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FTR #708 Going Deep with Daniel Hopsicker

Lis­ten:
MP3 Side 1 [1] | Side 2 [2]

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram sets forth some of the “deep his­to­ry” of the Venice Air­port, which has long been a hotbed of intel­li­gence activ­i­ty. (It was through this air­port that Mohammed Atta and oth­er 9/11 hijack­ers infil­trat­ed the U.S. Hero­ic inves­tiga­tive reporter Daniel Hop­sick­er has long fol­lowed the web of intrigue that has enveloped the Venice Air­port and the close­ly relat­ed Huff­man Avi­a­tion.)

After a review of some of the back­ground to the OSS-con­nect­ed drug traf­fic that was ram­pant in the Chi­na the­ater dur­ing World War II (from AFA #11) [3], the broad­cast sets forth the deep polit­i­cal his­to­ry of the Venice Air­port. The drug traf­fick­ing that was inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Kuom­intang nation­al secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus [4] under Chi­ang Kai Shek [5] became a sta­ple of OSS vet­er­ans of the Chi­na the­ater, lat­er trans­fer­ring to the fledg­ling CIA [6]. (OSS was Amer­i­ca’s wartime intel­li­gence agency.)

Among the ele­ments that coa­lesced [7] into the post-World War II intel­li­gence-con­nect­ed drug traf­fic was the Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group, the name for Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault’s “Fly­ing Tiger” fight­er squadron [8]. Chen­nault’s group trained at the Venice Airport–home to Huff­man Avi­a­tion, through which Mohamed Atta and oth­er 9/11 hijack­ers infil­trat­ed the Unit­ed States!

Fur­ther updat­ing the goings on at the Venice Air­port, Daniel notes the oper­a­tions of a pow­er­ful, drug-smug­gling intel­li­gence net­work called “The Company”–a com­mon nick­name for the CIA. Avail­able evi­dence strong­ly sug­gests that the net­work over­lapped the agency. (The Com­pa­ny is dis­cussed in AFA #26. [4]) “The Company”–following in the foot­steps of Clair Chen­nault’s operation–also held forth at Venice Air­port!

In his lat­est arti­cle, Daniel ties in a “Com­pa­ny” oper­a­tive named Frank Guz­man with the JFK assas­si­na­tion, as well as activ­i­ties man­i­fest­ed on behalf of “The Com­pa­ny [9].” Own­er [10] of a high per­for­mance jet man­u­fac­tured by Tem­co [11], Guz­man appears to have been an alias [12] for a Cuban asso­ciate of Jack Ruby [12]. Guzman/Villamia was mur­dered in a gang­land style slay­ing [13] in 1979. He had been run­ning a busi­ness [14] that oper­at­ed through the Venice Air­port. Born in Cuba, Guzman/Villamia fled the Island when Cas­tro came to pow­er and appears to have worked for the CIA prop­er after that.

In the con­text of “The Com­pa­ny” and the evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries lead­ing to the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion res­onate with the activ­i­ties of Stephen Ruth [15], anoth­er intel­li­gence-con­nect­ed drug smug­gler whose activ­i­ties over­lapped the Venice air­port.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Review of the death of John Birch, intel­li­gence offi­cer for Claire Chen­nault and the name­sake of the John Birch Soci­ety; review of the use by the U.S. of 90,000 Japan­ese troops in Manchuria as late as 1947!; review of Stephen Ruth’s links to the JFK assas­si­na­tion; review of “The Com­pa­ny’s” links to the JFK assas­si­na­tion; the use of Venice Air­port to smug­gle sur­plus WWII muni­tions to would-be coup­sters in Latin Amer­i­ca.

1. After a review of some of the back­ground to the OSS-con­nect­ed drug traf­fic that was ram­pant in the Chi­na the­ater dur­ing World War II (from AFA #11) [3], the broad­cast sets forth the deep polit­i­cal his­to­ry of the Venice Air­port. The drug traf­fick­ing that was inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Kuom­intang nation­al secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus [4] under Chi­ang Kai Shek [5] became a sta­ple of OSS vet­er­ans of the Chi­na the­ater, lat­er trans­fer­ring to the fledg­ling CIA [6]. (OSS was Amer­i­ca’s wartime intel­li­gence agency.)

Among the ele­ments that coa­lesced [7] into the post-World War II intel­li­gence-con­nect­ed drug traf­fic was the Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group, the name for Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault’s “Fly­ing Tiger” fight­er squadron [8].

Chen­nault’s group trained at the Venice Airport–home to Huff­man Avi­a­tion, through which Mohamed Atta and oth­er 9/11 hijack­ers infil­trat­ed the Unit­ed States!

An inves­ti­ga­tion into sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the sale of the for­mer Huff­man Avi­a­tion has unearthed an explo­sive secret at the heart of an oth­er­wise unre­mark­able avi­a­tion facil­i­ty.

Almost since its incep­tion, the specter of hero­in traf­fick­ing has hung over the air­field which would lat­er become the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port.

Dur­ing World War II, when it was known as the Venice Army Air Field, it was home to the State­side oper­a­tions of a man wide­ly and cred­i­bly accused of using pro­ceeds from inter­na­tion­al hero­in traf­fick­ing to prop up the war machine of a cor­rupt Chi­nese war­lord whose army, even after its defeat, hung on to a lion’s share of South­east Asian real estate which became known as the Gold­en Tri­an­gle.

Con­tem­po­rary news­pa­per clips from the time show that the Venice Air­port has had an extra­or­di­nary six-decade long his­to­ry, and been the scene of covert activ­i­ties includ­ing gun­run­ning, inter­na­tion­al hero­in and cocaine traf­fick­ing, and being used as a launch pad for coups in the Caribbean and Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.

These activ­i­ties required, avail­able evi­dence will show, the reg­u­lar and sys­tem­at­ic cor­rup­tion of offi­cials in Venice and Sara­so­ta Coun­ty.

The recent infa­mous and still-painful his­to­ry of the Venice Air­port, home base for Mohamed Atta and his crew of ter­ror­ist hijack­ers, it turns out, is just the most recent in an extra­or­di­nary his­to­ry of elite deviance, crim­i­nal mis­chief, and inter­na­tion­al intrigue.

In an iron­ic twist, with­out the FAA’s remark­able cam­paign of arm-twist­ing and bul­ly­ing of hap­less local offi­cials to secure their approval of the new own­ers of what used to be Huff­man Avi­a­tion, hand-picked by a fed­er­al receiv­er who a U. S. Dis­trict Court Judge in Tam­pa had appoint­ed to unrav­el the finan­cial affairs of Art Nadel six days before Nadel had even turned him­self in... we might nev­er have sift­ed through decades of news­pa­per clip­pings, and the remark­able sto­ry of the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port, which is the very def­i­n­i­tion of Amer­i­ca’s secret his­to­ry, might nev­er have come to light.

Since the ear­ly days of the Sec­ond World War, when it was still known as Venice Army Air Field, the pat­tern of covert activ­i­ty at the Venice Air­port has remained remark­ably con­sis­tent over six decades.

Iron­i­cal­ly, it was an attempt to con­tin­ue to con­ceal the air­port’s orig­i­nal mis­sion, an elab­o­rate cov­er-up in 1992 seem­ing­ly designed to pre­vent the airport’s clan­des­tine role from ever becom­ing pub­lic knowl­edge, which first piqued our inter­est in the sto­ry of the man whose oper­a­tions shaped the Venice Air­port’s ear­ly his­to­ry.

But the cov­er-up back­fired, and became vis­i­ble, where it remains to this day, in an unlike­ly loca­tion:

Direct­ly across from the Venice Air­port sits an his­tor­i­cal plaque ded­i­cat­ed in a cer­e­mo­ny in 1992 to com­mem­o­rate the airport’s begin­nings as a U.S. Army Air Base dur­ing World War II.

The Venice Air­port, states the plaque, has its ori­gins in the ear­ly days of WW2, when it was known as the “337th Army Air Field Base.”

How­ev­er there is no such enti­ty: there is not, and nev­er has been, any­thing called the 337th Army Air Field Base. At the incep­tion of what became the Venice Air­port, as is fair­ly wide­ly known, it was known as the Venice Army Air Force Base.

So, what is going on?

The Venice His­tor­i­cal Archives explains:

“The plaque com­mem­o­rates the 337th Army Air Field Base and was erect­ed by the Venice Avi­a­tion Soci­ety Inc. in Octo­ber 1992.”

The des­ig­na­tion is meant as “a joke:”

“The plaque has numer­ous errors includ­ing refer­ring to the Base as the 337th and the entire sec­ond sen­tence. The car­i­ca­tured mos­qui­to, sym­bol­ic of the strik­ing pow­er of the P‑51 and of the blood­thirsty pests of the area, was designed by Capt. James H. Archibald as the ”offi­cial” insignia of the ”337th AAF Base Unit”, the VAAF’s per­ma­nent ”Par­ty” out­fit. Both the insignia and unit des­ig­na­tion were intend­ed as a joke!”

We’ve nev­er heard of an offi­cial his­tor­i­cal plaque “intend­ed as a joke,” and doubt any­one at the Venice Archives and Area His­tor­i­cal Col­lec­tion has, either.

More­over the point of the “joke,” and/or why it should be con­sid­ered fun­ny, remains unex­plained.

But while there was no 337th Army Air Base, we have heard of the 337th, we seemed to remem­ber dim­ly... There was a 337th Fight­er Group.

At the Clear­wa­ter St. Peters­burg Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, home of the infa­mous DC9 “Cocaine One” caught with 5.5 tons of cocaine aboard in Mex­i­co’s Yucatan in 2007, we first saw a shrine to an avi­a­tion out­fit from World War II which used to train there:

The famous Fly­ing Tigers.

They were first known as the Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group, states an infor­ma­tion­al wall of pho­tos on the sec­ond floor of the near­ly emp­ty air­port.

They were a “band of Amer­i­can pilots who lit­er­al­ly built a fight­ing air force from scratch to stop the Japan­ese from gob­bling up all of Asia.”

One of their units, the wall indi­cates, is the 337th Fight­er Group.

Was the 337th Army Air Field plaque in Venice some kind of cryp­tic ref­er­ence to the Fly­ing Tigers?

Syn­ony­mous with the Fly­ing Tigers is the name of Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault. While he lived, Chen­nault was one of the most con­tro­ver­sial Amer­i­can mil­i­tary fig­ures in this nation’s his­to­ry. He was wide­ly dis­liked by his peers, though not, it must be said, by those who flew for him.

His mil­i­tary career, accord­ing to news­pa­per reports at the time, was side­tracked by his supe­ri­ors, who may have heard hints of things ordi­nary Amer­i­cans would begin to hear whis­pers about only many decades lat­er.

Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault’s Fly­ing Tigers had a strong pres­ence in Venice.

We found numer­ous ref­er­ences in local news­pa­pers from the time indi­cat­ing that the Venice Army Air Field train­ing pilots for Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault’s Fly­ing Tigers and lat­er for his 14th Air Force, which took over from the Fly­ing Tigers when they were dis­band­ed.

In fact, Venice seemed to spe­cial­ize in Chi­nese fly­ers, even train­ing an all-Chi­nese squadron for Chen­nault, sup­pos­ed­ly at the express request of Madame Chi­ang Kai-Shek.

More­over one of Chen­nault’s aces, Pap­py Her­b’s, left Chi­na to became the Deputy Base Com­man­der at the Venice Army Air Field.

Accord­ing to Amer­i­can was cor­re­spon­dent Clyde Farnsworth, Chen­nault even cre­at­ed a com­pos­ite Chi­nese and Amer­i­can Air Wing in which Chi­nese and Amer­i­can avi­a­tors “live togeth­er, work togeth­er, and enter com­bat togeth­er.”

These avi­a­tors came togeth­er, received their train­ing, and learned to fly at the Venice Air­port. Chen­nault’s pres­ence in Venice is well-estab­lished.

So why are there so few ref­er­ences to the role played by the Venice Army Air Field in the CBI (Chi­na-Bur­ma-India) The­ater?

Let’s take a look.

Claire Chen­nault, accord­ing to numer­ous reporters and cred­i­ble news sources, was there at the start when the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence ser­vices began their use of nar­cotics to fund their anti-com­mu­nist endeav­ors.

Chen­nault helped Chi­nese war­lord Chi­ang Kai-Shek fund his civ­il war against the Com­mu­nist Red Army through hero­in traf­fick­ing, both dur­ing, and after World War II.

Accord­ing to Joseph Tren­to in “The Secret His­to­ry of the CIA:

“Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault orga­niz­er of the Fly­ing Tigers dur­ing World War II, was put in charge of Civ­il Air Trans­port as well as Tai­wan’s oth­er air ser­vice while his wife Anna spent her time lob­by­ing in Wash­ing­ton for more aid to help her hus­band’s effort against the Com­mu­nist Chi­nese.”

“Chi­ang Kai-Shek’s men, fund­ed by the CIA, became the foot sol­diers of Asi­a’s drug armies... Hun­dreds of tons of opi­um and hero­in... were car­ried on these CIA flights.”

From Dou­glas Valen­tines “Strength of the Wolf: The Secret His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca’s War on Drugs:”

“Despite the July 1949 seizure in Hong Kong report­ed by the New York Times of 22 pounds of hero­in ema­nat­ing from a CIA-sup­plied out­post in Kun­ming... the Chi­na Lob­by launched a mas­sive pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign based on the alle­ga­tion by the head of the Fed­er­al Bureau of Nar­cotics that the Red Chi­nese were the source of all the illic­it dope reach­ing Japan.”

“The Chi­na Lob­by raised $5 mil­lion which the CIA used to pur­chase Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault’s fleet of planes and con­vert them into the CIA’s first pro­pri­etary Air Force.”

From Mod­ern Chi­na: An Ency­clo­pe­dia, by Ke-Wen Wang:

“No one could have fore­seen that one lega­cy of the Fly­ing Tigers would become Air Amer­i­ca. Claire Chen­nault and the Fly­ing Tigers sym­bol­ize the... fail­ure of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy in the region.”

From “Under the Influ­ence” by Pre­ston Peet:

“The prac­ti­cal effect of all of this was to turn Claire Chen­nault’s Fly­ing Tigers into fly­ing dope ped­dlers.

There are dozens of exam­ples. A clear con­sen­sus of inves­tiga­tive reporters, authors, and schol­ars have reached the same con­clu­sion...

Some­thing is rot­ten in the state of Den­mark.

But don’t tell that to the Sara­so­ta Her­ald Tri­bune.

It was clear that the plaque at the Venice Air­port had not just made a bad joke, or a sim­ple mis­take. It was inten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing.

They have a word for the type of com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­played on the his­tor­i­cal plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing the Venice Army Air Field.

That word is dis­in­for­ma­tion.

Sev­en­ty years after ele­ments of the U.S. mil­i­tary con­nect­ed with the “Chi­na Lob­by” began a long flir­ta­tion with hero­in traf­fick­ing, it still serves that pur­pose.

More­over, its source, the Venice Avi­a­tion Soci­ety, was a bel­liger­ent (sup­port­ing the “Dark Side of the Force) dur­ing the recent war for con­trol of the Venice Air­port waged between elect­ed city offi­cials and the FAA.

The sto­ry of Claire Chen­nault proves that U.S. Major Gen­er­als can be excused if they have a sec­ond job as an inter­na­tion­al drug king­pin... as long as they’re anti-com­mu­nist.

What makes the sto­ry of Gen­er­al Claire Chen­nault at the Venice Air­port ger­mane to the present sit­u­a­tion? As we report­ed sev­er­al weeks ago, (and we’ll have more about it lat­er), the new own­ers of the for­mer Huff­man Avi­a­tion are in busi­ness with a pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tor in Geor­gia who was involved in extra­or­di­nary ren­di­tions for the CIA.

Curi­ous­ly, for­mer Huff­man own­er Wal­ly Hilliard was in busi­ness with the same man.

But then, recent own­ers of Huff­man Avi­a­tion share a lot in com­mon.

Just like pri­or own­er Wal­ly Hilliard (but even more inex­plic­a­bly, since at least Hilliard was a pilot, even if a nar­colep­tic one), Art Nadel, for exam­ple, used sub­stan­tial por­tions of his ill-got­ten gains to pur­chase dozens of air­planes and avi­a­tion facil­i­ties...

One of America’s ground­break­ing muck­rak­ers, author Upton Sin­clair, once said “It is dif­fi­cult to get a man to under­stand some­thing, when his salary depends on his not under­stand­ing it.”

“The Ulti­mate Hedge: Venice Air­port Has a 60-Year His­to­ry of Drug-Smug­gling” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad Cow Morn­ing News; 3/8/2010. [16]

2. Updat­ing the goings on at the Venice Air­port, Daniel notes the oper­a­tions of a pow­er­ful, drug-smug­gling intel­li­gence net­work called “The Company”–a com­mon nick­name for the CIA. Avail­able evi­dence strong­ly sug­gests that the net­work over­lapped the agency. (The Com­pa­ny is dis­cussed in AFA #26. [4]) “The Company”–following in the foot­steps (“tracks”?!) of Clair Chen­nault’s operation–also held forth at Venice Air­port!

As not­ed in AFA #26, evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries run between “The Com­pa­ny” and the assas­si­na­tion of JFK. In his lat­est arti­cle, Daniel ties in a “Com­pa­ny” oper­a­tive named Frank Guz­man with the JFK assas­si­na­tion, as well as activ­i­ties man­i­fest­ed on behalf of “The Com­pa­ny [9].” Own­er [10] of a high per­for­mance jet man­u­fac­tured by Tem­co [11], Guz­man appears to have been an alias [12] for a Cuban asso­ciate of Jack Ruby [12]. Guzman/Villamia was mur­dered in a gang­land style slay­ing [13] in 1979. He had been run­ning a busi­ness [14] that oper­at­ed through the Venice Air­port.

Born in Cuba, Guzman/Villamia fled the Island when Cas­tro came to pow­er and appears to have worked for the CIA prop­er after that.

In the con­text of “The Com­pa­ny,” the evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries lead­ing to the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion res­onate with the activ­i­ties of Stephen Ruth [15], anoth­er intel­li­gence-con­nect­ed drug smug­gler whose activ­i­ties over­lapped the Venice air­port

“Venice was a kind of qui­et Mena (Arkansas),” stat­ed a for­mer drug pilot for The Com­pa­ny. “Jack­son Stephens built this huge head­quar­ters next to the air­port. And he was in charge. But I do remem­ber see­ing Porter Goss around the air­port a lot.”

The air­port where three of the four ter­ror­ist pilots in the 9/11 attack learned to fly was a hub of oper­a­tions in the 1970’s and ear­ly ‘80’s for “The Com­pa­ny,” an inter­na­tion­al drug smug­gling orga­ni­za­tion head­quar­tered in Lex­ing­ton, Ken­tucky and Mena, Arkansas.

Led by a mys­te­ri­ous Cuban exile, who used the alias “Frank Guz­man,” The Company’s con­tin­gent at the Venice Air­port num­bered as many as a dozen pilots and asso­ciates. The Com­pa­ny began receiv­ing nation­al atten­tion in the ear­ly 1980’s.

“The Com­pa­ny,” whose name is a com­mon­ly-used euphemism for the CIA, was pro­filed in Sal­ly Denton’s best-sell­ing book “The Blue-Grass Con­spir­a­cy,” which raised point­ed ques­tions about the involve­ment of the CIA with the group.

The 60-year secret his­to­ry of covert CIA and mil­i­tary oper­a­tions at the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port now com­ing to light goes well beyond any­thing pre­vi­ous­ly known to have tak­en place there.

A report in the April 28, 1982 San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle head­lined “Sto­ry of Spies, Stolen Arms and Drugs,” stat­ed The Com­pa­ny con­sist­ed of “about 300 mem­bers, many of them for­mer mil­i­tary men or ex-police offi­cers with near­ly $30 mil­lion worth of assets, includ­ing planes, ships and real estate.”

Fed­er­al Agents tes­ti­fied that “The Com­pa­ny” smug­gled bil­lions of dol­lars worth of nar­cotics into the U.S. from Latin Amer­i­ca, as well as being involved in gun­run­ning and mer­ce­nary oper­a­tions.

At the Venice Air­port, in addi­tion to Frank Guz­man their num­ber includ­ed: Stephen Ruth, who we report­ed on ear­li­er in Con­fes­sions of a Drug Smug­gling CIA Hit Man,” Lee Crow­ell, Joseph Brea, Richard Cur­ry, George Quar­les, and sev­er­al oth­ers, includ­ing a local attor­ney, who have been miss­ing in action for more than 20 years.

Guz­man first sur­faced at the Venice Air­port in 1974. He became an instant celebri­ty, as well as some­thing of a nov­el­ty, because he was the own­er of the first jet to ever be based at the Venice Air­port.

A now-defunct Sara­so­ta news­pa­per called the Sara­so­ta Jour­nal did a pro­file of him soon after he arrived under the head­line “Venice Jet Fli­er Cre­ates a Stir.”

It was a pro­to­type Navy jet fight­er called the Super Pin­to, one of only 14 ever made, which could climb from the ground to 10,000 feet in just 55 sec­onds.

He ingra­ti­at­ed him­self with the local polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment by vol­un­teer­ing to fly it as a stunt plane in local air shows for char­i­ty.

Despite the reporter’s efforts, exact­ly how Guz­man how come to pos­sess a rare Navy jet fight­er plane remained a lit­tle hazy. So, too, did Guzman’s for­mer career. He was iden­ti­fied, with­out fur­ther expla­na­tion, as a “man­u­fac­tur­er.”

The sto­ry did reveal Guzman’s dif­fi­cul­ty in obtain­ing spare parts for his jet, with neces­si­tat­ed trips to the planes’ man­u­fac­tur­er, Tem­co Co, in Dal­las.

Strange­ly, Tem­co had a his­to­ry in Venice which the reporter failed to note.
The founder of Tem­co (lat­er LTV), was D.H. Byrd, who owned the Texas School Book Depos­i­to­ry where Pres­i­dent Kennedy was killed. And as we’ve seen in pre­vi­ous sto­ries like Big Safari, the Kennedy Assas­si­na­tion, & the war for con­trol of the Venice Air­port, the air­port was the site where Byrd’s Reg­u­lus mis­siles for the Air Force were test­ed.

For the next five years Guz­man ran a busi­ness at the Venice Air­port.

Then on May 3, 1979, dis­as­ter struck. “For­mer Venice Busi­ness­man, Pilot found shot to death” read next day’s head­line in the Sara­so­ta Her­ald Tri­bune.

“A for­mer Venice busi­ness­man and pilot was found shot to death in an East coast motel room in what police there the­o­rize was a drug-relat­ed exe­cu­tion,” the paper report­ed.

“The Dania FL Police Dept iden­ti­fied the 49-year old dead man as Frank Guz­man, the for­mer own­er of Sunair Enter­pris­es, a fly­ing ser­vice based at the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port.”

Guz­man had been found by a maid on the floor of his fifth floor room at the Howard Johnson’s across from the Fort Laud­erdale Air­port. Some­one (the killer was nev­er iden­ti­fied) had put a 32 against the back of Guzman’s head and pulled the trig­ger.

The motel would lat­er achieve infamy dur­ing Iran con­tra as the site of meet­ings between Oliv­er North and mer­ce­nar­ies fly­ing to Hon­duras to work with the con­tras.

An “asso­ciate” of Guzman’s in Venice and Fort Laud­erdale, Joseph Brea, was miss­ing and pre­sumed dead, police said.

The sto­ry con­tained a great quote from a cop on the scene:

“Guz­man was def­i­nite­ly into the big bucks,” said Lt. James Serpe of the Dania Police Dept. “This guy’s shoes cost more than my car.”
The slay­ing bore all the ear­marks of a pro­fes­sion­al hit, a lat­er sto­ry indi­cat­ed, in which police spec­u­lat­ed that Guz­man may have been asso­ci­at­ed with the “Black Tuna” smug­gling group.

The truth would come out almost a year lat­er, in a sto­ry in the April 30 1980 Sara­so­ta Her­ald Tri­bune.

“Tes­ti­mo­ny at a fed­er­al tri­al in Indi­anapo­lis has linked a mur­dered Venice busi­ness­man and a miss­ing Sara­so­ta air­craft deal­er with an inter­na­tion­al drug traf­fick­ing ring.”

“On Mon­day wit­ness­es tes­ti­fied that Frank Guz­man, the for­mer own­er of SunAir Enter­pris­es of Venice, and Lee Crow­ell, own­er of Lemac Inc of Sara­so­ta, were mem­bers of the drug ring known as The Com­pa­ny.”

We uncov­ered evi­dence indi­cat­ing that Guzman’s real name was Mario Sil­ve­rio Vil­lamia in tes­ti­mo­ny to the War­ren Com­mis­sion inves­ti­gat­ing the assas­si­na­tion of JFK about the under­world ties of Jack Ruby, the slay­er of Lee Har­vey Oswald.

Ruby had approached Texas gun­run­ner Robert McK­e­own about sell­ing jeeps to Cas­tro.

McK­e­own had been con­vict­ed of the same offense in 1958, said a Com­mis­sion exhib­it dat­ed April 17, 1964. “the com­pa­ny AND “the blue­grass con­spir­a­cy”

Also con­vict­ed with McK­e­own had been the for­mer Pres­i­dent of Cuba, Car­los Prio, and four oth­er men, one of whom was one Mario Sil­ve­rio Vil­lamia, aged 34, also known as Frank Guz­man.

We did the math.

The War­ren Com­mis­sion “Frank Guz­man” had been 34 in 1964. Ten years lat­er, in 1974, the Sara­so­ta news­pa­per pro­file of “Frank Guz­man” report­ed:

“For the 44-year old Guz­man, the jet is a par­tial answer to the search for find­ing excite­ment in life.”

We received fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion after we tracked down a for­mer drug pilot for The Com­pa­ny who spoke with us on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

He had flown with Guz­man, he said, “at least a hun­dred” flights to Colom­bia from the Venice Air­port. We had no trou­ble believ­ing him. His name and involve­ment with the group is well-chron­i­cled in news reports from the time.

After a con­vic­tion for drug traf­fick­ing 30 years ago, his life has returned to nor­mal, he said. Today he is a respect­ed busi­ness­man in a city not far from Venice.

“Frank came from Cuba when Cas­tro came to pow­er,” he con­firmed. “He had ties to a for­mer Cuban Pres­i­dent Car­los Prio. Along with oth­er Cuban exiles he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Bay of Pigs, then worked with the CIA dur­ing the 1960’s.”

“Venice was a kind of qui­et Mena (Arkansas),” said our pilot infor­mant.

“Jack­son Stephens had built this huge head­quar­ters next to the air­port. And he was in charge. But I do remem­ber see­ing Porter Goss around the air­port a lot.”

At that time, Goss was a CIA Agent assigned to Latin Amer­i­ca. He lat­er became a Flori­da Con­gress­man from Char­lotte Coun­ty, where he even­tu­al­ly became head of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. In 2002 he was named Direc­tor of the CIA under George W. Bush.

“Venice was a sweet deal. The Coast Guard had radar sites in Tam­pa and Key West, but noth­ing in between. So we’d fly in and out total­ly unno­ticed.”

Through­out the decade of the 1980’s, while drug traf­fick­ing explod­ed, there were two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions about its role at the Venice Air­port.

Call them the min­i­mal­ists and the max­i­mal­ists...

“Only a few late night flights use the uncon­trolled air­field in Venice,” Venice Police Sgt. Jim Han­ks told local reporters. “We’ve only caught two or three smug­glers. But there have been sev­er­al who keep their planes here and have been caught in oth­er areas.”

Local reporters, on the oth­er hand, begged to dis­agree.

“In the past year the Venice Air­port has been the scene of sev­er­al drug raids,” the Her­ald Tri­bune report­ed on Sept 29, 1983. “In recent years the Venice Air­port has been rocked by van­dals thieves and drug smug­glers.”

“The air­port is attrac­tive to drug deal­ers and thieve because it is uncon­trolled,” the paper report­ed. “Thieves use the uncon­trolled air­port to drop stolen air­planes, includ­ing stolen pri­vate jets.”

The city’s response was to hire a pri­vate secu­ri­ty guard to “pro­tect the air­port grounds dur­ing non- busi­ness hours.” Avi­a­tion exec­u­tives at the Air­port were unim­pressed.

“We have planes come in here late at night, drop a load and leave,” said Harold Haggen, own­er of the Venice Fly­ing Ser­vice.

“And nobody knows they’ve ever been here.”

“Police pro­tec­tion?” asked Harold Haggen, rhetor­i­cal­ly. “The police don’t hard­ly come around here.”

Even Sgt. Han­ks was hedg­ing his bet a lit­tle.

“Point­ing to past drug smug­gling inci­dents dis­cov­ered at the air­port, Han­ks said unreg­u­lat­ed plane usage there pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty for planes to come and go as they please, usu­al­ly with­out scruti­ny from any­one.”

Almost two decades lat­er, when Mohamed Atta first cast his malev­o­lent eye down the run­way in Venice, not much had changed. For some peo­ple, that was just fine...

The offi­cial sto­ry of the 9/11 attack goes like this:

“The arrival of Atta’s ter­ror­ist cadre at the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port was hap­pen­stance, and the terrorist’s pres­ence there an acci­dent of his­to­ry, unre­lat­ed to any pre-exist­ing cli­mate of crime or cor­rup­tion.”

Once again, and emphat­i­cal­ly: Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

“It Did­n’t Start with 9/11: ‘Venice Was a Qui­et Mena’: For­mer Drug Pilot” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad Cow Morn­ing News; 4/16/2010. [17]

3. Daniel also touched on events pub­lished in an arti­cle that he fin­ished after the inter­view. Venice’s long involve­ment with intel­li­gence-con­nect­ed mat­ters includes its use as a ship­ping point for WWII-era weapons to Latin Amer­i­ca for the pur­pose of affect­ing coups.

The arrival en masse of Mohamed Atta’s ter­ror­ist cadre at the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port was hap­pen­stance, goes the offi­cial sto­ry, and the terrorist’s pres­ence there an acci­dent of his­to­ry, unre­lat­ed to any pre-exist­ing cli­mate of crime or cor­rup­tion.

Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

This was illus­trat­ed again recent­ly when decades of old news­pa­per clip­pings became avail­able online, reveal­ing the full range of the extra­or­di­nary his­to­ry of crim­i­nal mis­chief and inter­na­tion­al intrigue at the Venice Air­port.

For exam­ple: our recent sto­ry head­lined “60 year his­to­ry of drug traf­fick­ing at Venice Air­port” was off by fif­teen years, accord­ing to a “Look­ing Back” fea­ture from the Aug 28 1964 Sara­so­ta Her­ald Tri­bune, which reveals that the old­est report of drug traf­fick­ing at what will become the Venice Air­port occurred thir­ty years ear­li­er.

On that date in 1934, “A dope-smug­gling plane was cap­tured by Fed­er­al Agents near Venice,” the paper report­ed.

In unbro­ken suc­ces­sion in the decades since, the Venice Munic­i­pal Air­port— decade-in and decade-out—has played host to drug smug­gling, gun run­ning, the launch­ing of coups in the Caribbean, mer­ce­nary train­ing, even mur­der...

It is a remark­able his­to­ry of inter­na­tion­al intrigue with a dis­tinct­ly ‘spooky’ fla­vor. . . .

“It Did­n’t Start with 9/11: Caught Red-Hand­ed at the Venice Air­port” by Daniel Hop­sick­er; Mad Cow Morn­ing News; 4/11/2010. [18]