
with nonchalance, as if his car had suffered a 
flat tire. 

It was a period of narrow escapes for the 
Monkey. Only a few months before the bomb- 
ing incident, Elidio Ruiz had been found dead 
at Morales’s front door. Morales had recently 
informed on this Ruiz character to Sgt. Raul 
Diaz over at the county police department. 
Ruiz and Diaz. I know these names begin to 
sound alike, but reputations depend on our 
keeping them clear in our minds. Diaz, now a 
lieutenant, has been one of Morales’s favorite 
informees. Morales informed Diaz that Ruiz 
had murdered another man who had informed 
on Ruiz. Exonerated on a technicality, Ruiz 
went to visit Morales and fell dead. Morales 
was then arrested for murder himself. But he 


was exonerated when a witness couldn’t iden- 
tify him in the courtroom. 

So by 1974, Morales had survived a bomb- 
ing and an attempted murder, had helped send 
the bomber to jail, had outlived the man who’d 
tried to kill him, and had deflected bombing 
and murder charges against himself. These are 
impressive results. But it was still early in Mo- 
rales’s career. Morales observers were not yet 
ready to speculate that he might have bombed 
his own car to cover up a secret alliance with 
pediatrician Bosch. The Rolando Otero case 
was the one that really made the Monkey’s 
reputation in Miami. 

Otero was another anti-Castro zealot. In 
1975, he and Morales were such good friends 
that Morales had his own key to Otero’s apart- 
ment. Meanwhile, more bombs were exploding 
around the city, including one in the men’s 
room at the state attorney’s office, one at the 
FBI building, and one at Miami police head- 
quarters. Sgt. Raul Diaz and FBI agent Joe 
Ball, who had approved the original Morales 
flip in 1968, had several meetings with Mora- 
les. Once again, the Monkey came to the aid 
of law enforcement and declared that Otero 
was their bomber. This was in December 1975. 

Having informed on his friend, Morales 
went back to Otero with some useful advice: 
leave the country. Otero took it. Then Morales 
told the understandably upset police that the 
leak to Otero had come from FBI agent Ball. 
Then Morales disappeared. In fact, Ball had 
to execute an affidavit denying that he helped 
Otero flee. It was impossible to tell who had 
done what, and whose side Morales was on. 
Morales at this time was commuting between 
Miami and Venezuela, where he was develop- 
ing some new interests. 

Otero went to Venezuela looking for work. 
He had a friend there who was head of airport 
security for the secret-police agency, DISIP. 
The friend’s name was Ricardo “the Monkey” 
Morales. Don’t ask me how he got that posi- 
tion. But Otero still trusted him enough to 
show up in his office, looking for a job. By 
February 1976, two months after informing on 
him, Morales had hired him in Venezuela and 
sent him to Chile on some DISIP mission. In 
Chile, Otero was arrested and extradited back 
to America to stand trial on the charges Mo- 
rales had fingered him for. Twice Morales 
promised American authorities that he would 
return to Miami to testify against Otero, and 
twice he didn’t show. After an acquittal on 
federal charges, Otero was convicted of one 
of the bombings in Florida state court, with- 
out Morales’s help. 

During this Venezuelan period, Morales ex- 
hibited some gray hairs and had raccoon rings 


under his eyes. The rumor was that he was 
under great strain trying to keep his personal 
affairs in some kind of balance. There was his 
delicate relationship with Otero, and also his 
relationship with our old pediatrician friend, 
Bosch. Bosch was now suspected of blowing 
up a Cuban airliner in mid-flight, killing all 
seventy-three people aboard. He also found his 
way to Venezuela, prompting speculation that 
he and the Monkey had made up, or perhaps 
had been collaborating all along. Then Bosch 
was jailed in Venezuela on a warrant signed 
by Morales, prompting further speculation that 
Morales had fooled him again, the way that 
Lucy fools Charlie Brown every October with 
the football. Or perhaps the warrant was only 
a ruse. Who knows? 


FIRST MET Morales during his sojourn in 
Caracas. In late 1976, two other journal- 
ists and I found ourselves on the same 
plane to Venezuela as Sgt. Raul Diaz, 
whom you already know, and Florida state at- 
torneys George Yoss and Hank Adorno. We 
journalists were going to interview Bosch in 
his Venezuelan prison; the officials were going 
to talk to Bosch, and also to Morales, in their 
second futile effort to get his cooperation 
against Otero. They were hardly off the plane 
before they were offering Morales an ingratiat- 
ing tidbit of information. They told him that 
some officious journalists had come to Caracas 
and were poking into international terrorism. 
One of the other journalists, my friend Tay- 
lor Branch, had declared at the start of the 
trip: “If we have problems in Venezuela, | 
know a Cuban named Morales who runs secu- 
rity at the airport. He will help us out.” We 
did have problems. A car followed our taxi to 
the hotel, and from the window of our room 
there we could see armed men hiding in the 
bushes outside. Branch and the third journal- 
ist, Hilda Inclan, tried several times to call 
their old friend Morales and ask for his help. 
At 5 A.M., a burly little man broke into our 
hotel room, grabbed our passports off the bu- 
reau, and began to holler like a boot-camp 
sergeant. Branch whined in plaintive disbelief, 
“Ricardo, is that you?” Branch had told me 
the stories of Morales turning on Bosch and 
Otero, but even this wary reporter had never 
imagined that the Monkey might do it to him. 
Yet it was obvious that the goons in the bushes 
belonged to Morales. Morales pushed us out 
of the hotel room, refusing to acknowledge 
Branch’s overtures of recognition. 
We were driven to the airport by armed 
chauffeurs and held in a private office from 
sunup until about 8 A.M., when Morales re- 





The Miami Herald 


turned to invite us to breakfast. Terrifying at “Jt was impos- 


9, he was all charm at 8. We strolled casually 
down the crowded airport corridors to the din- 
ing room, but when Morales sensed that one of 
us might bolt for a nearby telephone, he stiff- 
ened and scowled, and this was enough to hold 
us back. At the breakfast table, he relaxed and 
told jokes and carried on a witty monologue 
about world affairs. Every time Branch mar- 
shaled the courage to ask Morales about our 
mistreatment, he would either pretend Branch 
was no longer sitting at the table, or else he 
would say: “I don’t know anything about this 
Bosch you came to see. Is that his name? May- 
be I have read it in the papers.” Our involun- 
tary departure from Caracas had a typical Mo- 
rales result. We felt betrayed, yet we did not 
completely dislike the abuser. Perhaps he had 
protected us from darker forces. Like Otero 
and Bosch and half the Miami legal establish- 
ment, we had no idea whose side he was real- 
ly on. 


Nares and finks 


FTER 1976, the anti-Castro business 
went into recession. Our hero returned 
from Venezuela to Miami, but instead 
of renewing his old connections, he 
was frequently seen at the Mutiny Bar with a 
new friend, Carlos Quesada. The Mutiny is to 


sible to tell who 
had done what, 
and whose side 
Morales was 
on.” 


Orlando Bosch, the rocket- 
launching pediatrician 


33 


John Rothchild 
THE 
INFORMANT 


34 


the aprés-deal what Sardi’s is to the aprés- 
theater, and Quesada was a familiar patron 
with a big bankroll and lizard-skin shoes. The 
tables are surrounded by wide-leaved plants 
and venal waitresses in leotards. There are 
phone jacks at the tables so people can do 
business in these junglelike surroundings. 

Quesada was an apolitical Cuban with an 
apolitical arrest record: 1969, violation of nar- 
cotics laws, three years probation; 1971, pos- 
session of a firearm by a convicted felon, no 
action by state attorney; 1972, breaking and 
entering, disposition unknown; 1972, assault 
with intent to commit murder, victim didn’t 
prosecute; 1974, possession of a firearm by a 
convicted felon, case dismissed; 1977, break- 
ing and entering, three years probation. The 
association between Quesada and Morales was 
considered a step up for Quesada, but a step 
down for Morales. The gossip around town was 
that the savvy Cuban who once traded secrets 
with Israeli and European spies was reduced 
to gossiping with silk-shirted drug punks. But 
genius can work with any raw material, and 
Morales found plenty of raw material at Que- 
sada’s $100,000 stucco house at 1724 S.W. 
16th Street. It is the standard one-story Miami 
residence, surrounded by a wall and decorated 
with security improvements. When Morales 
first entered the house in November 1977, po- 
lice were already hiding outside and taking 
pictures. 

Lt. Raul Diaz calls the visitors to the house 
on 16th Street “a convention of informants.” 
Diaz should know. Fausto Villar, a familiar 
presence at Quesada’s table, was talking pri- 
vately to Lieutenant Diaz. Quesada himself 
was known to drop a hint or two to the police, 
and so was Francisco Tamayo. Franklin Sosa 
had cooperated with the DEA. José “Pepe 70” 
Gonzales was blabbing to another department. 
Rudy Rodriguez was talking to several de- 
partments, according to Lieutenant Diaz. 

You might suppose, if you don’t live in Mi- 
ami, that drug smugglers operate in secrecy, 
and that police agencies operate in ignorance 
until they learn of the smugglers’ activities and 
arrest them. 

Actually, the system of the relations between 
government and industry in America’s drug 
capital is more complex than that. Each of 
several local, state, and federal police agencies 
has its own informants, who inform on other 
informants, who undoubtedly are informing on 
them. The informants are also the smugglers. 
In return for their information, they are some- 
times allowed to continue in business. So if 
you get enough informants in your network, 
like the diverse collection at Quesada’s table, 
you are protected not by secrecy but by se- 


lective prosecution. One can imagine that Ri- 
cardo Morales felt right at home in this new 
environment. 

It’s hard to fathom how the police decide 
when to take action and when to just listen. 
In this case, police say they were getting re- 
ports from two informants at Quesada’s table 
—Fausto Villar and Pepe 70 Gonzales. Mo- 
rales himself had introduced Villar to Ser- 
geant Diaz some years earlier, and Diaz had 
introduced him to other officers. Now Villar 
wanted to tell on Quesada, possibly because he 
resented the feeling that Morales had usurped 
his position in the drug hierarchy. Pepe 70 
was about to be sent to jail for selling a si- 
lencer to an undercover police officer. He was 
willing to tell on Quesada to secure a shorter 
sentence. 

Pepe 70 was something of a sentencing ex- 
pert. He got ten years for narcotics in Kansas 
in 1970, and—moving with remarkable speed 
—another ten years in California in 1971. 
Nevertheless, he was on the streets of Miami 
in 1977, 

Leaks from Villar and Pepe 70 were the re- 
ported basis for a wiretap on Quesada’s phone. 
Quesada changed the number four times be- 
tween the summer of 1977 and the winter of 
1978, which shows that smugglers are not com- 
pletely indifferent to detection, even though a 
new number does not stop a wiretap. Quesada 
also made a half-hearted attempt to disguise 
his business through conceit, just in case some- 
body was listening. The most popular conceit 
was a fishing trip. 

Police were not fooled by the following 
typical conversation between “C” (Quesada) 
and “W?” (an associate). 

C: How are you doing, inspector? 

W: I went fishing. 

C: Yeah? 

W: Yeah, and I arrived last night. 

C: Ah, it doesn’t matter. | went by there 

but I didn’t see you. 

W: We had an accident yesterday and we 

had to come back. 

C: Ave Maria. 

W: With Julito. 

C: Yeah? 

W: Yeah. Perforated his hand with a king- 

fish hook. 

C: Who? 

W: Julito. 

C: There, at the kingfish store? 

W: No, there fishing. Out there for king- 

fish. 

C: Aha. 

W: (Garbled) 

C: Aha. 

W: He perforated his hand with a big king- 

fish hook. 

C: Ave Maria. 


N THE SPRING of 1977, the police spent 

hundreds of hours recording and decipher- 

ing these Ave Marias and references to 

kingfish hooks. Morales tells us now that 
he completed a marijuana transaction out of 
the Quesada house in November 1977, and 
then didn’t return to the house until late March 
1978. The timing is very fortunate, because 
by March the police had already stacked up 
the tapes and gone out to arrest Quesada and 
Rudy Rodriguez and seven other people, seiz- 
ing $913,000 and fifty-six pounds of cocaine 
in the process. Assistant police chief Philip 
Doherty said it was “like winning the Super 
Bowl.” But Morales wasn’t even on the field. 
He and his friend Franklin Sosa both stayed 
away during the critical phase of evidence- 
gathering and were not implicated. How did 
Morales know when to stay away? Good ques- 
tion. 

And why did Morales go back to Quesada’s 
tainted house after the bust? That one’s easy 
to answer. This is the drug business. The best 
time to deal, in fact, is after the organization 
has been busted. The post-bust deal has a great 
chance of succeeding, because police have al- 
ready completed their investigation. Besides 
that, money is needed to pay the lawyers, and 
perhaps to bail out some partners. As Morales 
later recollected to the police, he, Sosa, and 
Quesada (out on bail) were at Quesada’s 
house, “and out of the blue sky, Franklin Sosa 
got up some sort of a connection with this guy 
Roberto who claimed he was going to give us 
20,000 pounds.” The Quesada group had mo- 
mentarily tired of cocaine, since they had just 
lost fifty-six pounds of it to police, so this 
20,000 pounds refers to marijuana. Sosa used 
the Quesada phone, which he knew had been 
recently tapped, to make his arrangements. 

But police had not yet turned off the tape 
recorders, and they picked up the Sosa con- 
versation as an epilogue to their surveillance. 
Officers were sent to the place where the bales 
of marijuana were to be loaded, and who did 
they find in the procession’s lead car but Ri- 
cardo Morales. Sgt. Raul Diaz was dispatched 
to the scene and began intense discussions with 
the veteran informer. Meanwhile, the Monkey’s 
car and person were searched. This turned up 
an illegally concealed weapon—as common as 
Kleenex in many Miami glove compartments. 
More interesting was a membership card from 
DISIP, the Venezuelan secret police. Most in- 
teresting of all was a list of confidential radio 
frequencies from the Drug Enforcement Ad- 
ministration, the Coast Guard, the FBI, the 
Secret Service, the Florida Highway Patrol, 
and the Miami and Miami Shores police de- 
partments. Was Morales allied with all of them? 


The Miami Herald 


How did he get the list? “It baffles me,” a “Each of several 


DEA spokesman told the Miami Herald. 

There was a difference of opinion among 
the various state and U.S. attorneys as to the 
Monkey’s reliability. Sam Smargon, the pros- 
ecutor assigned to the case, argued that this 
ethereal defendant might vanish if allowed out 
of jail. “I wanted a high bond on this man be- 
cause of his international contacts,” Smargon 
says. At least one of Smargon’s superiors, 
however, was called by the defense to vouch 
for the Monkey, even though Morales had not 
shown up at the Otero trial despite two prom- 
ises to do so. There were still . prosecutors 
willing to trust Morales. Smargon didn’t and 
neither did the judge, who set bond at 
$350,000. Later, Smargon also contracted 
Morales fever. 

Word got out that Morales, from his jail 
cell, had figured out that Pepe 70 and Fausto 
Villar were the informants responsible for the 
Quesada wiretap. It may have been sponta- 
neous deduction on his part, but he certainly 
had enough possible sources. In any event, 
Morales’s perception was disturbing to both 
Villar and Pepe 70. In the words of Sergeant 
Diaz, they were “scared shitless.” Villar was 
loose in Miami and Pepe 70 was stuck in an 
Indiana prison for the silencer. Both suddenly 
forgot that they had ever talked to police about 
Quesada, Quesada’s house, illegal drugs, or 
Ricardo Morales. Actually, Villar did remem- 





police agencies 
has its own 
informants, 
who inform on 
other infor- 
mants, who 
are informing 
on them.” 


Carlos Quesada in court 


35 


John Rothchild 


THE 
INFORMANT 


36 


9 


ber that Morales was a “valiant man,” and 


said so to the Miami Herald. 


HE FEE for defending a major drug 

case can be substantial. In Miami (as 

elsewhere), the prosecutor’s office tends 

to be underpaid basic training for the 
other side. Morales was represented by Pol- 
lack, Spain & O’Donnell, a firm with some can- 
ny ex-prosecutors who had left the world of 
seeking convictions for the more lucrative one 
of seeking acquittals. (Even the defense world 
is not all sunshine. Pollack sits all day in cre- 
puscular darkness with a shotgun propped be- 
hind his desk.) Morales’s lawyers argued that 
if the informants had never discussed Quesada 
with police—as they now claimed—then po- 
lice had no business using them as the basis 
for the wiretaps, and the wiretaps should be 
thrown out of court. 

There were two police agencies involved in 
the Quesada bust, and they squabbled over 
some of the procedure, and the state attorney’s 
office did not necessarily make the best moves, 
and the result was that the judge ruled for 
Morales: the wiretaps were stricken. The new 
stories told by the frightened Villar and Pepe 
70 were given more judicial credence than 
their old ones, which were supported by tape 
recordings, sworn affidavits, and the word of 
at least five police officers. 

The principal defendant was acquitted with- 
out ever taking the stand. Morales had spent 
a hundred days or so in jail awaiting the trial, 
but now (July 1978) he was free, and the two 
informants had been mortally terrified, and 
the police were humiliated, and the vanquished 
prosecutor, Sam Smargon, had suffered a cor- 
onary. Smargon says the heart attack was in- 
cidental to his judicial defeat, but he does 
remember that he felt great pressure. Perhaps 
he could have charged Morales with the con- 
cealed gun, in order to win at least something. 
By the end of the trial, it was too late for that, 
and besides, Smargon was getting Morales 
fever. “My respect for the man had increased 
tenfold,” Smargon recalls. “He could have tak- 
en the stand and said any number of things, 
but he didn’t. The man doesn’t lie.” 

Morales went back to Quesada’s house to de- 
velop more drug deals. “I was broke, you 
know,” he confided in a later affidavit. “We 
started dealing right away.” Rehabilitation is 
the judicial ideal, but the only apparent effect 
of Morales’s encounter with the courts was to 
remind him of the advantages of cocaine. 
“Never in my life am I going to touch grass 
again,” Morales declared. “It was getting on 
my nerves to see a house loaded with bales.” 


Things were looking up at the Quesada res- 
idence. Morales’s legal moves had had a dev- 
astating side effect on the prosecutions of 
Quesada, Rodriguez, and the other defendants. 
Their cases were transferred from state court 
to a federal court. Prosecutors hoped that a 
fresh judge might accept the wiretap evidence. 
But a federal magistrate also rejected the wire- 
taps, and the prosecutors had no phone con- 
versations to connect Quesada and friends to 
those fifty-six pounds of cocaine. U.S. attorney 
Jerry Sanford appealed the magistrate’s ruling 
in a final and desperate effort to rescue the 
prosecution. | 

Jerry Sanford has entered this saga before. 
He was the prosecutor who lost the first Otero 
case after Morales failed to appear, and now 
he stood to lose the Quesada case because of 
Morales’s machinations, and yet his friend- 
ship with Morales had strengthened. Sanford 
was a frequent visitor during Morales’s time 
in jail, and his goal was to make Ricardo’s 
stay more pleasant. “I would say, ‘Ricardo, do 
you need anything?’ or, ‘Ricardo, do you want 
anything?’ and he would always answer no,” 
Sanford told me. After Morales was released, 
“We would bullshit about the KGB and the 
CIA, about who did this and who did that.” 
Sanford insists, “I believe Ricardo Morales is 
one of the few people who never tried to use 
me. 

One of Morales’s abiding talents is to ar- 
range things so that nobody ever feels com- 
pletely defeated on his account. Perhaps he 
worried that prosecutors would blame him for 
the rejection of the wiretaps. Now he would 
give the prosecution a way out. “I remember 
we were walking down the hall,” Sanford says. 
“It was just before a hearing on the wiretap 
appeal. Ricardo came up to me and said, ‘What 
would you do if Quesada flipped?’ I couldn’t 
believe it.” Morales was offering a spectacular 
cooperator, the second most important defen- 
dant in the case, behind Rudy Rodriguez. 

Quesada was understandably eager to ac- 
cept government immunity for all his crimes. 
He would have to testify against the other de- 
fendants, but he and Rodriguez had been feud- 
ing, anyway, and his Datsun 280 Z had been 
strafed with machine-gun bullets. Many be- 
lieved that this attack came from Quesada’s 
co-defendant, though others speculated that the 
machine-gun tattoo, which Quesada escaped 
from intact, may even have been arranged by 
Morales to give the flip some dramatic impe- 
tus. The government was eager to accept Que- 
sada’s cooperation, so the deal was approved 
in less than twenty-four hours. “Like a bolt out 
of the blue,” said judge Sidney Aronovitz. 

The wiretaps were finally admitted as evi- 


dence, with Quesada to verify their authentic- 
ity, and all the other defendants were con- 
victed. Rodriguez got fifteen years. He and 
the other convicts weren’t happy, but every- 
body else seemed delighted with Morales’s 
choreography. The prosecutors had won a ma- 
jor case. They talked as if Rodriguez was the 
hardened criminal they wanted to put away, 
while Quesada was just fluff that could blow 
back onto the streets for all they cared. The 
police were vindicated. The defense attorneys 
got a fat fee. Rudy Rodriguez got back 
$450,000, half the money seized in the case. 
The IRS got the other half. Morales agreed 
to help the U.S. attorney’s office by appearing 
in front of a couple of grand juries pondering 
other unsolved crimes. 

Quesada was free but had a tax problem, 
having testified under immunity that he had 
made $3 million in the drug business. Morales 
recommended a good lawyer to him. Guess 
who? Why, Jerry Sanford, who had gone into 
private practice following the Quesada con- 
viction. Quesada also had a security problem, 
with Rodriguez threatening revenge, but the 
police department assigned him a bodyguard. 
Morales must have been gratified, with the 
agency that arrested Quesada now protecting 
him, and his former prosecutor now defend- 
ing him, and nobody asking why a lesser de- 





Ruth Cook 


fendant hadn’t been flipped instead of Que- 
sada, and the troublesome Rodriguez legally 
detained so that Morales and Quesada could 
get back to business. It was the fall of 1978. 


Operation Tick-Talks 


N DECEMBER 1980, an important law-en- 
forcement conference was held in a po- 
lice car in the parking lot of Monty Train- 
er’s dockside bar, and then moved to the 
parking lot at Zayre’s, and formally recon- 
vened at aroom in the Holiday Inn on LeJeune 
Road. Crime watcher Ricardo Morales was 
telling two policemen, D. C. Diaz and Raul 
Martinez (neither to be confused with Raul 
Diaz), and later the assistant state attorney, 
Rina Cohan, that drugs were bought and sold 
out of Carlos Quesada’s house at 1724 S.W. 
16th Street. Can you imagine? Police should 
do something about Quesada, Morales said. 
He and his partners were flirting with heroin, 
which tested Morales’s moral patience. “Hero- 
in... goes against, you know, my own belief 
and religion, and, you know, |... flatly refuse 
to go along in this new kind of business.” 
Morales was ready to give a fifty-page de- 
position. But first he reminded prosecutor Co- 
han that “I was found not guilty by the jury, 


EMT 


“One of Mora- 
les’s abiding 
talents is to 
arrange things 
so that nobody 
ever feels 
completely 
defeated on his 
account.” 


The house at 1724 S. W. 
16th St., Miami, Florida. 


37 








John Rothchild 


THE 
INFORMANT 


38 


which you should be aware of,” for earlier 
suspicious acts. All Morales wanted now was 
immunity for subsequent suspicious acts. In 
return, he would incriminate Quesada and 
many others. The same kind of immunity that 
Quesada got for incriminating Rudy Rodriguez 
back in 1979, Sgt. Raul Martinez helped Mo- 


rales in his negotiations: 


Sgt. Martinez: He will not be prosecuted 
for anything he did with...any of his co- 
conspirators? 

Ms. Cohan: Correct. Includes Quesada... 
Morales: Includes the whole organization. 
The whole family? 

Ms. Cohan: That’s correct. 

Morales: 7 won’t be prosecuted? 

Ms. Cohan: No. 

Sgt. Martinez: If all of a sudden you say in 
1980 you murdered Juan Pepe... 

Ms. Cohan: That’s another story entirely. 
Sgt. Martinez: That’s what she is saying. 
Morales: I didn’t. 

Sgt. Martinez: So you have to restrict your- 
self to the conspiracy. 

Morales: To my activities, right? To my 
activities in the drug business, you know 
for the past three years, right? 


> 


Morales’s revelations were not shocking. 
D. C. Diaz was the man assigned to be Que- 
sada’s bodyguard after Morales arranged Que- 
sada’s flip. To stay close enough to Quesada 
to shield him, you had to drink with him, and 
D. C. Diaz had done that, both at Quesada’s 
house and at the Mutiny Bar. In fact, on dif- 
ferent nights during the summer of 1980, you 
could have found either D. C. Diaz, or Raul 
Diaz, or ex-prosecutor Jerry Sanford, or a 
customs agent named Czukas sitting at the 
same table with Carlos Quesada and his new 
associates. 

Chief among these associates was Rafael 
Villaverde, ex-CIA,a Bay of Pigs alumnus who 
was ransomed by President Kennedy for med- 
icine and truck parts, a man who moved up 
from picking tomatoes to operating a $2 mil- 
lion antipoverty agency for the Latin elderly. 
Villaverde, weighing more than 200 pounds, 
knows the mayor, knows the police, knows ev- 
erybody he ought to know in Miami. Villa- 
verde’s welfare agency has been called a front 
for terrorists, but Villaverde once said that if 
bombers and assassins did congregate among 
his elderly, it was only to apply for benefits in 
anticipation of their retirement. 

Other frequenters of Quesada’s table at the 
Mutiny were Villaverde’s brother, Raul, and 
the two Condom brothers, who share an un- 
fortunate name, a conviction for cocaine smug- 
gling, and membership in the paramilitary 
2506 Brigade, a venerable anti-Castro group. 
Morales was often at the Mutiny, too. He had 


introduced Quesada to Sanford, and Quesad 
in turn introduced D.C. Diaz to the Condo 

brothers, who were brought into the group 
by the Villaverdes, who were themselves in. 
troduced to Quesada by Morales. For the Mon. 
key, the Mutiny gatherings in that summer of 
1980 were “This Is Your Life.” | 

Everybody knew what everybody else wag 
up to. Policeman D. C. Diaz told me, “Que. 
sada knew where we were coming from. And 
he would give us information about drugs, 
usually things we already knew; or else he 
would tell stories on his competition. We would 
visit his house, and if there was something go. 
ing on that he didn’t want us to see, he would 
come outside and talk. He even tried to bribe 
us with Rolex watches.” For more than a year, 
police had viewed Quesada and partners wit 
suspicion and at close range, and yet nothin 
had broken. Perhaps they were waiting for 
Morales to make a move. 

But tensions surfaced occasionally. Jerry 
Sanford recalls one night at the Mutiny when 
“Morales kept saying that so-and-so killed th 
Chilean ambassador in Washington, and Villa- 
verde kept saying he knew it was somebod 
else, and Morales started throwing pats of but 
ter at Villaverde. Every time he made a poin 
he hurled a pat. Villaverde tried to ignore this 
and so did Quesada. They just sat there an 
pretended it wasn’t happening.” 

By later October, relations had broken do 
—not between the suspects and the police, bu 
among the suspects. The Godfather was o 
television again (“when The Godfather comes 
on...the drug people, they get steamed up 
somehow, and some people have gotten killed 
because of that,’ Morales opines), and M 
rales didn’t get an invitation to customs agent 
Czukas’s birthday party, which upset him. I 
fact, Morales recalls, it was a lousy month. H 
claims to have spent several hours one eve 
ning fending off various hit men. He says h 
escaped by brandishing a dummy hand gre 
nade. “I pulled the handle and said ‘trick o 
treat’... so that was my Halloween.” 










O BY the first week in December, Mora 
les was sitting in the parking lot wi 
the police, restructuring his allianc 
once again. One theory is that he ha 
been kicked out of the Quesada organizatio 
and was retaliating. Jerry Sanford’s theory i 
that the Condom brothers had proposed a | 
gitimate stock deal to Quesada and that M 
rales mistakenly assumed that “stocks” me 
heroin, since none of his friends read the Wi 
Street Journal. The Villaverde brothers, no 
indicted, said Morales first introduced them t 


Quesada and then created this drug investi- 
gation, in retaliation for something the Villa- 
verdes did back in 1976. They thought they had 
a contract with the CIA to assassinate a Euro- 
pean terrorist named Carlos the Jackal. When 
they discovered (such is life in the underworld) 
that the target was a Libyan dissident and the 
client was Colonel Qaddhafi, they patriotically 
backed out. Morales was also somehow in- 
volved, Villaverde has contended. 

Once again, the law enforcement people 
went along with Morales. “We don’t have the 
money to buy information, and so we have to 
work on favors,” says Lt. Raul Diaz. “There 
are certain things you can do for some people 
and then they owe you a favor. That is the 
system. Sometimes, it breeds what looks like 
corruption.” The state gave Morales his im- 
munity and then used his testimony for wire- 
tap applications, first on a suspected lesser dis- 
tributor named Roberto Ortega and then on 
Quesada’s phone and behind the wall clock 
in Quesada’s living room. This was Operation 
Tick-Talks. Police listened to hundreds of 
hours of conversation through the spring of 
1981, but then the clock fell off the wall and 
the bug was discovered, so they had to move 
in to arrest an assortment of schoolteachers, 
airline pilots, and accountants, plus the Villa- 
verde brothers and the Condoms and Quesada, 
making forty-eight people in all. They have 
been charged with conspiracy to distribute co- 
caine, although no drugs were seized. 

Much ingenuity went into the Tick-Talks 
surveillance. Police detained the caretaker of 
the Quesada house on a minor traffic charge 
so that they could make a copy of the house 
key in his pocket, which gave them entry so 
they could install the wall bug. The way they 
came back to change the setting for daylight 
saving time was very clever. But letting Ri- 
cardo Morales chart the course of a criminal 
prosecution is bound to create a few compli- 
cations. 

For example, Sam Smargon, the state at- 
torney who tried to keep Morales from getting 
bail when he was caught with the marijuana, 
and then lost the marijuana case, has moved 
over to the U.S. attorney’s office, which Jerry 
Sanford vacated to go into private practice. 
Just before the recent flip, Morales requested 
that Smargon put him in the federal witness 
protection program. This program is for peo- 
ple who are helping the Feds, and Tick-Talks 
is a state matter. Morales had agreed to testify 
in a federal tax case against a reputed drug 
smuggler. But that case came and went with- 
out Morales testifying. It seems more likely 
that Morales entered the federal witness pro- 
tection program because he wanted to, for 


reasons having nothing to do with the tax case. “There are 


Morales has been out of the federal program 
since July, but is continuing a witness protec- 
tion program of his own by remaining out of 
sight of the U.S. marshals. Nobody will tell 
me where he is to this day. 

Jerry Sanford, who was stood up by Morales 
in the Otero case and then flipped Quesada 
and later became Quesada’s attorney, both on 
Morales’s suggestion, signed on to defend Que- 
sada against charges originated by Morales 
in Operation Tick-Talks. Sanford also sent 
Morales’s request for federal protection to his 
friend Sam Smargon. Recently, Sanford sim- 
plified his life by stepping aside as Quesada’s 
attorney. The last time I saw Sanford, he looked 
both relieved and tired. 

The government couldn’t get Morales to 
cooperate in the Otero case, and then lost the 
marijuana case against him because the wire- 
taps were thrown out and the informants were 
unreliable, and now it is going to try forty- 
eight new defendants in the belief that Morales 
will cooperate and the wiretaps will hold up. 
It has remarkable faith, and no physical evi- 
dence. Drugs were not confiscated in Tick- 
Talks, and the recorded dialogues between the 
suspected conspirators are much more befud- 
dling than the old fish-hook exchanges on the 
previous go-round. The literal translations 
make it sound like the Villaverdes and Quesa- 
da were either milking cows, planting rose 
bushes, or collecting bazookas. Could they pos- 
sibly not have known that they were being 
taped, given all the lively barter of informa- 
tion in this town and the fact that Morales 
himself had disappeared? 


T 1s Now fall in Miami, and the heat has 

left the pavement. The only major char- 

acter in any of the Morales episodes cur- 

rently in prison is Orlando Bosch. He is 
still being held in Venezuela, even though he 
was acquitted there. Venezuela has a different 
system of justice. Rolando Otero is out on 
bond, and so is Carlos Quesada, and so are 
the Villaverdes. Rudy Rodriguez, the man they 
wanted to convict so badly that they flipped 
Morales and Quesada, spent about a year in 
jail awaiting his appeal because he couldn’t 
make the bond of $1 million. Recently, how- 
ever, the government changed its mind and 
agreed to let him use some property he owned 
as collateral for his bond, so Rodriguez is free 
again. Naturally, there is a rumor around 
Miami about why the government let him out: 
Rodriguez has been flipped, and now he’s an 
informant, too. The rumor doesn’t say who is 
left to inform on. oO 


certain things 
you can do for 
some people 

and then they 


owe you a 


favor. That is 


the system. 


Sometimes, it 


breeds what 
looks like 


corruption.” 


HARPER’S 


JANUARY 1982 


39