Chip Tatum: George Bush and the Boys
Published: 01 October 2014
In 1991, President Bush bristled at a flurry of news accounts that questioned the business ethics of three of his sons. Bush said the news media should be ashamed of the ''muckraking'' they have done into his children's business affairs. ''All of a sudden, for strange reasons people are trying to suggest that these kids are less than honest, and it really burns me up,'' Bush said. ''There's no validity to it. They go around and around the track trying to find dirt, and I don't like it,'' he said. ''The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing.'' Bush did not cite specifics. "The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing," Bush complained. "They [the boys] have a right to make a living, and their relationships are appropriate," added a White House spokeswoman in June 1992.
I guess it seems only fair to take a look at his family. Over the years stories have periodically surfaced chronicling the individual business antics of the ex- president's sons -- each riding comfortably through life in the slipstream of his father's growing power and influence.
Although a handful of good reporters have diligently been digging through business records for years, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family's.
Instead of criticizing reporters, the ex-president might more wisely begin listening to those in government who have watched his sons with mounting worry. A years ago, I sat across a desk from a Secret Service agent who had been assigned to Bush-family security. I rattled off the names of a half-dozen questionable characters who had found their way into business deals with the Bush boys. How had these characters been allowed to get even close to the ex-president's sons?
The agent slumped back in his chair and sighed. "We warn them," he said in a whisper. "But that's all we can do. We can't stop these kids from associating with someone they want to be with. All we can do after warning them is to sweep these guys with metal detectors when they come around."
What follows is a list of what should be a fathers concerns about his sons.
George Walker Bush
None of George Bush's offspring is more his father's son than George W. Bush. George Jr., or "Shrub" as I have refered to him, began his own Texas oil career in the mid-1970s when he formed Bush Exploration. Like the business dealings of his brothers, George's company was not a success, and it was rescued in 1983 by another oil company, Spectrum 7, run by several staunch and well-heeled Reagan-Bush supporters. But by mid-1986, a soft oil market found Spectrum also near bankruptcy.
Many oil companies went belly-up during that time. But Spectrum had one asset the others lacked -- the son of the vice-president. Rescue came in 1986 in the form of Harken Energy, just in the nick of time. Harken absorbed Spectrum, and, in the process, Junior got $600,000 worth of Harken stock in return for his Spectrum shares. He also won a lucrative consulting contract and stock options. In all, the deal would put well over $1 million in his pocket over the next few years -- even though Harken itself lost millions.
Harken Energy was formed in 1973 by two oilmen who would benefit from a successful covert effort to destabilize Australia's Labor Party government (which had attempted to shut out foreign oil exploration). A decade later, Harken was sold to a new investment group headed by New York attorney Alan G. Quasha, a partner in the firm of Quasha, Wessely & Schneider. Quasha's father, a powerful attorney in the Philippines, had been a staunch supporter of then-president Ferdinand Marcos. William Quasha had also given legal advice to two top officials of the notorious Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, a CIA operation.
After the sale of Harken Energy in 1983, Alan Quasha became a director and chairman of the board. Under Quasha, Harken suddenly absorbed Junior's struggling Spectrum 7 in 1986. The merger immediately opened a financial horn of plenty and reversed Junior's fortunes. But like his brother Jeb, Junior seemed unconcerned about the characters who were becoming his benefactors. Harken's $25 million stock offering in 1987, for example, was underwritten by a Little Rock, Arkansas, brokerage house, Stephens, Inc., (Jackson Stephens is tied heavily to the Clinton's.) which placed the Harken stock offering with the London subsidiary of Union Bank -- a bank that had surfaced in the scandal that resulted in the downfall of the Australian Labor government in 1976 and, later, in the Nugan Hand Bank scandal. (It was also Union Bank, according to congressional hearings on international money laundering, that helped the now-notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International skirt Panamanian money-laundering laws by flying cash out of the country in private jets, and that was used by Ferdinand Marcos to stash 325 tons of Philippine gold around the world.)
Stephens, Inc., also helped introduce the BCCI virus into US banking in 1978 when it arranged the sale of Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia to BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan. (The head of Stephens, Inc., Jackson Stephens, is a member of President Bush's exclusive "Team 100," a group of 249 wealthy individuals who have contributed at least $100,000 each to the GOP's presidential-campaign committee. He was also friends with Akansas Gov. William J. Clinton)
If any of these associations raised questions in the mind of George Bush, Jr., he had little incentive to voice them. Besides getting Harken stock through the deal, Junior was paid $80,000 a year as a consultant (until 1989, when his wages were increased to $120,000). He was also allowed to borrow $180,375 from the company at very low interest rates. In 1989 and 1990, according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Harken's board "forgave" $341,000 in loans to its executives. In addition, Junior took advantage of the company's ultraliberal executive stock purchase plan, which allowed him to buy Harken stock at 40 percent below market value.
Such lavish executive compensation would suggest a company doing quite well indeed. But in reality, Harken had little going for itself. One Wall Street analyst called Harken's web of insider stock deals and mounting debt "a lot of jiggery-pokery." Harken was not making money and could not have continued into 1990 without at least some means of convincing lenders and investors that the company would soon find a lot of oil.
Suddenly, in January 1990, Harken Energy became the talk of the Texas oil industry. The company with no offshore-oil-drilling experience beat out a more-established international conglomerate, Amoco, in bagging the exclusive contract to drill in a promising new offshore oil field for the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain. The deal had been arranged for Harken by two former Stephens, Inc., brokers. A company insider claims the president's son did not initiate the deal -- but feels that his presence in the firm helped with the Bahrainis. "Hell, that's why he's on the damn board," the insider says. "...You say, 'By the way, the president's son sits on our board.' You use that. There's nothing wrong with that."
Junior has told acquaintances conflicting stories about his own involvement in the deal. He first claimed that he had "recused" himself from the deal; "George said he left the room when Bahrain was being discussed 'because we can't even have the appearance of having anything to do with the government.' He was into a big rant about how unfair it was to be the president's son. He said, 'I was so scrupulous I was never in the room when it was discussed.'"
Junior alternately claimed, to reporters for the Wall Street Journal and D Magazine, that he had opposed the arrangement. But the company insider says, to the contrary, that Junior was excited about the Bahrain deal. "Like any member of the board, he was thrilled," the associate says. "His attitude was, 'Holy shit, what a great deal!'"
Through the Bahrain deal, the ties between BCCI and Harken Energy grew tighter. Sheikh Khalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain and brother of the emir, was also a shareholder in BCCI -- and it was Khalifah who played the key role in selecting Harken for the job. Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, in turn, was a business associate of BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan; he bought a chunk of Harken's stock and placed his representative, Talat Othman, on Harken Energy's board of directors.
Did Junior or any of the other Harken Energy executives trade on the Bush name in these speculative business deals? None of the principals will answer questions. But this much is known: after the Harken-Bahrain deal was settled, Othman was added to the list of fifteen Arabs who met with President George Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft three times in 1990 -- once just two days after Iraq invaded Kuwait -- while serving on Harken's board of directors.
The promise of hitting it big in the oil-rich gulf was certainly critical for Harken. News of the Bahrain deal kept investors buying stock and lenders making loans. Still, Harken had nowhere near the capital required for such a large offshore operation halfway around the world. This required real money. But not to worry: On call from thr President to his "friends" took care of that. The billionaire Bass brothers stepped up to the plate and said they'd be happy to underwrite the cost of the drilling in return for a piece of the action. (Robert Bass is a member of President Bush's Team 100; he and other Bass family members have contributed $226,000 to George, Sr.'s, cause since 1988.)
But even well-heeled friends like the Bass brothers could not protect Harken from the troubles of the world. Just four months after the Bahrain deal was sealed, storm clouds developed over the gulf region, threatening the oil-exploration deal. In May 1990, the U.S. State Department sent a chilling but still classified report to Scowcroft. The report warned that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was out of control and was threatening his neighbors:
May 16, 1990
Attached is a paper containing a list of options for responding to recent actions and statements by the Government of Iraq. ...We ask that you pass this paper to Robert Gates [CIA] for his review.
Under "options" the memo suggested:
Ban Oil Purchases: The largest benefit Iraq receives from the US is through our oil purchases...
PRO -- A total ban on oil purchases would have some short-term impact.
CON -- Such action might also have an impact on US Oil prices.
Oil companies had learned, during the years of the long Iran-Iraq war, that trouble in the gulf hurts companies with oil interests because, for one thing, at the first sound of a rifle shot in the gulf region, Lloyds of London jacks up insurance rates on oil tankers and company installations. The "wartime" rates are very high and cut deeply into company profits and investor confidence. If things really get out of hand, pipelines are destroyed and waterways are mined.
The secret memo augured ill for Harken's fledgling venture. To compound matters, that same month, Harken's own financial advisers at Smith Barney produced a hand-wringing report voicing alarm at the company's rapidly deteriorating financial condition. (A former company official stated that Harken owed more than $150 million to banks and other creditors at the time.) Since Harken wasn't producing anything, it was hard to find a revenue stream, unless you count the river of fees, stock options, and salaries running into the pockets of Shrub and other top Harken executives. Shrub, as a member of Harken's restructuring committee, could not have been ignorant of the report, since the board had met in May and worked directly with the Smith Barney consultants.
In June 1990, from advise of his father, The President, Shrub suddenly unloaded the bulk of his Harken stock -- 212,140 shares -- for a tidy $848,560. A former business associate says that Shrub's motivation was his desire to buy an expensive new house in Dallas, for which he wanted to pay cash. The June 1990 transaction was an insider stock sale, and security laws required that it be reported no later than July 10, 1990. But Shrub filed no such report, at least not then.
Then, in August, Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait, and Harken shares plummeted 25 percent. Shrub would have lost $212,140 if he'd waited to sell his shares until then. Still, he didn't file his SEC disclosure until seven months later, in March 1991 -- well after U.S. troops had finished fighting and the gulf war had moved off the front pages. Harken stock rebounded briefly, but quickly collapsed again.
Were government secrets discussed, sure they were, both directly and indirectly, that gave Harken Energy a leg up in exploiting the Bahrain deal. The White House declined to respond. If Shrub traded on exclusive, nonpublic, insider information, he committed a gross violation of SEC rules. Taken together, the company's critical need for success in its Bahraini deal and a possible oil embargo to be imposed by his father provided Shrub with strong motivation to bail out of Harken stock before the public discovered either piece of news. (SEC spokesman John Heine said he was unaware of any enforcement action.)
The folks at Harken Energy weren't the only ones in Texas taking care of Shrub during the 1980s. He was appointed the managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, even though his partnership contribution was only a fraction of the team's purchase price. Among those coughing up the money to buy the Rangers were William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, major contributors to the his father s campaign who had also been in on the rescue of Shrub's oil company.
Shrub doesn't deny that being a Bush has helped him become a millionaire. "I recognize what my talents are and what my weaknesses are," he told Texas reporters. "I don't get hung up on it. Being George Bush's son has its pluses and minuses in some people's minds. In my thinking, it's a plus."
You can read about the flawed SEC conclusion in Wikipedia here: HARKEN SCANDAL
The controversy is discussed in the 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11. In another documentary, Orwell Rolls in His Grave, one of the responders, Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity said that his organization brought this controversy on April 4, 2000, seven months before the 2000 U.S. presidential election, but the mainstream media "chose not to report the story".
John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush
After graduating from Texas University, Jeb Bush was approached by his father, then CIA Director. to accept a position at a small Texas based bank, Texas Commerce Bank. James A. Baker (Of the White House Fame) convinced Lady Bird Johnson (of LBJ FAME) to open a branch of her Texas Commercial Bank in Venezuela, and send John Ellis there to spearhead the operation. Jeb was more than a mere bank officer. He was Texas Commercial Bank’s point man in Caracas, charged with setting up their Venezuela operation. Jeb would be instrumental in setting up banking to facilitate the oil and drug industry in Venezuela and Colombia. Jeb’s new relationship with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel led him to the conclusion that it would be wise to ally with other growing cartels. He traveled to Colombia and met with members of the Cali Cartel or Zapos as the would be known. This is where Jeb made his first, or second, fortune. Jeb built the assets of Venezuelan branch of Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas with the cartels monies touting they were big oil assets for two years before settling in Miami, in 1980, home of the cartels North American operations. In the next few years, financial support flowed to Jeb through Miami's right-wing Cuban community. Republican party politics and a series of business scandals -- including Medicaid fraud and shady S&L deals -- were inextricably intertwined. A former federal prosecutor told MJ that, when he looked into Jeb's lucrative business dealings with a now-fugitive Cuban, he considered two possibilities -- Jeb was either crooked or stupid. At the time, he concluded Jeb was merely stupid.
Jeb and Armando Codina
Shortly after arriving in Miami, Jeb was hired by Cuban-American developer Armando Codina to work at his Miami development company posing as an agent leasing office space. A couple of years later, Jeb and Codina became business partners, and in 1985 they purchased an office building in a deal partly financed by a savings and loan that later failed.
The $4.56 million loan, from Broward Federal Savings in Sunrise, Florida, was granted in such a way that neither Codina's nor Bush's name appeared on the loan papers as the borrowers. A third man, J. Edward Houston, borrowed the $4.56 million from Broward and then re-lent it to the Bush partnership. When federal regulators closed Broward Savings in 1988, they found the loan, which had been secured by the Bush partnership, in default.
As Jeb's father was finishing his second term as vice-president and running for the presidency, federal regulators had two options: to get Jeb Bush and his partner to repay the loan, or to foreclose on their office building. But regulators came up with a third solution. After reappraising the building, regulators decided it wasn't worth as much as the loan which was owed for it as they bought a fake appraisal for the initial loan. The regulators reduced the amount owed by Bush and his partner from $4.56 million to just $500,000. The pair paid that amount and were allowed to keep their office building. Taxpayers picked up the tab for the unpaid $4 million.
After the Broward Savings deal was revealed, Jeb described himself and his partner as "victims of circumstances."
Jeb and Camilo Padrera
By 1984, Jeb had been made chairman of the Dade County Republican party, and it was as Republican party chief that he nuzzled up to con man Camilo Padreda. Padreda was serving as Dade County GOP finance chairman and had raised money for the party from Miami's Cuban community. (He had also been a counterintelligence officer for deposed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.) Padreda made his living as a developer who specialized in deals with the corrupt Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1986, he hired Jeb as the leasing agent for a vacant commercial-office building, which Padreda had built with $1.4 million in federal loans -- loans approved by HUD officials, oddly enough, even though they knew there was already a glut of vacant office space in Miami.
Like so many of those who would attach themselves to the Bush sons over the years, Padreda brought some hefty luggage with him. In 1982, four years before teaming up with Jeb, Padreda, along with another right-wing Cuban exile, Hernandez Cartaya, was indicted and accused of looting Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas. The federal indictment charged that the pair had embezzled over $500,000 from the thrift. (Cartaya was also charged with drug smuggling, money laundering, and gun running.) But the Jefferson Savings case would never go to trial.
Soon after the indictment, FBI officials got a call from someone at the CIA warning the agents that Cartaya was one of their own -- a veteran of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion -- according to a prosecutor who worked on the case. In short order, the charges against Padreda were dropped and the charges against Cartaya were reduced to a single count of tax evasion. (Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Sanford was furious and filed a demand with the CIA, under the Freedom of Information Act, for all documents relating to the agency's interference in his case. The CIA, citing national-security reasons, denied Sanford's request.)
In 1989, Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton wrote about Jefferson Savings and Cartaya in a series of stories alleging that CIA operatives and contractors had systematically misused at least twenty-six savings and loans during the 1980s as part of a secret program to fund illegal "off-the-shelf" covert operations, particularly those aiding the Nicaraguan contras. (CIA officials denied the charge, but admitted to the House intelligence Committee in 1990 that former CIA operatives had been working at four of the S&Ls named in Brewton's article. A CIA spokesman claimed that agency operatives had done nothing illegal.)
The Jefferson Savings affair occurred four years before Jeb Bush met Padreda, and it is possible he missed earlier reports. But he could hardly have passed over the next batch of stories involving Padreda's questionable practices, because they were spread across the front pages of Miami's papers in 1985, just months before the two teamed up. These stories, in Jeb's hometown paper, alleged that Padreda had improperly influenced a local politician -- the Dade County manager, to be precise, who'd been made a secret partner when Padreda ran into trouble getting a parcel of land rezoned. The property was promptly rezoned, and the county official made a quick $127,000 profit when Padreda, in turn, "sold" it to an offshore Padreda partnership. That partnership was controlled from Panama by a fugitive Miami attorney, who had already been indicted for laundering drug money. (The official resigned, but Padreda was not charged in the case.)
Yet the 1985 scandal did not seem to lessen Jeb's enthusiasm for his partner in crime, Camilo Padreda. Jeb enthusiastically accepted the task of finding tenants for Padreda's empty HUD-financed office building. Padreda, the government officials involved, and Jeb all refused to answer questions about the scandal. But of allegations that Padreda engaged in illegal behavior, there remains no doubt. In 1989, Padreda plead guilty to charges that he defrauded HUD of millions of dollars during the 1980s. The money was never recovered but regulators did see a stream of cash going to Venezuela and back into a Texas Bank.
Jeb and Miguel Recarey
With Miami awash in empty office space in 1986, it was no small event when bagged International Medical Centers as a key tenant for Padreda's HUD-financed building. IMC, which leased nearly all the space in Padreda's vacant building, was at the time one of the nation's fastest-growing health-maintenance organizations (HMO) and had become the largest recipient of federal Medicare funds.
IMC was run by Cuban-American Miguel Recarey, a character with a host of idiosyncrasies. He carried a 9-mm Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol under his suit coat and kept a small arsenal of AR-15 and Uzi assault rifles at his Miami estate, where his bedroom was protected by bullet-proof windows and a steel door. It apparently wasn't his enemies Recarey feared so much as his friends. He had a long-standing relationship with Miami Mafia godfather Santo Trafficante, Jr., and had participated in the illfated, CIA-inspired mob assassination plot against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s. (Associates of Recarey add that Trafficante was the money behind Recarey's business ventures.)
Recarey's brother, Jorge, also had ties to the CIA. So it was no surprise that IMC crawled with former spooks. Employee résumés were studded with references to the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Cuban Intelligence agency; there was even a KGB agent, An agent with the U.S. Office of Labor Racketeering in Miami would later describe IMC as a company in which "a criminal enterprise interfaced with intelligence operations."
Recarey also surrounded himself with those who could influence the political system. He hired Jeb Bush as IMC's "real-estate consultant." Though Jeb would never close a single real-estate deal, his contract called for him to earn up to $250,000 (he actually received $75,000). Jeb's real value to Recarey was not in real estate but in his help in facilitating the largest HMO Medicare fraud in U.S. history.
Jeb and his father worked with top Health and Human Services officials in Washington in 1985 to lobby for a special exemption from HHS rules for IMC. This highly unusual waiver was critical to Recarey's scam. Without it, the company would have been limited to a Medicare patient load of 50 percent. The balance of IMC's patients would have had to be private -- that is, paying -- customers. Recarey preferred the steady flow of federal Medicare money to the thought of actually running a real HMO. Former HHS chief of staff McClain Haddow (who later became a paid consultant to IMC) testified in 1987 Jeb that directly phoned then-HHS secretary Margaret Heckler and that it was that call that swung the decision to approve IMCs waiver.
Jeb admits lobbying HHS for the waiver, but denies talking to Secretary Heckler -- and denies as well the charge that his fathers call won the HHS exemption. "I just asked that IMC get a fair hearing," said later. After the IMC scandal broke in 1987, Heckler left the country, having been appointed U.S. ambassador to Ireland, a post she held until 1989. (Heckler is now a private citizen living in Virginia. We left a detailed message with her secretary, outlining our questions, but she declined to respond.)
In any case, the highly unusual waiver by federal officials allowed IMCs Medicare patient load to swell -- to 80 percent -- and the money poured in. At its height in 1986, IMC was collecting over $30 million a month in Medicare payments; in all, the company would collect $1 billion from Medicare.
Despite Jeb's involvement, trouble began brewing for IMC when a low-level HHS special agent in Miami, Leon Weinstein, discovered that Recarey was defrauding Medicare through overcharges, false invoicing, and outright embezzlement. Weinstein had been following Recarey's activities since 1977, and as early as 1983 he believed he had enough information to put together a case. However, he found his HHS superiors less than receptive; they took no action on Weinstein's information.
But Weinstein kept digging and in 1986 renewed his investigation of Recarey and IMC -- and again his HHS superiors blocked the probe. "Washington just refused to pursue my evidence," Weinstein, now retired reiterated in testimony . "And they made it perfectly clear that I was not to pursue IMC. When I did, they threatened me and threatened my job."
Weinstein dug in his heels. "I had them this time. I told my superiors I would fight this time because I had nothing to fear. I had just reached retirement age. They immediately backtracked," he says. Weinstein was allowed to continue his investigation -- though HHS still took no formal action against Recarey. Eventually Weinstein turned to Congressmen Barney Frank (D-NY) and Pete Stark (D-CA) with his information, sparking congressional hearings into the scandal.
Had it been up to HHS, Recarey would still be running his Medicare racket. But by chance, the now-disbanded U.S. Miami Organized Crime Strike Force was also investigating Recarey. (Recarey was bribing union officials in order to get them to sign workers up as patients at IMC, apparently so that IMC could meet its reduced non-Medicare patient requirements of 20 percent.) "We didn't know anything about the HHS investigation," former Organized Crime Strike Force special attorney Joe DeMaria says. "Recarey was bribing union officials.... But HHS never contacted us or told us anything."
Before Recarey's trial on bribery charges began, DeMaria's investigators also caught Recarey using his former spooks to wiretap IMC employees in an effort to discover who was talking to federal agents. DeMaria had Recarey indicted a second time, for the illegal listening devices. During Recarey's trial on the bribery charge, a lawyer who handled the bribe money testified that the money IMC gave him was not bribe money but "commissions" he had earned while doing work for the company. "See, that commission thing was Recarey's MO. They didn't call them bribes, they called them commissions," DeMaria explains.
After he was convicted, Recarey resigned from IMC and was immediately replaced by John Ward. (Ward had been law partner to Reagan-Bush campaign manager John Sears. And Sears had also been a lobbyist for IMC.) But Recarey's Medicare scam would never get to a public courtroom airing. Before his trial on the wiretap charge, Recarey skipped the country. His getaway was remarkable: just in time for his flight, the normally tight-fisted IRS expedited a $2.2 million income-tax refund, which Recarey claimed he had coming.
The tax refund was a windfall for Recarey. "Yeah, that was his getaway money," says a former IRS investigator who worked in the Miami office at the time but asked not to be named. "Though there is a special IRS procedure to expedite tax refunds for companies in financial distress, I don't think you can overlook the possibility that there was influence from the administration."
Recarey's last act before becoming a fugitive was an attempt to wire $30,000 into the bank account of Washington consultant and lobbyist Nick Panuzio -- whose partner was then managing George Bush's 1988 presidential campaign. (The wire transfer failed only because, in his haste, Recarey had gotten Panuzio's account number wrong.) It was only after Recarey was safely out of the country that the U.S. attorney in Miami -- a political appointee -- filed formal charges of Medicare fraud against him.
Whistle-blower Leon Weinstein retired in disgust from HHS and tried to get the IMC case before a judge by filing a Qui Tam suit. Such suits allow a private citizen to sue to recover money for the government in return for a share of any settlement. In his case, Weinstein named IMC and Recarey as defendants. But HHS continued to fight Weinstein, first challenging his right to bring such a suit and later accusing him of stealing HHS documents before leaving his job. When the courts supported Weinstein, HHS then stepped in, took over his lawsuit, and shouldered him out. The case remains in the courts and is still unresolved.
HHS officials now pursuing the litigation claim that Recarey defrauded the Medicare system of at least $12 million. Leon Weinstein says the government is lowballing the loss and that Recarey's take from his IMC scam could easily be many times that figure.
Since skipping Miami in 1987, Recarey has been living comfortably in Caracas, Venezuela. Thomas Holladay, the consul general of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, said that officials there were aware of Recarey's presence and had formally requested his extradition. "We made a formal request for his extradition," Consul General Holladay says. "But we can't do anything until the Venezuelans turn him over to us, and they have not done that." The conversation then ended abruptly. "You know, I'm really not supposed to be talking to you about this," Holladay says.
Missing Medicare monies (well over $300 million) were traced to the Venezuelan branch of a Texas Based Bank.
Jeb and the Contras
The fact that Recarey was living free in Caracas rather than in shackles at Fort Leavenworth could well be a result of the role IMC may have played in Oliver North's secret contra-supply network. Though members of the House Intelligence Committee claimed they found no reason to believe that Recarey was using IMC's Medicare facilities and funds to aid the contras, the evidence that IMC was involved remains compelling. In 1985, the same year that Jeb Bush was dialing for dollars to HHS officials for IMC, Jeb also hand-carried a letter from Guatemalan physician Dr. Mario Castejon to the White House -- directly to his father's office in the Executive Office Building. Dr. Castejon's letter to Vice President Bush requested U.S. medical aid for the contras. George Bush penned a note back to the doctor, referring him to Lt. Col. Oliver North -- whose pro-contra activities the president now claims he knew little about.
An entry in North's diary reads:
Medical Support System for wounded FDN in Miami -- HMO in Miami has okayed to help all WIA [wounded in action] ... Felix Rodriguez.
(Rodriguez was a former CIA official who advised Vice-President Bush's national-security adviser, Donald Gregg, currently U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Gene Chip Tatum was tasked with running the Military Medevac operation in support of the contras.)
Veteran CIA operative Jose Basulto told the Wall Street Journal in 1987 that he had personally attended meetings at IMC headquarters in Miami along with contra leader Adolfo Calero and Felix Rodriguez. Basulto also said that he had personally brought sick and wounded contras to IMC hospitals in Miami, where they received free medical treatment. Former HHS agent Leon Weinstein is not surprised that Recarey has not been returned to the United States. "My investigation," Weinstein says, "led me to conclude that there may have been a deliberate attempt to obstruct justice...because Recarey, his hospital, and his clinics were treating wounded contras from Nicaragua...and part of the $30 million a month he was given by the government to treat Medicare patients was used to set up field hospitals for the contras."
And we must not forget the controversy that came out of the Iran/Contra hearings and the curious deaths of many of the witnesses just prior to their date to testify. One such witness was a man named Barry Seal, whom George H.W. Bush entrusted Jeb to take care of via his Colombian Connections (The Tatum Chronicles 1985). On February 19, 1986, Barry Seal was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in front of a branch of the Salvation Army on Airline Highway (U.S. 61), where he was required to stay as a condition of his plea bargain, making him an easy target for retaliation. A Colombian hitman Luis Quintero crouched out of sight beside the metal drop box in the parking lot of the Salvation Army center on Airline Highway. Just a few feet away, a big Cadillac Fleetwood was backing up to park. Quintero cradled a MAC-10 submachine gun in his hands. Screwed onto the end of the barrel was a black silencer, the size of a half-used roll of paper towels. As soon as the driver pushed the car door open, Quintero sprang to his feet and rushed across the open space between the drop box and the car. He pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. The .45-caliber MAC-10 spit out a short burst of fire and lead. Quintero fired a dozen rounds in less than a second. Three struck the driver in the head. Three more punched through his chest. The driver slumped over the backrest of the passenger seat, almost as if he'd fallen asleep. The DEA's investigation brought to a violent end. Colombian assassins sent by the Medellín Cartel were apprehended while trying to leave Louisiana soon after Seal's murder.
Jeb and "Manny" Diaz
Manuel C. Diaz, another Jeb Bush business associate, runs a commercial nursery with headquarters in Homestead, Florida. Manny Diaz's previous business sidekick, Charles Keating, Jr., Convicted of 73 counts of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy and was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison. But during Keating's days at the helm of the $6 billion Lincoln Savings, Diaz became a Keating insider, confidant, and beneficiary. For example, in 1987, as federal regulators closed in on his crumbling empire, Keating instructed his attorneys to transfer a large chunk of prime Phoenix real estate to Diaz, for just $1. And right before filing for personal bankruptcy, Keating transferred his $2 million mansion on the island of Cat Cay in the Bahamas to Diaz.
At the same time Diaz was palling around with Keating, Jeb, then serving as Florida's secretary of commerce, arranged a private meeting for Diaz with Florida's Republican governor Bob Martinez. Promptly afterward, Diaz Farms landed a lucrative, $1.72 million, state-highway-landscaping contract -- despite the fact that Diaz had little prior highway-landscaping experience. This raised howls of protest and charges of political influence-peddling from other contractors. But state officials explained that the extraordinary speed in issuing the contract had occurred because the state was anxious to spruce up 113 miles of freeway for the coming visit of the pope.
Did Jeb know about Diaz's business association with Charles Keating? Did he have reason to believe Diaz was qualified for the Florida highway contract that he helped Diaz land?
Well of course he did! Part 2 coming soon