Charles (Bebe) Rebozo, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born on November 17, 1912, in Tampa, Florida. After leaving school Rebozo worked as a steward with Pan American Airways.
In 1931 Rebozo married Claire Gunn. The couple were divorced four years later. According to Claire Rebozo, the marriage was never consummated.
Rebozo eventually saved enough money to start his first business and in 1935 he opened Rebozo's Service Station and Auto Supplies. During the Second World War Rebozo became involved in the lucrative retread tire business. Rebozo invested these profits into a self-service laundry chain. He also began buying and selling land in Miami.
In December, 1951, George Smathers arranged for Rebozo to meet Richard Nixon. Rebozo took Nixon on a boat trip but the relationship got off to a bad start. Rebozo told Smathers that Nixon's "a guy who doesn't know how to talk, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't chase women, doesn't know how to play golf, doesn't know how to play tennis... he can't even fish." However, the two men eventually became close friends.
The men spent so much time together that rumours circulated that the men were having a homosexual relationship. Bobby Baker claimed that Rebozo and Nixon were "close like lovers". According to one interview carried out by Anthony Summers in his book The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon, Rebozo was a member of Miami's homosexual community.
In 1952 Dwight Eisenhower selected Richard Nixon to be his vice president. As George Smathers later admitted that "Bebe's level of liking Nixon increased as Nixon's position increased". One of the ways that Rebozo helped Nixon was to obtain large campaign contributions from Howard Hughes.
Rebozo briefly remarried Claire Gunn. The marriage only lasted two years. Later he married Jane Lucke, his lawyer's secretary. In one interview, his wife said "Bebe's favourites are Richard Nixon, his cat - and then me." One of Rebozo's friends, Jake Jernigan, claimed that: "He (Rebozo) loved Nixon more than he loved anybody." Another friend said that "Bebe worshipped Nixon and hated Nixon's enemies".
Rebozo advised Richard Nixon about possible business investments. According to a FBI informant, the two men invested in Cuba when it was governed by the military dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Rebozo's business partner, Hoke Maroon, claimed that Nixon was also part-owner of the Coral Gables Motel.
In 1960 Nixon attempted to become president of the United States. Rebozo helped raise funds and paid for an investigation into the private life of Nixon's opponent, John F. Kennedy. Rebozo sent Nixon documents claiming that Kennedy had previously been married to Durie Malcolm. However, this story was untrue and despite this smear campaign against Kennedy, Nixon was defeated.
Rebozo became one of Nixon's closest political advisers. Rebozo also took a keen interest in Caribbean politics and had considerable business investments in the region. He therefore became one of the leading opponents of Fidel Castro after he gained power in Cuba. In 1961 Rebozo accompanied William Pawley on a secret mission to see Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo.
In 1964 Rebozo started his own financial institution, the Key Biscayne Bank. Nixon, who took part in the opening ceremony, held Savings Account No.1. The bank was used to fund a shopping centre for Cuban refugee merchants. The man brought in to manage this shopping centre, was Edgardo Buttari, Director for Social Assistance for the First Officers of Brigade 2506 (Bernardo de Torres was the Vice Director). Later, Richard Nixon appointed Buttari to a highly paid job in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Rebozo also purchased land in Florida with a man called Richard Fincher. It was believed that Fincher worked as a front for Meyer Lansky. An examination of Fincher's telephone calls revealed that he was in regular contact with Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante. Vincent Teresa, a high-ranking mafioso, later admitted that he had used Rebozo's bank to launder stolen money.
After Richard Nixon became president in 1968, Rebozo was a regular visitor to the White House. However, he often used a false name and was not logged in by the Secret Service. Rebozo also negotiated deals on behalf of his business friends. One of the released White House tapes reveals Rebozo explaining that he could get "a quarter of a million at least" from a friend in return for an ambassadorship. Rebozo is also heard providing information that could be used to smear Nixon's political opponents.
Soon after he took office Nixon established Operation Sandwedge. Organized by H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, the two main field officers were Jack Caulfield and Anthony Ulasewicz. Operation Sandwedge involved a secret investigation of Edward Kennedy. Caulfield later admitted that Ulasewicz’s reports on Kennedy went to three people: Nixon, Rebozo and Murray Chotiner.
In January, 1973, Frank Sturgis, E. Howard Hunt, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker, Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping. Several of these men had links to the White House.
Rebozo was eventually dragged into the Watergate Scandal. During the investigation, a $100,000 donation from Howard Hughes that was meant for the Republican Party, was found in a safe-deposit box owned by Rebozo. The IRS now began a detailed look into Rebozo's financial affairs, with a focus on "misappropriation of campaign contributions, acceptance of money in exchange for favors by the Justice Department, distribution of Watergate hush money, and alleged diversion of campaign funds to Nixon's brothers and personal secretary."
The IRS investigation discovered that when Nixon took office his net worth was $307,000. During his first five years in the White House this sum had tripled to nearly $1 million. During the same period Rebozo's net worth went from $673,000 to $4.5 million. According to Jack Anderson, Nixon and Rebozo had both hidden money in Switzerland.
Rebozo escaped prosecution. One of the IRS investigators, Andy Baruffi, later claimed that "I was assigned to review the entire case file. We had Rebozo primarily on a straight up-and-down provable false statement charge. It was a dead-bang case. I believe a deal was made with the White House to kill the investigation."
In 1974 the staff of the Senate Watergate committee discovered that Charles Rebozo gave or lent part of a $100,000 campaign contribution to President Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods.
It was also discovered during the Watergate investigation that Rebozo had a business relationship with two of the burglars, Bernard L. Barker and Eugenio Martinez. Rebozo had also arranged for E. Howard Hunt to investigate Hoke Maroon, who had information about Nixon's early business investments in Cuba.
Charles Rebozo died on 8th May, 1998.