Ricardo Morales Navarrete was born in Havana, Cuba on 14th June, 1939. He was initially a supporter of Fidel Castro and in September, 1959, joined G2, the political police. Navarrete became disillusioned with Castro's government and left in July, 1960. After going into hiding he took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy before eventually escaping to the United States.
Soon after arriving in Miami, Ricardo Morales Navarrete joined Operation 40. One member, Frank Sturgis, claimed "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents... We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time."
Other anti-Castro Cubans who became members of Operation 40 included Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Rafael Quintero, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Rafael Villaverde, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez, Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Barry Seal, Felix Rodriguez, Juan Manuel Salvat, Isidro Borjas, Virgilio Paz, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Felipe Rivero, Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, Nazario Sargent, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Jose Basulto, and Paulino Sierra. It has been argued that members of Operation 40, including Ricardo Morales Navarrete might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Ricardo Morales Navarrete also became a contract agent for the Central Intelligence Agency and according to his own testimony received training in "mapping, patrol, raids, jump school, communications and demolitions, counter insurgency, insurgency, clandestine movement, inclandestine movement, covert actions and survival." In 1964 he was attached to the 5th Mercenary Brigade that served in the Belgian Congo.
On his return he joined Ejército Rebelde en el Exilio (Rebel Army in Exile). In February, 1968, Navarrete was arrested and charged with placing an explosive device in the building of a company trading with Cuba. He was eventually released on this charge and agreed to become a Federal Bureau Investigation informer. He went to work for Orlando Bosch, who, according to Cuban authorities, was involved in 78 terrorist attacks on Spain, England, Japan, Mexico, Poland, and other countries that traded with Cuba. In October, 1968, United States officials arrested Bosch for terrorist activities. Navarrete provided evidence against him and Bosh was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 1971 Elidio Ruiz was found dead at the entrance of Navarrete's house. He was charged with first degree murder but he was found not guilty after the main witness in the case claimed he couldn't identify him in the courtroom. Once again Ricardo Morales Navarrete was released and on his own admission he now worked as an informer for the CIA, FBI and the DEA.
Ricardo Morales Navarrete also went to work for the Venezuelan government's counter-intelligence unit, the Direccion de los Servicios Inteligencia e Proteccion (DISIP). After attending an Israeli Counterintelligence Course he was promoted to head of Division 54.
In October, 1976, the midair explosion of Cubana Flight 455 flying out of Barbados killed all 73 people aboard. This included all 24 young athletes on Cuba's gold-medal fencing team. Police in Trinidad arrested two Venezuelans, Herman Ricardo and Freddy Lugo. Ricardo worked for Posada's security agency in Venezuela and admitted that he and Lugo had planted two bombs on the plane. Ricardo claimed the bombing had been organized by Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch. When Posada was arrested he was found with a map of Washington showing the daily route of to work of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean Foreign Minister, who had been assassinated on 21st September, 1976. Navarrete later admitted that he was part of this bomb plot.
In April, 1978, the Miami Police Department he was charged with possession of marijuana. The following year he was arrested once again and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. He was soon released and it appears that at this point he agreed to work as a FBI informer. He infiltrated a Miami based group that were importing cocaine from the new military rulers of Bolivia (Operation Tick-Talks). The group included Frank Castro (Eulalio Francisco Castro Paz), Rafael Villaverde, Jorge Villaverde and 50 other right-wing anti-Castro Cubans. In an interview with Jim Hougan, CIA agent Frank Terpil claimed that Ted Shackley, Thomas G. Clines and Richard Secord were also involved in this drug operation.
Rafael Villaverde vanished on a fishing trip after bonding out after his arrest in 1982. According to Edward Jay Epstein, Villaverde's "speedboat exploded off the coast of Florida". His body has never been found. Soon afterwards Ricardo Morales was killed during a bar brawl in Key Biscayne. As a result, all charges concerning this drug-smuggling group were dropped.
Ejército Rebelde en el Exilio (Rebel Army in Exile) wants to make known through this newspaper its energetic protest for the detention (arrest) of the tireless fighter for the cause of democracy, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, who has been accused of placing bombs in establishments catering to the delivery of clothing and medicine to Cuba.
We want to make it clear, we do not support terrorist acts that put innocent lives in danger. That is why the young Navarrete is innocent of the accusations and we feel his arrest and his bond set at $25,000 is unjust.
The bond cannot be obtained by his family, since the economic situation of Morales and his family is like that of the majority of the Cuban exiles in this country, that they have to work in order to support their families. That is why we ask the authorities, in this case, as each day that goes by is unfair to Mr. Ricardo Morales Navarrete, his three children and wife suffer more hardship because they depend upon him for substance.
Also, for the general public, that is unfamiliar with the young Morales Navarrete, we show a picture of the young Morales Navarrete when he was fighting communism in the Congo. What he has done for Cuban freedom, there is no need to speak, and those that have not turned their backs on the Cuban tragedy know him.
The Executive (of Ejército Rebelde en El Exilio) (Rebel Army in Exile).
Like many of his fellow Cubans, Ricardo Morales supported Castro at first. He was trained as a Castro secret-police agent, and his last job in Cuba was handling security investigations 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 secret missions following the failure of the Bay of Pigs. When the CIA refused to sponsor future raids, Morales left the agency in disgust. That was in 1963. But he returned to take a special assignment in the Congo during 1964-65, 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 intensity that exceeds the normal civilized limits. 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 became his enemies. Morales had been impressing Miami with high-voltage performances ever since.
A man I know once made a surprise visit to Morales's apartment. He told Morales' 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 disarmed his visitor, and now he was offering up his own concealed weapon for the visitor's inspection. My friend lacked the wit to empty the gun and place the bullets on the mantel piece, next to the batteries. Morales 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." That's the Morales style...
One does not grow up hoping to be an informant. Morales got his first opportunity 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 supplies back to Cuba. The newspaper clipping shows a handsome young man with a crew cut, looking 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 Government.
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 temporary 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 exploding baby doctor. Morales got himself a job making bombs for Bosch. He made phony bombs while reporting details of Bosch's upcoming missions back to the FBI. Bosch couldn't understand why his bombs didn't go off, but he kept trying. He and some associates were arrested in the act of shelling a Cuba-bound Polish freighter in the Miami harbor. Morales's testimony at the trial helped convict Bosch and send him to prison in late 1968.
Q. Identify yourself, for the record, please?
A. My name is Ricardo Morales Navarette.
Q. Are you the same person whose deposition commenced here on Friday before Ms. Cohan and me with Mr. Carhart present?
Q. Are you the one whom they sometimes call "The Monkey"?
Q. Have you had an opportunity to think about or go over, in your mind, any of the questions that I asked you on Friday, and any of the answers that you gave to the extent that there is anything that you feel you need to change now in the interest of accuracy?
A. I raise out of my mind whatever I talked to you the other day due to preceding events.
Q. Is there anything that you now feel you need to change concerning the testimony you gave on Friday in the interest of accuracy?
A. I don't believe so...
Q. Do you recall that your answer and my questions took us to the spot where you had told me that you had been paid by the Federal Bureau of Investigations until July of 1975, at which time, you resigned your position as a paid informant?
A. That is correct, July the 31st.
Q. And you had told us that you had worked in addition to working for the United States and the Republic of Venezuela, for the Republic of Cuba in 1959 and 1960, and that those were the only three governmental agencies - I'm sorry - the only three sovereign governments for whom you have worked - United States, Venezuela, and Cuba? Do you recall that?
A. That is right.
Q. You had told us that you were a contract agent for the C.I.A. attached to something called the 5th Mercenary Brigade when you were in the Belgium Congo. Do you recall that?
Q. You had previously stated that was sometime during 1964?
A. When I arrived in the Congo?
Q. That's my next question to you: When did you arrive in the Congo?
A. In 1964.
Q. How long were you...
A. I came back on or about the beginning of 1965.
Q. You told us that you were a contract agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. My understanding is that a contract agent is somebody who is, in effect, hired for a particular purpose owing to that person's unique skills or expertise; is that correct, as opposed to being a full-time employee?
A. Not exactly, Douglas, because I was already in the C.I.A. when I had handpicked to perform that mission over there in the Congo.
Q. What do you mean when you say you were in the C.I.A.?
A. Yes, I had already spent some time with them, about a year of training.
Q. Were you a full-time Central Intelligence Agency employee?
A. At one point, yes.
Q. Were you, at the point in time that you went to the Congo, a full-time C.I.A. employee?
A. I was fired two weeks before.
A. We got a brawl with the C.O.
Q. I'm sorry?
A. We had a brawl with the C.O., the Case Office.
Q. Who was the "we"?
A. The rest of the team. The whole team was fired.
Q. Tell me what it means to be a contract agent?
A. A contract agent?
Q. For the C.I.A.?
A. For the C.I.A. is when you sign up a contract with them for performing duties related to their operation.
Q. Is it for one particular venture or undertaking or situation as opposed to being just an ongoing employee or employer relationship?
A. Yes, and you can - you either sign up for one year, two years. There might be an exclusionary clause about renewal, renew of your contract or whatever.
Q. But, it is primarily for one particular venture or campaign or purpose; is that correct?
A. It could be.
Q. Is it more commonly that?
A. I don't know that.
Q. In your experience given the other people that you have known and have had contacts with the Central Intelligence Agency over the years, is it more likely that a contract agent is hired toward one particular end in connection with one particular case or situation?
A. Not necessarily.
Q. But, it could be?
A. Not necessarily.
Q. What I am trying to have you do is to tell me the distinctions between a regular agent and a contract agent?
A. I cannot answer that question, because I have never been a staff agent.
Q. Is that the term that is used - "staff agent"?
A. Yes, Douglas, just for the record, there is a new law that I don't --when it is going to be, you know, into effect, with regard to the disclosures and things with regard about names and things like that, and I hope that you will not be, you know, push me into, up the wall about disclosing names of C.I.A. agents or anything like that along those lines, because I will be breaking the law, which I am not intending to do. I want to point out to you that there is a law going into effect. I don't know when or where. It's all over the papers. You should know that. Everybody knows that; okay?
Q. For your own edification, there is no such law presently in effect, and if it is passed by the Congress, it will apply only to public disclosure in any mass medium, which is to say, in the newspaper or a television or in a radio broadcast. This I not public disclosure, but in any event, there is no such law, and I don't even know if it will become pertinent...
Q. When you signed on as a contract agent for this affair or undertaking in the Belgium Congo, for how long was your contract?
A. Duration of the war.
Q. During that period of time, were you being paid directly by the Central Intelligence Agency, or were you being paid through some Conduit or front that they had established?
A. The money was deposited at a savings account that it was open by the support agents down here in Miami under the name of my first wife.
Q. Was the money with the deposits being made in the form of checks drawn on the Treasury of the United States...
A. That, I don't know. Reflected in her savings account book or whatever it was.
Q. Let me ask you this: At this time, Mr. Morales, and it's a convenient spot at which to do it - you have come to be aware; have you not, sir, of certain incidents that have recently taken place involving people who are defendants or who were defendants in this case; specifically, one Rafael Villaverde? Have you recently come be aware of a situation that occurred involving Rafael Villaverde?
A. Yes, of course.
Q. Have you heard that Mr. Villaverde is lost and apparently presumed dead at sea as a result of boating accident?
A. It's all over the papers...
Q. Have you spoken directly with any of the defendants in this case or any relatives of any of the defendants in this case or any relatives of people who, up until the time of their death, had been defendants in this case about or concerning Rafael Villaverde and his apparent loss at sea? Have you spoken to anyone about that? Do you understand the question, Ricky?
A. It's so lengthy that, as I pointed out to you before, you break it down, and I will give you yes or no.
Q. Let me break it down. Have you spoken with any of the defendants in this case any time since Friday morning, let's say, 9:00 o'clock on April the 2nd about or in any way concerning Rafael Villaverde's disappearance and death?
Q. Have you spoken with any of the defendants in this case at all since the fact of Mr. Villaverde's apparent disappearance and death was first discovered or made know about the fact or anything related to it?
Q. Mr. Morales, how long have you known any of the Villaverde brothers?
A. The whole family?
A. We were from the same neighborhood.
Q. In Cuba, in Havana?
A. Uh huh, Havana.
Q. Which members of the Villaverde family have you known personally over the years since living near them in Cuba?
A. Raul, Rafael, Jorge, and I believe that I was aware that there was a sister.
Q. But, in any event, you have known them all, the ones whom you have mentioned, since your childhood in Havana?
A. El Vedado.
Q. So, you've known them all since childhood there?
Q. Were you friendly with any of the Villaverde brothers during childhood, or did you just have an acquaintanceship with them?
A. Sort of acquaintanceship.
Q. Has there ever been a time when you would describe your relationship with any one or more of the Villaverde family as being antagonistic or hostile?
A. Yes and no. It's the ups and down in life...
Q. Was there ever a time when you took some affirmative step or purposeful action toward harming or disadvantaging any member of the Villaverde family or trying to do something that will hurt, not necessarily physically, but hurt, in any way, hurt the interests of any member of the Villaverde family?
Q. At the time of the Castro revolution in Cuba, did you hold any kind of employment either immediately prior to the revolution or immediately after the revolution with the Fidel Castro organization?
Q. What was that employment, please?
A. I was a member of the Military Intelligence, Special Agent...
Q. What were the dates of your employment, please?
A. September, 1959 until, let's say, that I went underground in the summer of 1960, on or about July...
Q. Was the agency or department in which you were employed the one called G2?
A. It was called the D.I.E.R. first. Then, they switched names to G2.
Q. What do the letters D.I.E.R. specify?
A. Departamento de Inteligencia del Ejercito Rebelde.
Q. What was the business or the function of D.I.E.R. or G2 - whichever? What was the purpose?
A. It's a political police.
Q. What specifically was it aimed or targeted at doing?
A. The opposition.
Q. To do what to them?
A. To the opposition to the government.
Q. What was it supposed to do to the opposition? Did it find them or exterminate them or what?
A. My position was to uncover subversive organizations at the beginning, especially the members of the already overthrown dictatorship of General Batista.
Q. How did you come to first hold the position in whatever the forerunner of D.I.E.R. was before Castro came to power?
A. There was no information runner to D.I.E.R. The G2 came afterwards.
Q. Then, your employment with that agency began after Castro had seized power of Cuba?
A. That is right....
Q. What date did you go to work for D.I.E.R.?
A. On or about September, 1959.
Q. How old were you, then?
A. At that time, twenty years old, I believe...
Q. You left G2 when?
A. July, on or about July.
Q. Of what year?
Q. Where did you go, then?
A. Safe houses.
Q. In Havana?
A. In Havana, and eventually, in September, I was able to obtain political asylum at the Brazilian Embassy.
Q. Where did that lead you to?
A. That lead me to 82 days of nightmare, and eventually, to a flight in Pan American to Miami, Pan American Airlines to Miami...
Q. Have you ever now that you mention it, either fabricated or assisted in the fabrication of an explosive or placed or assisted in the placement of an explosive that blew up an airliner? Have you ever done that?
A. Say that again?
Q. Have you ever...
A. I'm going o cut it short for you. Yes.
Q. Oh how many different occasions?
Q. When and where?
Q. When, please, sir?
A. 1976. Let me correct myself, so I won't have to do it tomorrow. The craft involved was a communist Air Force plane from the Republic of Cuba.
Q. How many people were on board?
A. There were, including North Korean spies, Gwyenas, Cadres, DGI personnel, and Air Force officers of the Cuban Air Force, and assorted members of the Cuban Communist Party. There is a big discrepancy, which I believe that the government of Cuba is the only one who can come up with the exact figure.
Q. What is the best information you have?
A. According to the Press, which is, to the best of my knowledge, is wrong, 73.
Q. Did you place that explosive device on the aircraft, or did you fabricate it?
A. No, I did not place it, and I did not fabricate it.
Q. What part did you have in that incident?
A. In that incident?
Q. Yes, what did you do?
A. Oh, I was part of the conspirators.
Q. What specific part did you play that resulted in the blowing up of that airplane?
A. Oh, surveillance of the regular flights of that Cuban Air Force plane, providing by a third party the explosives.
Q. Is that to say that you made available the explosives to the people who actually did the manual work through a third person as intermediary?
Q. At the time that you furnished the explosives, did you know that they were going to be used to sabotage or blow up that airplane?
A. Not at the beginning, and the source of explosive, Mr. Williams, was a result of the search that was executed by agents of my division in a house that suspected of being used by foreign intelligence enemies, and there was a lot of material that was seized there, and there was some explosives that they were found there, which were, of course, turned over to the Explosives end and Disposal Division of the DISIP, and that's where - that's from where, later on, the explosives found their way into this Cuban Air Force plane.
Q. Were you responsible either directly or indirectly for the explosives finding their way eventually into the airplane?
A. I share.
Q. Did you know at the time that you -
A. I share the responsibility.
Q. I understand. Did you know at the time that you took whatever steps were necessary in order for the explosives to be put on their path that eventually wound up inside the airplane?
A. Of course.
Q. Did you know that they were going to be used to explode the airplane?
A. Of course.
Q. Dr. Bosch was specifically charged with either perpetrating that incident, himself, or having assisted in putting it together; wasn't he? Wasn't he charged with that in Venezuela?
A. He is still in jail.
Q. My question to you, sir, is whether he was charged with responsibility for that incident?
A. That is why he is still in jail...
Q. Did you ever come to have knowledge of the published passenger manifest indicating the people who, according to the public media, were passengers on that airplane?
Q. Didn't you learn that there were on board several women who ostensibly were traveling as spouses or mates or partners to some of the men on board?
A. They fall in the category of assorted communist party members.
Q. Give me a yes or no? Yes, you did, but...
A. That there were women aboard?
Q. Did you also learn, sir, that there were children under the age of eighteen on board that airplane?
A. I didn't know that there were any children on board.
Q. You haven't learned that?
A. No, I haven't learned that.
Q. If, in fact, there were children under the age of eighteen on board that airplane, would you still regard them as being communist sympathizers under any circumstances?
A. I will consider them - that is preposterous because I have no knowledge about that, but that is preposterous, but to please you, Williams, I will say that they will belong to the Youth Communist Organization, and in due time, they will become full-fledged communists.
Q. Not anymore.
A. Well, not anymore in their cases.
In December 1980, an important law-enforcement conference was held in a police car in the parking lot of Monty Trainer's dockside bar, and then moved to the parking lot at Zayre's, and formally reconvened at a room 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. "Heroin … goes against, you know, my own belief and religion, and, you know, I … flatly refuse to go along in this new kind of business."
Morales was ready to give a fifty-page deposition. But first he reminded prosecutor Cohan that "I was found not guilty by the jury, 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....
Morales's revelations were not shocking. D.C. Diaz was the man assigned to be Quesada's bodyguard after Morales arranged Quesada'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 different 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 medicine and truck parts, a man who moved up from picking tomatoes to operating a $2 million antipoverty agency for the Latin elderly. Villaverde, weighing more than 200 pounds, knows the mayor, knows the police, knows everybody he ought to know in Miami. Villaverde'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 unfortunate name, a conviction for cocaine smuggling, 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 Quesada in turn introduced D.C. Diaz to the Condom brothers, who were brought into the group by the Villaverdes, who were themselves introduced to Quesada by Morales. For the Monkey, the Mutiny gatherings in that summer of 1980 were "This is your life."
Everybody knew what everybody else was up to. Policeman D.C. Diaz told me, "Quesada 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 going 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 with suspicion and at close range, and yet nothing 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 the Chilean ambassador in Washington, and Villaverde kept saying he knew it was somebody else, and Morales stared throwing pats of butter at Villaverde. Every time he made a point, he hurled a pat. Villaverde tried to ignore this, and so did Quesada. They just sat there and pretended it wasn't happening."
By later October, relations had broken down - not between the suspects and the police, but among the suspects. The Godfather was on television again ("when The Godfather comes on … the drug people, they get steamed up somehow, and some people may have gotten killed because of that," Morales opines), and Morales didn't get an invitation to customs agent Czukas's birthday party, which upset him. In fact, Morales recalls, it was a lousy month. He claims to have spent several hours one evening fending off various hit men. He says he escaped by brandishing a dummy hand grenade. "I pulled the handle and said 'trick or treat' … so that was my Halloween."
So by the first week in December, Morales was sitting in the parking lot with the police, restructuring his alliances once again. One theory is that he had been kicked out of the Quesada organization and was retaliating. Jerry Sanford's theory is that the Condom brothers had proposed a legitimate stock deal to Quesada and that Morales mistakenly assumed that "stocks" meant heroin, since none of his friends read the Wall Street Journal. The Villaverde brothers, now indicted, said Morales first introduced them to Quesada and then created this drug investigation, in retaliation for something the Villaverdes did back in 1976. They thought they had a contract with the CIA to assassinate a European 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 involved, 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 immunity and then used his testimony for wiretap applications, first on a suspected lesser distributor 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 Villaverde brothers and the Condoms and Quesada, making forty-eight people in all. They have been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, 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 savings time was very clever. But letting Ricardo Morales chart the course of a criminal prosecution is bound to create a few problems...
It is now fall in Miami, and the heat had left the pavement. The only major character in any of the Morales episodes currently 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, spend about a year in jail awaiting the appeal because he couldn't make the bond of $1 million. Recently, however, the government changed its mind and agreed to let him use some property he owned as collateral on his bond, so Rodriguez is free again. Naturally, there is a rumor going 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.
On Dec. 16, 1980, Cuban-American intelligence operative Ricardo Morales told a Florida prosecutor that he had become an informer in Operation Tick-Talks, a Miami-based investigation that implicated Frank Castro and other Bay of Pigs veterans in a conspiracy to import cocaine from the new military rulers of Bolivia.
Years later, Medellin cartel money-launderer Ramon Milian Rodriguez testified before Senate hearings chaired by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Milian Rodriguez stated that in the early days of the cartel, "Bolivia was much more significant than the other countries."
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were often seen together in apparent prayer. Mingolla, the Argentine intelligence officer, described Ward as his CIA paymaster, with the $1,500 monthly salary coming from the CAUSA office of Ward's representative.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel's Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Bo Hi Pak and Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan's recovery from an assassination attempt. In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, "God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism." According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an "armed church" of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
Within a year, three witnesses in an investigation died. Rafael Villaverde, a Cuban refugee, disappeared at sea after his speedboat exploded off the coast of Florida; Kevin Mulcahy, an electronics expert. was found dead in an isolated motel in the Shenandoah Valley-apparently a victim of exposure; and Waldo Dubberstein, an archaeologist and expert on the Middle East, died of a shotgun blast to his head-a presumed suicide.
All three had worked for the CIA and, in the mid 1970s. became involved in mysterious conspiracies plotted by a former CIA agent named Edwin P. Wilson. A series of investigations by various federal agencies, begun in 1976 led to Wilson's indictment in 1980 and disclosed the following pieces of a murderous puzzle.
Villaverde, who had served the CIA as a saboteur in Cuba, was recruited by Wilson as a hired gun and promised a million dollars for an assassination in Egypt. Mulcahy, a CIA specialist in secret communications technology. was hired to supervise the smuggling of electronic and military equipment. Dubberstein, an ex-CIA man whose subsequent work for the Pentagon included compiling the daily military intelligence summary for the Secretary of
Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff - a position that gave him access to the ultra secret Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), the precise order of battle for nuclear war - was paid by Wilson to sell his country's secrets.
Longtime anti-Castro activist Jorge Villaverde was convinced someone was trying to kill him. On Tuesday morning his hunch proved grimly correct.
Villaverde was gunned down as he took out the trash from his Redland house. He died with a 9mm pistol tucked into the back of his pants - a gun he never had time to draw.
''This was obviously an ambush,'' said Miami-Dade police Detective Lupo Jimenez. "That's what we're looking at.''
The member of a fiercely anti-Castro family, Villaverde spent years in Cuban political prisons before making it to the United States. His brother, Rafael, was a member of the ill-fated brigade that invaded Cuba's Bay of Pigs in 1961.
News of Villaverde's apparent execution drew some members of Miami's Cuban exile community to the crime scene. They stood in the drizzle on this rural lane, huddling in grim clusters as they speculated on his life and death.
''I knew him well,'' said Roberto Martín Pérez, whose wife is the prominent radio commentator Ninoska Pérez Castellón. "We spent 20 years in political prisons together (in Cuba). We engaged in strong anti-Communist activities.''
The murder occurred about 8 a.m., police said. Villaverde, 67, had just walked out through the electronic gate in front of his ranch-style compound in the 20400 block of Southwest 198 Avenue when he was hit with a hail of bullets.
A neighbor's housekeeper told police she watched it happen.
''She saw two guys in a white car,'' said Joseph Pratt, who employs the housekeeper. "The passenger tilted the seat back, and the driver leaned across and shot him.''
Villaverde's maintenance man was inside the gate when he heard four or five shots. He ran outside and found his boss lying on his back beside the trash can - under the wooden sign over his driveway carved with the words, "La Tranquilidad.''
''He had blood in his mouth,'' Armando Alonso said.
Those who knew Villaverde, who was retired, said he had been attacked a few times during the past month.
About 10 days ago, he was tending his horses behind his house - which sits on a 2.5-acre lot - when someone fired a burst of shots from beyond his property line.
''That time I heard the shots,'' neighbor Pratt said. "I ran over to see what happened... He told me they tried to kill him.''
Another neighbor recalled Villaverde saying two weeks ago that someone had hit him in the back of the head with a weight.
'He used to ride his horse on the street, and when I saw him, I said, 'I haven't seen you on your horse recently,' '' said Suzanne Miller. "He said someone had hit him in the head with a dumbbell. He had a big mark there.''
Villaverde's roots in Miami's anti-Castro world ran deep. He served decades in Cuban prisons, and at one time said he was a CIA operative trained as a "terrorist.''
He and brother Rafael - who once ran the Little Havana Activities Center - were indicted in the early 1980s in a notorious drug smuggling ring dubbed ''Operation Tick-Talks.'' They and 51 others were accused of running a multimillion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation.
Rafael Villaverde, known as ''the weather vane of anti-Castro activities,'' vanished on a fishing trip after bonding out after his arrest. He has never been found.
The intrigue following his disappearance was typical Miami: Rafael did not die, the rumors held, but instead fled to Martinique or even Cuba.
The case against him and his brother, Jorge, later disintegrated.
Named because Miami police planted a recording device inside a clock, a judge ruled that police had gathered evidence in the Tick-Talks investigation illegally.
It was not Jorge Villaverde's last brush with the law.
In 1995, federal prosecutors charged him and a man living in his house with possession of a machine gun and possession of unregistered silencers. He spent two years in prison.
The bust occurred after someone tipped police that Villaverde was stashing drugs at his house, said one attorney on the case.
Federal agents raided Villaverde's Redland ranch, but instead of drugs, they found a large cache of weapons.
''He had a ton of weapons,'' said Ricardo L. Sanchez, who represented the second defendant, Alberto Bayolo.
''Jorge had two reasons for the guns: He always believed he was being watched by pro-Castro forces; and he had the weapons because he was one day he was going to put together a revolution and liberate Cuba,'' the lawyer said. "That's how Jorge lived.''
In the wake of last week's vandalisms outside the headquarters of paramilitary group Alpha 66 and the Cuban American National Foundation - where assailants tossed ignited, gasoline-filled beer cans - Miami's exile community was awash in speculation about Villaverde's death.
Many felt Castro was ''settling scores.'' But few said that publicly.
''This was a true crime, an assassination,'' said Andrés Nazario Sargén, leader of Alpha 66, adding that Villaverde was not affiliated with his group.
"It could have been a neighbor he had problems with, or someone else, but there is the political question. It needs to be investigated.''
In the latest twist to the presence in South Florida of controversial Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former Miami police detective says Posada is lying when he denies involvement in the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976.
Diosdado C. Diaz, who left the force in 1999, told The Herald that one of his top informants - exile Ricardo ''Monkey'' Morales - stated to him in 1982 that he supplied the explosives and that Posada prepped them to bring down the plane.
But on another occasion, Morales denied Posada was involved. He said another militant prepared the explosives - Gustavo Castillo, a suspect in the 1976 car-bomb attack on Miami exile radio commentator Emilio Milián. Castillo said he had nothing to do with the plane bombing.
The controversial Morales, who died in 1982, made the denial about Posada in an interview with an exile TV reporter. A tape of the interview was given to The Herald by Posada's South Florida benefactor, Santiago Alvarez.
The conflicting versions appear to back the conclusion of some people who knew Morales that he was unreliable. On the other hand, Diaz said he warned Morales that if he was ever caught in a lie he would be prosecuted for perjury.
Whether Posada was involved in the plane bombing, which killed 73 people, or any other violent act, is central to his asylum bid. Posada has admitted, then denied, masterminding a series of bombings in Cuban resorts in 1997, and in 2000 was implicated in an alleged plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Panama.
Posada and three exiles were eventually cleared of assassination and explosives charges, but were convicted of endangering public safety and given sentences of up to eight years in prison. Last year, then-Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned the four.
Immigration law says foreign nationals can be denied asylum if there is reason to believe they committed a serious crime before arriving in the United States.
In an attempt to clear his name, Posada has recently taken a lie-detector test in Miami, said a source close to Posada.
Diaz worked for the Miami Police Department's terrorism squad, where his duties included monitoring Cuban exile militants. He was lead investigator in a drug-smuggling case known as Operation Tick-Talks in which Morales was an informant.
The case ultimately was dismissed, in part, because the judge distrusted Morales' testimony.
Diaz says he wrote a report for the Miami police on Morales' confession, but the record could not be found.
Rina Cohan, the lead prosecutor in the Tick-Talks case, told The Herald in a recent phone interview that she was ''99.9 percent positive'' Morales alleged that ''Posada was involved'' in the airliner bombing. ''And I believe that involvement had to do with explosives,'' she added.
Diaz said he decided to come forward because of a report in The Herald on April 17 quoting Posada as saying Morales staged the bombing on behalf of the Cuban government. The story also quoted a deposition by Morales in which he admitted being a conspirator in the plane bombing.
Diaz said Morales told him that Posada assembled more than one bomb and that the devices were placed aboard the doomed Cubana de Aviación DC-8 aircraft.
''Posada was involved in the preparation of the improvised explosive devices,'' Diaz said Morales told him.
Diaz said Morales claimed that one device was placed in the cargo hold by a baggage handler and that another was left in a bathroom by one of two Venezuelan accomplices who got off the plane at a stopover.
In the taped interview with television reporter Francisco Chao Hermida, who died in 1985, Morales says he provided the explosives and that Castillo turned them into a bomb. He says Posada knew nothing of the plot. The interview likely took place between 1980 and early 1982.
When contacted by The Herald at his Hialeah home, Castillo denied any role in the Cuban airliner bombing.
''Surely, I wasn't involved in any of that,'' Castillo said. "I was in jail in Mexico when that interview [with Morales] happened. He can say what he wants. Request a direct line to hell, where he surely is, and ask him what his motives were.''
Morales was mortally wounded in an apparent bar brawl in Key Biscayne in 1982.
One suspect in the airliner bombing, Hernan Ricardo, worked with Posada at a detective agency in Caracas at the time of the incident. Ricardo also did freelance work for Morales, who at the time was a senior officer in DISIP, a Venezuelan state security agency.
Ricardo also was serving as a driver for another Miami Cuban exile, Orlando Bosch, who was in Venezuela raising money for the cause against Castro.
Morales told Chao Hermida that he asked Posada to free Ricardo from his detective agency duties so he could be Bosch's guide in Venezuela.
''What was the participation of Luis Posada? None,'' Morales told Chao Hermida. ``The only responsibility Luis Posada had in the problem with the downing of the Cuban airplane is just one. I asked Luis Posada for a guide for Orlando Bosch. And he makes one available.''