Loading...

The Coke Machine 

The Story behind the Contra-crack cocaine story

Wednesday, Jul 15 1998
Comments

Page 6 of 7

"How well do you get along with your editors?" Parry finally asked.

Related Stories

  • Photography IS a Crime 2

    In the post-9/11 world, you can be questioned by federal agents simply for taking photos of what they believe are security-sensitive buildings. Not only that, but that questioning is often preceded by a "suspicious activity report" (SAR) that stays in your federal file. The ACLU of California is suing the...
  • Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards Finalists Include Bestia, Honeycut, Harvard & Stone

    Tales of the Cocktail, the world's largest and best-known cocktail conference, is coming up in New Orleans in mid-July. Apart from days of seminars and debauchery, one of the biggest draws of the event is the Spirited Awards, considered some of the most important in the bartending community. Over the...
  • Glove Law May Be Repealed 3

    For chefs and local restaurateurs who've been up in arms, so to speak, since California passed the so-called glove law on Jan. 1 of this year, forcing food handlers to wear a new pair of plastic gloves each time they handle food, help may be on the way. Today Dr. Richard...
  • Marijuana Concentrate Lab Goes Up in Flames 2

    It's been a while since we've heard of a good marijuana-concentrate explosion. See also: Hash-Oil Blast In San Diego Investigated By DEA; 3rd Weed Explosion In SoCal This Month The production of honey oil, hash oil, concentrates, waxes and "dabs" made cannabis culture look like a scene out of Breaking Bad...
  • Yes, Rents in L.A. Continue to Increase 6

    It's not your imagination. Even in these dull economic times we somehow describe as a "recovery," rents in Los Angeles are surging even higher. It's all about supply and demand, and a lot of you want or need a place to say in our fine city. The real estate website Trulia today...

"Fine. Why do you ask?"

"Well, when Brian and I were doing these stories, we got our brains beat out." Parry sighed. "People from the administration were calling our editors, telling them we were crazy, that our sources were no good, that we didn't know what we were writing about. The Justice Department was putting out false press releases saying there was nothing to this, that they'd investigated and could find no evidence . . . We ended up being out there all by ourselves, and eventually our editors backed away completely, and I ended up quitting the AP. It was probably the most difficult time of my career." He paused. "Maybe things have changed, I don't know."

I was nonplused. Bob Parry wasn't some fringe reporter. He'd won a Polk Award for uncovering the CIA assassination manual given to the contras, and was the first reporter to expose Oliver North's illegal activities. But what he'd just described sounded like something out of a bad dream.

A few days later I got a call from Coral. My one chance to hook up with Blandon had just fallen through. "He isn't going to be testifying at Rafael's trial after all," she told me. "Rafael's attorney won his motion to have the DEA and FBI release the uncensored files, and the U.S. attorney decided to drop him as a witness rather than do that. Can you believe it? He was one of the witnesses they used to get the indictment against Rafael, and now they're refusing to put him on the stand." I hung up the phone in a funk. But pretty soon the San Diego attorney who had been out of town when I was looking for Blandon returned my call. Juanita Brooks had represented Blandon's friend and co-defendant, a Mexican millionaire named Sergio Guerra. Another lawyer in her firm had defended Chepita Blandon. She knew quite a bit about the couple.

"You don't happen to know where he is these days, do you?"

"No, but I can tell you where he'll be in a couple of months. Here in San Diego. Entirely by coincidence, I have a case coming up where he's the chief prosecution witness against my client."

"You're kidding," I said. "What case is this?"

"It's a pretty big one. Have you ever heard of someone named Freeway Ricky Ross?"

Indeed I had. I'd run across him while researching the asset-forfeiture series in 1993. "He's one of the biggest crack dealers in L.A.," I said.

"That's what they say," Brooks replied. "He and my client and a couple others were arrested in a DEA reverse sting last year, and Blandon is the confidential informant in the case."

"How did Blandon get involved with crack dealers?"

"I don't have a lot of details, because the government has been very protective of him. They've refused to give us any discovery so far," Brooks said. "But from what I understand, Blandon used to be one of Ricky Ross' sources back in the 1980s, and I suppose he played off that friendship."

My mind was racing. Blandon, the contra fund-raiser, had sold cocaine to the biggest crack dealer in South-Central L.A.? That was too much.

"Are you sure about this?"

"I wouldn't want you to quote me on it," she said, "but, yes, I'm pretty sure. You can always call Alan Fenster, Ross' attorney, and ask him. I'm sure he knows."

Fenster was out, so I left a message on his voice mail, telling him I was working on a story about Oscar Danilo Blandon and wanted to interview him. When I a got back from lunch, I found a message from Fenster waiting. It said: "Oscar who?"

My heart sank. I'd suspected it was a bum lead, but I'd been keeping my fingers crossed anyway. I should have known; that would have been too perfect. I called Fenster back to thank him for his time, and he asked what kind of a story I was working on. I told him - the contras and cocaine.

"I'm curious," he said. "What made you think this Oscar person was involved in Ricky's case?"

I told him what Brooks had related, and he gasped.

"He's the informant? Are you serious? No wonder those bastards won't give me his name!" Fenster began swearing a blue streak.

"Forgive me," he said. "But if you only knew what kind of bullshit I've been going through to get that information from those sons of bitches, and then some reporter calls me up from San Jose and he knows all about him, it just makes me . . ."

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.