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FTR #703 Interview with Daniel Hopsicker: Catching Up with the “Herd Shot ‘Round the World”

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Intro­duc­tion: In this far-rang­ing dis­cus­sion (con­duct­ed on Super Bowl Sun­day), we exam­ine the tan­gled webs of intrigue envelop­ing the air­port at Venice, Flori­da. Rife with crim­i­nal ele­ments, that small but sig­nif­i­cant air­port was the point of infil­tra­tion for some of the 9/11 hijack­ers. The crim­i­nal milieu that con­trolled Huff­man Avi­a­tion con­tin­ues to hold sway over attempts at purg­ing the ille­gal­i­ty from that envi­ron­ment.

Fur­ther­more, the con­spir­a­to­r­i­al milieu envelop­ing Venice has a deep polit­i­cal his­to­ry of more than 50 years–a his­to­ry inex­tri­ca­bly linked with nation­al secu­ri­ty-relat­ed affairs and scan­dals linked to, among oth­er things, the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy.

After rumi­na­tion about the Super Bowl and links between ele­ments of orga­nized crime, the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and the Nation­al Foot­ball League, the dis­cus­sion turns to Ponzi schemes, the fare of, among oth­ers, for­mer Huff­man Avi­a­tion own­er Art Nadel. Read­ing a book about the Bernie Mad­off scan­dal, Daniel not­ed that Frank DiPas­cali was described as a prob­a­ble mafioso, and yet fol­low-up dis­cus­sion was lack­ing in detail or, for that mat­ter, any real inves­ti­ga­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The pro­gram then reviews Art Nadel’s assump­tion of the own­er­ship of Huff­man Avi­a­tion, as well as the pro­gres­sion of own­er­ship from Nadel to a new col­lec­tion of male­fac­tors, them­selves con­nect­ed to seri­ous finan­cial scan­dals.

It appears that the new own­ers of Huff­man are hid­ing behind “straw men.” King­pin Eugene Gorab is one of the play­ers, along with the Sov­er­eign Wealth fund of Kuwait. Gorab is also asso­ci­at­ed with Bar­ry Stern­licht, at one time the largest own­er of casi­nos in the coun­try!

Gorab’s con­stel­la­tion of Volo com­pa­nies encom­pass­es one Thom Har­row, who played a major role at Pru­den­tial Secu­ri­ties at a time that that ven­er­a­ble fir­m’s secu­ri­ties divi­sion was involved in one of the biggest finan­cial scan­dals to date. Har­row’s lat­est under­tak­ing, a non­prof­it alleged­ly cre­at­ed to pro­vide health­care and ser­vices for the elder­ly, is actu­al­ly involved with the admin­is­tra­tion of pris­ons.

Turn­ing to the sub­ject of the JFK assas­si­na­tion, the broad­cast details the role at the Venice Air­port of Gen­er­al D.H. “Har­ry” Byrd, con­nect­ed to major defense con­trac­tors and an indi­vid­ual whose behav­ior vis a vis the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion is inter­est­ing and–perhaps–suspicious.

Pro­gram High­lighs Include: Gen­er­al Byrd’s own­er­ship of the Texas School Depos­i­to­ry, from which Lee Har­vey Oswald sup­pos­ed­ly fired the shots that killed Pres­i­dent Kennedy; Byrd’s stew­ard­ship of the Civ­il Air Patrol, through which Oswald, chief Gar­ri­son sus­pect David Fer­rie and CIA offi­cer Bar­ry Seal met; Byrd’s curi­ous absence from the coun­try dur­ing the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion; Byrd’s LTV com­pa­ny and its receipt of no-bid defense con­tracts through Oper­a­tion Big Safari; the rela­tion­ship of the Venice Air­port to Stephen L. Ruth, an intel­li­gence offi­cer whose activ­i­ties over­lap the covert oper­a­tions against Cuba, the JFK assas­si­na­tion and the Iran-Con­tra scan­dal; dis­cus­sion of links between the Venice Air­port and the Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group of Gen­er­al Claire Chenault.

1. After rumi­na­tion about the Super Bowl and links between ele­ments of orga­nized crime, the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and the Nation­al Foot­ball League, the dis­cus­sion turns to Ponzi schemes, the fare of, among oth­ers, for­mer Huff­man Avi­a­tion own­er Art Nadel. Read­ing a book about the Bernie Mad­off scan­dal, Daniel not­ed that Frank DiPas­cali was described as a prob­a­ble mafioso, and yet fol­low-up dis­cus­sion was lack­ing in detail or, for that mat­ter, any real inves­ti­ga­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

2. Next, the pro­gram reviews Art Nadel’s assump­tion of the own­er­ship of Huff­man Avi­a­tion, as well as the pro­gres­sion of own­er­ship to a new series of own­ers, them­selves con­nect­ed to finan­cial scan­dals.

The chief lieu­tenant of the new own­er of the for­mer Huff­man Avi­a­tion, who is often named Pres­i­dent of the var­i­ous finan­cial enti­ties of his boss, was at the heart of a Wall Street scan­dal that was—until the finan­cial melt­down last year—the biggest and costli­est scan­dal Wall Street had ever seen.

The name of the new own­er, which a Venice City Attor­ney told the Venice City Coun­cil they had no right to know, is Eugene Gorab.

Gorab, who claimed to be worth more than 100 mil­lion dol­lars in an inter­view with the Sara­so­ta Her­ald Tri­bune last year, made his pile buy­ing and sell­ing hotels and casi­nos.

He worked for a huge­ly suc­cess­ful tycoon named Bar­ry Stern­licht, who, while Gorab was work­ing for him, owned more casi­nos than any­one on the planet.Gorab owns the major­i­ty stake in pri­vate equi­ty fund Green­field Part­ners in Nor­walk Con­necti­cut, just a few exits up the Mer­ritt Park­way from Green­wich, where Fair­field Part­ners helped Bernie Mad­off relieve investors of unwant­ed cap­i­tal.

More inter­est­ing by far is that Gorab owns Clay­ton Hold­ings, a com­pa­ny whose fail­ures in due-dili­gence played a direct role in the multi­bil­lion dol­lar col­lapse of the nation’s hous­ing mar­ket.

Clay­ton Hold­ings is the nation’s largest due-dili­gence com­pa­ny: a firm which is hired by invest­ment hous­es to make sure blocks of loans meet the sell­er’s own stan­dards.

Despite the fact that the under­ly­ing home loans did­n’t get with­in shout­ing dis­tance of meet­ing those qual­i­ty stan­dards, Clay­ton Hold­ings paid off like a slot machine, sign­ing off on the mort­gage invest­ments, the instru­ment of mass destruc­tion which has suc­ceed­ed in bomb­ing the Amer­i­can econ­o­my back to the Stone Age.

Gorab, who did­n’t own Clay­ton Hold­ings until recent­ly, was­n’t respon­si­ble. He bought the com­pa­ny as Clayton’s for­mer Pres­i­dent received immu­ni­ty from New York’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al Andrew Cuo­mo in return for tes­ti­mo­ny about under­writ­ing “excep­tions” his firm’s project man­agers gave its Wall Street accounts. . . .

“From Hedge Funds to Hand­cuffs” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad­Cow­Morn­ingNews; 3/1/2010.

3. It appears that the new own­ers of Huff­man are hid­ing behind “straw men.” King­pin Eugene Gorab is one of the play­ers, along with the Sov­er­eign Wealth fund of Kuwait.

. . . The three lads who say they’re the own­ers of Huff­man Avi­a­tion refuse to release the names of their just-cre­at­ed com­pa­ny’s investors. So how can we say we know Eugene Gorab owns Huff­man Avi­a­tion?

Sim­ple: Gorab, for starters, already owns Volo Avi­a­tion in Sara­so­ta. He has, give or take, $100 mil­lion in avi­a­tion invest­ments, which is $100 mil­lion more than the three lads claim­ing to be the own­ers. More impor­tant­ly, the trio were all work­ing for Gorab when they bought it.

And he did­n’t fire them for com­pet­ing with the com­pa­ny where they work.

Final­ly, we know Gorab owns Huff­man because, even though there’s a new front man at Volo Avi­a­tion at the Sara­so­ta Air­port, he’s Gorab’s chief lieu­tenant, the Pres­i­dent of Gorab’s Volo.

Eugene Gorab is adept at mov­ing the pea around under the cup. We would have expect­ed no less. . . .

Idem.

4. Gorab (and com­pa­ny) also were involved (through Volo Hold­ings) with one Thom Har­row, anoth­er indi­vid­ual with involve­ment in enor­mous finan­cial shenani­gans. Pru­den­tial Securites–with which he was prin­ci­pal­ly involved–was the epi­cen­ter of a mas­sive scan­dal

Thom Har­row, most recent­ly list­ed as Pres­i­dent of Volo Hold­ings, has been an offi­cer of a myr­i­ad of Gorab’s shell com­pa­nies, which change with bewil­der­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty, which may well be the point. Exam­ple: the “own­er­ship of Volo Sara­so­ta just changed hands, again.

Har­row now oper­ates at least four FBO’s (includ­ing the one in Sara­so­ta) under the ban­ner of APP, which stands for Air­side Prop­er­ty Part­ners.

Air­side Prop­er­ty Part­ners, in turn, is owned by Air­side Investors, which owns the web­site airproperty.net.

Only God, and the state of Delaware, knows who owns Air­side Investors. But if their names were to mag­i­cal­ly appear, we bet the name “Gorab” would be there.

Thom Har­row, it, turns out, has had an inter­est­ing, and some might say—hell we’ll say it—checkered career.

Remem­ber the old TV com­mer­cials for The Rock? Pru­den­tial Secu­ri­ties? Their com­mer­cials all end­ed with this catchy phrase: “The most impor­tant thing we earn is your trust.”

As it turns out, it was­n’t true.

Har­row was a senior exec­u­tive at Pru­den­tial Secu­ri­ties dur­ing the late 80’s and ear­ly 90’s, while exec­u­tives and bro­kers at the com­pa­ny were busi­ly engaged in what reporters— in those far more inno­cent times—called the largest fraud in US his­to­ry.

Pru­den­tial bro­kers and exec­u­tives defraud­ed investors of $8 bil­lion.

No oth­er Wall Street scan­dal to that time had come even close to touch­ing the deba­cle at Pru­den­tial. Mike Mil­liken (junk-bonds, remem­ber?) at Drex­el Burn­ham, was a pik­er by com­par­i­son, set­tled for $650 mil­lion, a pit­tance by the $8 bil­lion gold stan­dard Pru­den­tial was set­ting.

Accord­ing to NEWSWEEK:

“In this top­sy-turvy world due dili­gence was a sham, bro­kers were hound­ed — even fired — for ques­tion­ing the qual­i­ty of deals, and no exec­u­tive dis­played much inter­est in know­ing what was real­ly going on.”

Does that sound famil­iar? Due dili­gence was a sham? And now Thom Har­row’s part­ner owns the com­pa­ny doing more due dili­gence than any oth­er.

Kurt Eichen­wald cov­ered the sto­ry for TIME mag­a­zine, then wrote a book about the scan­dal called, appro­pri­ate­ly enough, “Ser­pent on the Rock.”

Accord­ing to a review of his book in the New York Times:

“Eichen­wald pre­sent­ed an appalling indict­ment of man­agers who did dozens of deals with a con­vict­ed embez­zler, spent mil­lions of investors’ dol­lars on lav­ish trips to places like Can­cun and Maui, and made cozy arrange­ments with devel­op­ers to make them­selves rich no mat­ter how their clients fared.”

But wait...We get ahead of our­selves. In fair­ness, Thom Har­row him­self was­n’t charged with a crime. He deserves the ben­e­fit of the doubt. He might have been one of the good guys who stuck around to clean up the mess. . . .

Idem.

5. Har­row is cur­rent­ly involved with a “non­prof­it” that is osten­si­bly involved with pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion, health­care and senior cit­i­zen ser­vices.

. . . Thom Har­row is, cur­rent­ly, the Trea­sur­er of a Baton Rouge Louisiana-based non-prof­it char­i­ty called Prov­i­dent Resources Group.

Prov­i­den­t’s lit­er­a­ture shows them to be involved in pro­vid­ing resources (hence the name, we assume) in the fol­low­ing fields:

CitiS­tate (sic), Edu­ca­tion, Health­care, Hous­ing, and Senior Liv­ing. . . .

Idem.

6. Har­row’s com­pa­ny is actu­al­ly involved with admin­is­ter­ing pri­vate pris­ons!

. . . When we real­ized what the com­pa­ny actu­al­ly does, it came as some­thing of a shock. When not “active­ly striv­ing in pur­suit of its char­i­ta­ble mis­sion, they build and run pri­vate pris­ons.

Eleven Pri­vate Cor­rec­tion­al Facil­i­ties, to be exact, in Texas, Okla­homa, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia„ and Alas­ka.

That “less­en­ing the bur­den” of gov­ern­ment in this fash­ion was some­one’s idea of a “char­i­ta­ble mis­sion” came as a shock to the Wall Street Jour­nal as well. The paper report­ed on Prov­i­dent in a May 1, 2002 sto­ry under the head­line:

“Char­i­ties Said To Be Play­ing Enron-Style Part­ner­ship Game.

“At the D. Ray James Prison in south Geor­gia, the inmates have been kept behind bars by all types of law­men: sher­iffs, chiefs of police and more than a few war­dens. But nev­er, until now, have they been kept in jail by a char­i­ty.”

What Prov­i­dent offers the cor­rec­tions world, in the most char­i­ta­ble way, of course, report­ed the Jour­nal is “offer­ing off-the-books financ­ing for pub­lic and pri­vate prison oper­a­tors.”

“Prov­i­dent does this by cre­at­ing spe­cial sub­sidiaries and part­ner­ships that take advan­tage of con­tro­ver­sial account­ing rules and allow its clients to keep debt off of their bal­ance sheets.”

Prov­i­dent “isn’t a con­ven­tion­al char­i­ty. It is run by a group of lawyers, invest­ment bankers and finan­cial con­sul­tants. Lehman Bros. Hold­ings Inc. and oth­er Wall Street titans do its finan­cial work.”

With that “impres­sive fire­pow­er, Prov­i­dent is try­ing to carve a unique niche for itself in the cor­rec­tions world, offer­ing off-the-books financ­ing for pub­lic and pri­vate prison oper­a­tors.”

It has “helped the state of North Car­oli­na and Cor­nell Cos., a for-prof­it prison com­pa­ny, buff their finan­cial pro­files.”

Prov­i­dent “does this by cre­at­ing spe­cial sub­sidiaries and part­ner­ships that take advan­tage of con­tro­ver­sial account­ing rules and allow its clients to keep debt off of their bal­ance sheets.” In exchange for its role, Prov­i­dent “arranges to receive poten­tial­ly lucra­tive fees, some of which it calls exempt from fed­er­al income tax.

In the last nine months Prov­i­dent enti­ties, with help from Lehman, have sold more than $420 mil­lion of debt to investors.” . . .

Idem.

7. Among the past denizens of Venice Air­port was Gen­er­al D.H. “Har­ry” Byrd, com­man­der of the Civ­il Air Patrol, which employed JFK assas­si­na­tion fig­ures David Fer­rie, Lee Har­vey Oswald and Bar­ry Seal. Byrd also owned the Texas School Book Depos­i­to­ry, from which pat­sy Oswald sup­pos­ed­ly fired the shots that killed Kennedy.

Dur­ing the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, Byrd was on Safari in Africa. Upon return­ing, his aero­space busi­ness ben­e­fit­ted from an enor­mous Air Force con­tract­ing pro­gram called Oper­a­tion Big Safari.

Oper­a­tions at the Venice Air­port have involved indi­vid­u­als whose names fig­ure promi­nent­ly in the Kennedy Assas­si­na­tion, for exam­ple Texas oil­man Gen­er­al D. H. (Har­ry) Byrd, own­er of a defense con­trac­tor which in the late 50’s and ear­ly 60’s built and launched Reg­u­lus II cruise mis­siles from the beach direct­ly in front of the Venice Air­port in a pro­gram run out of at Eglin AFB in Florida’s pan­han­dle.

“Vought’s Reg­u­lus II was a Mach 2 capa­ble cruise mis­sile opti­mized for launch from sur­faced sub­marines and oth­er Navy sur­face ves­sels, and lat­er served as a high-speed tar­get drone for oth­er weapon devel­op­ment pro­grams,” com­pa­ny lit­er­a­ture stat­ed.

Byrd’s Chance-Vought Air­craft, lat­er re-named LTV, would become—almost imme­di­ate­ly after the JFK assassination—a prin­ci­pal ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the mas­sive mil­i­tary spend­ing accom­pa­ny­ing the growth of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary involve­ment in the Viet­nam War.

Gen­er­al Byrd, of course, was the own­er of the Texas School Book Depos­i­to­ry in Dal­las, where the War­ren Com­mis­sion alleged Lee Har­vey Oswald fired the shots which killed Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy.

Byrd also ran the Texas and Louisiana Civ­il Air Patrol, at the same time cadets Bar­ry Seal and Lee Har­vey Oswald were meet­ing Kennedy assas­si­na­tion con­spir­a­tor Capt. David Fer­rie at a two-week sum­mer camp of the Louisiana Civ­il Air Patrol at Barks­dale Air Force Base in July of 1955. . . .

On the day of the assas­si­na­tion Byrd was con­ve­nient­ly “away from his desk.”

He was out of the coun­try on a two-month safari in cen­tral Africa. When he returned in Jan­u­ary, his good friend Lyn­don John­son was the new Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, his School Book Depos­i­to­ry build­ing had become famous in his absence, and a huge juicy defense con­tract was wait­ing on his desk, award­ed to his com­pa­ny to build fight­er planes, and to be paid from the 1965 Con­gres­sion­al bud­get… even though it had not yet been approved by Con­gress.

It sounds a lot like Al Capone, who was famous­ly tak­ing some sun down in Mia­mi when the St Valen­tines Day Mas­sacre shook Chica­go. That is, of course, just con­jec­ture. But here’s some­thing that’s not:

We called on a source, now retired, who had worked in the Amer­i­can aero­space indus­try build­ing satel­lites for the NSA for sev­er­al decades.

He might have known Gen­er­al Har­ry Byrd, we fig­ured. He had... in fact, he had worked for him at LTV.

And in between anec­dotes that are col­or­ful, but nei­ther here nor there, he men­tioned that, oh, bye the bye, did we know that

When Byrd’s defense aero­space firm LTV “went big” after the JFK assas­si­na­tion, he told us, it had become a big part of an over­ar­ch­ing Air Force Oper­a­tion…

For years after­ward, he said, every self-respect­ing big-time Air Force defense program—everyone who was any­one, in oth­er words—came under the over­all rubric of an Air Force Oper­a­tion whose declas­si­fied code-name, when he named it, give us pause.

It was called Oper­a­tion Big Safari.

“The War for Con­trol of the Venice Air­port” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad­Cow­Morn­ingNews; 9/8/2009.

8. The broad­cast also dis­cuss­es the deep his­to­ry of the Venice Air­port, involv­ing both evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries run­ning in the direc­tion of Gen­er­al Claire Chenault’s Fly­ing Tigers and an intel­li­gence oper­a­tive named Stephen L. Ruth. These sub­jects are cov­ered at greater length and detail in FTR #708, record­ed 4/4/2010. These and oth­er sub­jects will be cov­ered at greater length in that pro­gram and the writ­ten descrip­tion for it.

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