1 they tentatively accepted that. That was my first concern. But
2 based on what Bill told them, I felt a little better about the
3 situation. And I don't know what happened at the grand jury,
4 when they said they didn't feel like they were asked the
5 questions that they had been led to believe were the pertinent
6 ones for their testimony.
7Shortly after that -- I believe that's the last session I
8 can remember that Asa Hutchinson held with the grand jury
9 concerning this investigation. Shortly after that, I learned
10 that he was quitting his position and was going to run for some
11 political office, and that Mike Fitzhugh would be taking over
12 United States Attorney. My contact with the United States
13 Attorney's Office for the most part ended at that time.
14 There were a lot of frustration in that -- in the lack of
15 communication. We were so busy, it wasn't really noticeable at
16 first. By "we," I mean myself and Bill Duncan, and myself and
17 the people in my department going -- traveling to New Orleans,
18 or to Baton Rouge, to Texas, gathering information. We were
19 busy trying to find out what had happened and gather a case file
20 and see if there was something to investigate. And as the more
21 we went, the more we found out, just a little here and a little
22 there, and we slowly started building a case and saw at some
23 point that, yes, there is something here that needs to be
24 investigated. We have got cocaine smuggling that is not a
25 covert operation by somebody who feels that we don't need to
1 know. Which we wouldn't have trouble with that, with somebody
2 who carried on a covert operation and not telling us, because
3 you just can't be too safe.
4 By the time we decided that we did have an investigation,
5 that we did have a case, that we could focus on it, we could
6 show where a crime had been committed, we didn't seem to be able
7 to get our evidence into grand jury. And I can't really
8 pinpoint a place where it started, except that there were -- I
9 remember a meeting of Mike Fitzhugh and a woman from the U.S.
10 Attorney's Office in Miami concerning money laundering. She was
11 to be out here to instruct Mike Fitzhugh how to handle the money
12 laundering case. And Bill Duncan had asked me to be up there,
13 and my supervisor, Lieutenant Finus Duvall, came up, and it
14 seems like there was somebody else, but I can't remember. And
15 we sat in a little office down the hall from Mike Fitzhugh's
16 office all day thinking that we were going to be needed in his
17 office. And finally -- and Bill Duncan would come in every once
18 in a while frustrated saying that -- telling us that he didn't
19 know what was going on, didn't know what was wrong, but Mike
20 Fitzhugh didn't want us in there. And at one point late in the
21 day somehow, however it happened, I don't know whether it was
22 Bill Duncan or Mike Fitzhugh or whatever happened, but we were
23 allowed to come in and give the status for our investigation at
24 that time, present it to this lady. And she seemed obviously
25 interested. She was -- she thought that that was -- that needed
1 to be pursued. She said, "This case needs to be pursued." And
2 that -- and I don't remember if she made the statement at that
3 time or later, we were told that -- out of her office, that they
4 had two other Assistant U.S. Attorneys that would like to come
5 out and help him prosecute the case. We did have a case
6 developing at that time for cocaine smuggling. There was some
7 concern over the way we were treated prior to the presentation
8 we gave her. Never heard from her again.
9 I don't think it was too long after that, that I was
10 attending a grand jury session in Fayetteville where I knew that
11 the Rich Mountain Aviation case would be coming up. I had not
12 received a subpoena, but I had permission to go up and spend the
13 night in Fort smith on behalf of the Arkansas State Police,
14 Colonel Goodwin was very supportive in the investigation, and if
15 it hadn't been for him I'd probably quit a long time before
16 things did finally come to an end.
17Q. And what do you mean by that, just because of your
19 A. Just from the frustrations, I -- it wasn't going anywhere.
20 I wasn't getting support. I wasn't getting subpoenas.
21 Q. Yeah, that was my question. What do you mean you weren't
22 getting support; you weren't allowed to issue subpoenas or what?
23 A. Right. Asa Hutchinson had originally asked for subpoenas,
24 and I didn't know who to subpoena at the time, or I would have
25 given him a list. When I finally did get -- find out who needed
1 subpoenas. I requested the subpoenas by either calling Mike
2 Fitzhugh directly or sending word through Bill Duncan, and was
3 denied the subpoenas. At that time the denial was based on, I
4 believe it was the Graham Rudman Act was in the air at that
5 time, and he said he just didn't have the money to subpoena
6 people for this case.
7 Q. Did you ever get those subpoenas issued?
8 A. Towards the end, you know, there eventually was something
9 take place in grand jury. Subpoenas were issued. When I --
10 when some of the key people were in grand jury, I never got a
11 subpoena. I wasn't asked to show up. And I felt like I was
12 probably the most knowledgeable person or able to give the most
13 help as to what those individuals should be saying, what they
14 said in interviews, what their history is concerning Barry Seal.
15 I didn't feel like anybody else that was there at the time would
16 have known the questions to ask them. When I finally did get a
17 chance to testify in front of a grand jury myself, it was
18 because one lady on the grand jury was from Mena, worked at Mena
19 Airport, and she saw me hanging out in the hall outside the
20 grand jury room in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and told the others
21 that if they wanted to know something about the Mena Airport
22 they ought to ask that guy out there in the hall. At which time
23 Mike Fitzhugh, somewhat angrily, told me that the grand jury
24 wanted to talk to me. At that time, I didn't know, I thought it
25 was Mike Fitzhugh that was wanting me to come in, and later
1 found out that it wasn't. I was still optimistic that we had an
2 investigation going on. And I told him that I could at the
3 time, the best I could. And after that grand jury hearing that
4 I testified in, Mike Fitzhugh asked me into the judge's chambers
5 next to the grand jury room in Fayetteville, and asked me if I
6 could accept a -- two misdemeanor counts on the -- concerning
7 the allegations being made against Rich Mountain Aviation. He
8 didn't mention any names. He just said would I accept two
9 misdemeanor counts on individuals and maybe something on the
10 corporate. But I told him that I couldn't, but I didn't care
11 what he did, and I wouldn't hold him accountable or criticize or
12 talk behind his back or anything concerning what he did, because
13 he was the U.S. Attorney and I was just an investigator, and
14 that's the way I felt about it. I said, "personally, I can't
15 accept two misdemeanor counts because the way I interpret the
16 case it demands more than that." And then he said, "Well, will
17 you accept one misdemeanor count and one felony?" And I asked
18 if were talking about conspiracy to smuggle drugs, and he
19 said yes. And I said, "No, I can't do that." Just knowing the
20 characters that we're talking about, Joe Evans and Freddie
21 Hampton, I was up front with him, I said, "Give Joe Evans the
22 felony count because he's always been an outlaw anyway and he
23 doesn't care one way or the other, and give the Freddie the
24 misdemeanor." But I said, "The case just merits more than that.
25 There's more than that to it." And I reiterated that I can't
1 accept it, but if you want to do it, go ahead. You don't need
2 my blessing. And he -- we spent a long time in that room, and a
3 good part of it was spent with him walking back and forth
4 looking out the window not saying anything. It was a -- it was
5 a very strained period of time that wee were in that office
6 together. And that was all there was to that.
7 Q. So actually no one was ever indicted, were they?
8 A. No.
9 Q. And how would you describe the cooperation of other federal
11 A. Mixed. The Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida,
12 absolutely zero. They're just as useless to us as tits on a
13 boar hog. We had no use for them at all. I mean, they had
14 just from what they gave us, there were almost to the point of
15 rudeness. We did not get anything out of them. I went to an
16 agent conference in Savannah, Georgia during that time period,
17 which this group, Group 6 or Group 7, whatever it is, did not
18 show up. But there were other Customs agents there and other
19 DEA groups represented, and they were all pretty open that they
20 were surprised that this group from Miami DEA didn't show up.
21 They stated that they were unable to get any use out of them as
22 far as sharing information or working cases. It was just a
23 problem for everybody. And we all rationalized that they had a
24 major problem there, and probably don't have time to mess with
25 us. The amount of drugs that we would get excited about, they
1 wouldn't even go into court with. Rationalized to keep things
2 going smooth.
3 The two DEA officers in Baton Rouge were very helpful, Mike
4 Long and another one, I can't remember his name, They had been
5 investigating Barry Seal for some time, and they were extremely
6 helpful and gave us information for a while that we would never
7 have got from any other source. And they gave us a witness who
8 was in -- at that time was in a safehouse or was being kept in
9 an isolated area because he was about to or had testified
10 against Barry Seal, and they gave us this witness. Which just
11 amazed us. And they gave us a couple of others, a guy named
12 LeBlanc and some others that we had no idea how to get ahold of.
13 The DEA in Arkansas, they were pleasant, easy to get along, but
14 they had no interest in the Barry Seal case at all.
15 As we observed Barry Seal fly into Mena one cold December
16 night, a young pilot by the name of Earl, Billy Earl, I
17 believe. WE had the airport under surveillance. We had
18 received word that either a smuggling operation was going to be
19 consummated there, or was -- something was about to happen
20 concerning Barry Seal. And this was from the operation Coin
21 Roll investigation out of the task force in New Orleans. We set
22 up, we had the FBI, DEA, State Police, and probably about any
23 other investigative agency you can think of, we were all out
24 there in force. I think Arkansas Game and Fish was represented.
25 And the plane did come in. And we observed what later was
1 described as changing of a bladder tank. It was snowing that
2 night. and the DEA wasn't on the airport. They never pulled a
3 surveillance mission. One of the FBI agents commented to me
4 that his partner had stated to him later on, he said, "This is
5 the last time I go on surveillance for an air smuggling mission
6 that the DEA stays in the motel while the rest of us are out in
7 the snow," and he said, "that's got to be a clue." so we didn't
8 get a lot of support from the Arkansas Drug Enforcement
10 And from other areas it was mixed. We dealt with a lot of
11 agents and agencies who were burned out on investigating Barry
12 Seal, because it had ended in -- all of their efforts had just
13 ended in futility and frustration, sometimes lawsuits. And when
14 they felt like they had cases, things just fell out from under
15 them, and they just wouldn't investigate him and didn't want to
16 hear about it, and certainly didn't want to hear about him from
18 One Customs agent told me that, after I was trying to get
19 some help from him, he said "look, we've been told not to touch
20anything that has Barry Seal's name on it, just to let it go."
21 And he said, "That's fine. We've got plenty of other work to
22 do." I could go on and on.
23 Q. So basically would it be a fair summary to say that in your
24 professional opinion Barry Seal moved his entire drug smuggling
25 operation to Mena, Arkansas in the early 1980's and operated
1 there for how long, until his death?
2 A. Oh, yeah.
3 Q. Until 1986?
4 A. Yeah, past 1984 there was obvious government involvement
5 with him.
6 Q. And although you never physically seized any cocaine, in
7 your professional opinion there were shipments of cocaine that
8 came into Mena Airport and/or Mr. Seal had brought those
9 shipments -- or had brought cocaine in from Columbia and let
10 them out in isolated areas to be picked up with his helicopters
11 which were based at Mena at various times?
12 A. We've got reason to believe that that's exactly what
14 Q. And based on reports to you, there was at least some
15 evidence of paramilitary operations or trainings in the Mena
16 vicinity, at least during some of the time?
17 A. Yes, there definitely was.
18 Q. This, in my opinion, Mr. Welch, is essentially the same
19 testimony that Bill Duncan has given, and it is essentially the
20 testimony that Richard Brenneke has given, except that he's gone
21 further in some areas. And I don't think you'll be able to
22 testify to this from your own knowledge, but I want to ask you
23 if it might be consistent with what you've seen at the Mena
24 Airport. Mr. Brenneke, if I can paraphrase his testimony, has
25 testified that he, himself, flew shipments of cocaine into the
1 Mena Airport and that, according to his personal knowledge, some
2 of those cocaine shipments were delivered to representatives of
3 organized crime in this country. In your opinion as a
4 professional law enforcement officer, could this have happened
5 at the Mena Airport?
6 A. Absolutely. I would want to add that since I have ended my
7 investigation of cocaine smuggling and have been listening to
8 the allegations of training, military training having taken
9 place at the Nella Airport, whether that took place or not I
10 don't know. I can say that that does have explanative value to
11 otherwise unexplained events that took place during the time
13 Lester Campbell, who was a friend of mine and was a
14 supervisor of the Game and Fish Officers in that area,
15 enforcement officers, was chased off from the Nella Airport area
16 by, I believe he described them as camouflaged subjects who
17 rudely told him to leave. There were reports of the Game and
18 Fish officers who were told the same thing. And during that
19 time period we were getting reports of air traffic at the Nella
20 Airport. And it was during that same time that I was testifying
21 at a murder trial in Waldron, Arkansas, which is the county seat
22 for Scott County where Nella Airport is located. An FBI agent
23 from Fort smith -- the Fort Smith Office asked me to visit with
24 him in the Sheriff's Office at the Waldron, Scott County
25 Courthouse, and asked me to tell him everything I knew about the
1 Nella Airport. I proceeded to do that. One of our
2 investigators, Don Taylor, who is now Chief of Police at Fort
3 Smith, was in there and I thought that they were investigating
4 the allegations that I had been hearing concerning Game and Fish
5 officers being rudely evicted from the area and the air traffic
6 in the area. And the Sheriff at that time had also got these
7 same reports. Several months later, I asked Don Taylor -- or
8 weeks, I asked Don Taylor how that investigation was going, and
9 he told me that he wasn't involved in any investigation. He was
10 just there on something else, and just happened to be in the
11 room with this FBI agent when I came in. That he had no idea
12 what I was talking about. Nothing ever developed from that.
13 MR. BRYANT: Okay. Let's go off the record.
15 Q. BY MR. BRYANT) So following up on your answer that drugs
16 could have been delivered to representatives of organized crime
17 at the Mena Airport. Is there any other reasonable explanation
18 as to what would have happened to drugs that were brought into
20 A. We were never able to come up with any explanation
21 whatsoever as to what happened to the drugs. We just knew that
22 definitely a lot of cocaine was coming into the country. And
23 where it went, we had no idea.
24 Q. And it's almost inconceivable to think that that amount of
25 cocaine was used locally or in the general area of Mena,
2 A. Oh, definitely. We're talking one to two trips a week, or
3 two weeks, however it varied, with 250 to 350 pounds of cocaine
4 each trip. I've got no idea how that much cocaine would be
6 Q. And, in fact, Mr. Welch, you interviewed Barry Seal
7 himself, did you not?
8 A. Yes.
9 Q. And did he not admit that he brought in billions of dollars
10 of cocaine and drugs into this country over about an eight to
11 ten year period of time?
12 A. Yes, he did.
13 Q. And -
14 A. And stated that during the year 1983, the center of his
15 operation was the Mena Airport.
16 Q. So it's even likely that organized crime or some type of
17 entity would have been the recipient of such large amounts of
18 cocaine, would it not?
19 A. I've never even known of a dealer who could handle that
21 Q. Then, in your opinion as a professional law enforcement
22 officer, you would not think it unreasonable for Barry Seal to
23 bring drugs into Mena and sell those drugs to organized crime?
24 A. No. Whether it's true or not, it has a lot of explanative
25 value to me. And I don't know who else would take the drugs.
1 Q. Okay.
2 A. It would take tremendous organization to disseminate that
4 Q. Now, let's go back to the case that you were working up
5 that never resulted in any indictments whatsoever. Did the U.S.
6 Attorney, Mr. Fitzhugh, ever tell you that a federal judge
7 wouldn't allow these cases to be presented?
8 A. The meeting that I had with him at the first grand jury
9 session that I had testified before in Fayetteville, during that
10 meeting, when we were discussing possible misdemeanor charges,
11 he told me that we might get an indictment, and we probably
12 could get an indictment, but a federal judge would never let it
13 get to court, and we would be wasting our time.
14 Q. Who is Matt Fleming?
15 A. Matt Fleming was an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
16 Q. In the Fort smith Office?
17 A. In the Fort Smith Office.
18 Q. Did he ever tell you that you had enough evidence for a
19 conspiracy case against the individuals at Mena?
20 A. During one of our meetings that I and others were present
21 at, Matt Fleming and Mike Fitzhugh discussed in our presence the
22 charges that they might want to pursue to the grand jury. Mike
23 Fitzhugh said that he thought we had a good conspiracy case,
24 that he was going to try to get an indictment on during the next
25 session. But he reviewed and discussed with us the merits of
1 aiding and abetting a case as opposed to conspiracy, and thought
2 that -- and asked us if we would approve that. He said it's --
3 the penalty is just the same, very similar, and that it would be
4 easier to handle in court. And in that session, I believe one
5 other, Matt Fleming told him that he thought the conspiracy case
6 would be -- you could go with. And that, I believe, Larry
7 Carver with the DEA was at -- in one of those sessions with us,
9 Q. Did the deputy foreman of the grand jury ever express
10 concerns to you about a coverup or not being able to get the
11 evidence they needed?
12 A. Yes.
13 Q. And who was that?
14 A. That was P.J. Pitts, Patty Pitts.
15 Q. And basically what did she tell you?
16 A. She was -- had expressed concern that they weren't being
17 allowed to investigate the Mena Airport. That Mike Fitzhugh
18 wasn't giving them the evidence that they needed to have, and
19 wasn't giving them the witnesses they needed to have. She felt
20 like that they were being hindered. That they wanted to indict,
21 but were being kept back from it. And that what she finally
22 realized was that he was asking for -- the indictments that he
23 was asking them to give, he had not given the evidence on. She
24 stated that they wanted to indict for conspiracy. But he --
25 when it come up for vote, what he presented to them was a case
1 for cocaine actually being there at the Mena Airport, which we
2 never proved. And he never gave them the opportunity to indict
3 for conspiracy. I believe that's the gist of what -- and money
4 laundering. Money laundering was a big thing. They never got
5 the evidence on money laundering.
6 Q. Did the FBI come to Mena and warn you not to screw up the
7 CIA operation?
8 A. I'm not sure what the purpose was for their appearance.
9 Floyd Hayes and Tom Ross were the FBI agents assigned to the Hot
10 Springs Office. This was a period in 1987, which I wasn't
11 investigating. I had it behind me, and didn't want to mess with
12 it anymore, and I had other cases to go on to, and heard all of
13 Barry Seal I wanted to hear. And there was some new activity at
14 the airport with the appearance of what appeared to be an
15 Australian business by the name of Southern Cross, and C-130's
16 had appeared at the Mena Airport. And this was right on the
17 heels of Barry Seal's assassination and the 123 being there. So
18 there was almost an unconscious association. And I still didn't
19 want to mess with it. I didn't see a crime. If you're not
20 going to show me a crime, don't expect me to investigate, was my attitude
21 at the time. And the two agents showed up one Friday
22 afternoon and asked me to -- or to have coffee with me. And we
23 met at a local coffee shop, and they explained that a friend of
24 theirs at the Hot Springs Airport, who is -- was in the CIA, and
25 they had checked on it and confirmed that he was with the CIA,
1 and that he was a source of theirs, had come to them stating
2 that he received a telephone call from a current CIA member in
3 Miami who was involved with the Southern Air Transport
4 operation. And the Miami agent told the Hot Springs Airport
5 contact that they had something going on at the Mena Airport
6 involving Southern Air Transport, and what had been going on at
7 Southern Air Transport. And they didn't want us to screw it up
8 like we had the last one.
9 At that time Oliver North was being intensely investigated.
10 And I was under the impression that he was being investigated
11 for illegal activity that did take place, whether he was
12 involved or not. And I felt like the FBI was telling me that
13 there may be illegal activity going on here. When I asked them
14 why they were telling me, they said they just wanted me to know.
15 And I asked specifically, "Do we need to investigate
17 it?" They said they didn't know. I felt like I was being --
18 kind of requested to keep an eye on it, which I did, and kept
19 notes, and pretty much unwillingly followed it for a while. And
20 then, later on, when they were asked about that conversation,
21 they both denied it.
22 Q. As a law enforcement officer, how did you feel after
23 investigating the situation at Mena for a number of years and
24 nothing ever happened?
25 A. I've got a lot of different feelings. Bitterness is
1 certainly one of them, because if there was something there that
2 they didn't want investigated, all they ever had to do was tell
3 me to take a hike, and I would never have asked any questions.
4 We have operations all the time -- our own agents in the State
5 Police come into Mena and do undercover operations and don't
6 tell me. I don't need to know, and I don't want to know. I
7 don't get put on an investigation investigating my own people
8 and wasting my time. I could have quit anytime.
9 A local law enforcement officer came to me at one point
10 a couple of years ago and asked if they could put some kind of
11 group together of law enforcement agencies to try to contact
12 somebody, to lobby, or whatever, because they just didn't feel
13 like busting somebody for an ounce of marijuana, when they felt
14 like there were -they knew that so much cocaine transportation
15 had gone unpunished with -- when there was evidence to pursue
16 it. I don't know how to explain it. It's not a good feeling to
17 be used that way.
18 Q. In other words, you feel that you were used in this entire
19 operation, and that the responsible officials never intended to
20 pursue any criminal charges against responsible people?
21 A. That's absolutely the way I feel. At one time we were
22 trying to get Colonel Goodwin's name on the 6-E list so I could
23 brief him as to what I was doing with what I thought was a grand
24 jury investigation. In a conference room at State Police
25 Headquarters in Little Rock, I called Mike Fitzhugh and -- to
1 ask him if I could tell the Colonel the status of the
2 investigation, and he said no. And I asked him if there was a
3 grand jury investigation, and he paused for a minute and said
4 no, said there wasn't a grand jury investigation. And this was
5 after I thought I had been involved in one for probably a year
6 and a half at that time and had been keeping secrets. You know,
7 at least he could tell me that I'm not involved in a grand jury
9 MR. BRYANT: Let's go off the record.
10 (Off-the record.)
11 MR. BRYANT: That's all. Thank you.
12 (WHEREUPON, at 3:45 p.m., the taking of the
13 above entitled deposition was concluded.)