Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the Orange One's rather lengthy association with organized crime and even more sinister institutions. This series grew out of a prior blog I had published several months ago that detailed the curious saga of Resorts International, a gaming company that found itself at the center of a host of intrigues over the years.
Resorts had close ties to at least two American presidents --Trump and another controversial Republican, Richard M. Nixon --in addition to a rogue's gallery that included frequent patrons such as Howard Hughes and fugitive financier Robert Vesco; LSD baron William Mellon Hitchcock, who held stock in the company; and the inevitable Syndicate figures. It also owned a controlling interest in one of the earliest private intelligence companies. It was known as Intertel and it employed a host of "former" US intelligence personnel.
Intertel found itself at the center of scandal in the early 1970s, when it played a key role in what was either a rescue or an abduction of Howard Hughes from one of his Las Vegas casinos in 1970. Regardless, Hughes would be closely "guarded" Intertel agents for the rest of his life. During this time frame few were allowed even a glimpse of the reclusive billionaire until an unrecognizable corpse purporting to be Hughes turned up in 1976.
Intertel was still a part of Resorts in the late 1970s when the gaming interest began pushing for the legalization of gambling in Atlantic City. It would ultimately open up the first casino there and would begin construction on what became the Taj Mahal. It was at this juncture Trump became involved with the entity, buying a controlling interest in the company around 1986 and becoming its CEO. Eventually Trump was bought out by Merv Griffin, but he retained control of the Taj and became a key figure in the checkered history of Resorts.
But Resorts was hardly the first time Trump had operated in the ratified world of spooks and organized crime. As was noted in the first installment of this series, Trump had already established ample ties to the Five Families in addition to the Philadelphia crime family and even the emerging Russian Mafia by the mid-1980s.
Among these organized crime ties is one particular individual who leads into a whole other netherworld involving a shadowy private security company with its own ample ties to organized crime and intelligence agencies.
Bryant was a product of Lexington, Kentucky, where he grew up in an upper middle glass family. His grandfather was in fact a former mayor of Lexington. He would later attend the exclusive Sewanee Military Academy where he gained many contacts in Lexington high society. He graduated in 1962 and a year later attempted to qualify for the Naval Academy at Annapolis, but was rejected. He later joined the Marines for a time before ending up in Philadelphia at the end of the 1960s, where he worked a corporate job.
In 1970, Halloran tapped Bryant to run the Armstrong Corporation, an industrial waste service Halloran ran out of Philadelphia. Bryant's tenure at Armstrong was most productive and he learned much from Halloran. In 1975 he started his own company and while successful, he soon became board with "legitimate" business. Shortly thereafter he began selling small quantities of drugs Lexington Police officer Andrew "Drew" Thornton had stolen from the department and suspects he shook down. Thornton had attended Sewanee with Bryant and the two had remained close friends ever since.
Thornton came from the same type of upper middle class background as Bryant, rubbing shoulders with Kentucky's gentry as youth while not actually be a part of them. He had joined the Lexington Police in 1968 and soon ended up on the city's first narcotics strike force. Many believed this move was to fill the void left by the derailment of a promising military career. In 1963 Thornton had joined the US Army and had insisted on becoming a paratrooper.
This led to Thornton being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of the significance of this move, but for those unaware: In addition to the 82nd Airborne, Fort Bragg is home to most of the nation's elite Special Operations Forces. Both the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the Army Special Forces (more commonly known as Green Berets) are headquarted there.
In more recent years Fort Bragg has also been at the heart of controversy surrounding potential right wing indoctrination there. As was noted before here, during the '90s several troops with Nazi leanings were convicted of murdering an African American couple in the nearby area. Also present at Fort Bragg during this time was Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist who would go on to shoot up a Sikh temple in 2012.
Curiously, one of Trump's key national security advisers, General Keith Kellogg was also present at Fort Bragg during this time, commanding Thornton's old unit, the 82nd Airborne. Thornton left the Army in 1965 due to an injury he suffered during the US invasion of the Dominican Republic during that same year. Kellogg reportedly didn't join the Army until '67, but a lot of his service record appears to have been recently scrubbed online. He graduated from high school in 1961, a year before Thornton, and appears to have decided on a military career due to his involvement with JROTC while in high school, but what he did between '61 and '67 and when his airborne training at Fort Bragg was undertaken is a mystery. While it is highly unlikely, there is a chance Thornton and Kellogg encountered one another during this time.
|General Keith Kellogg|
But almost two decades before the Zetas, another Fort Bragg alumni had already established a highly sophisticated drug-and-arms trafficking network domestically. And on that note, let us return to the matter at hand.
Based on the success of the small scale dealings, Bryant and Thornton soon expanded their operations and the end results would be one of the most complex drug and arms trafficking organizations of the era.
"By the late seventies, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)... in Las Vegas had focused on Caesars Palace is the headquarters of a multimillion-dollar, international drug-smuggling organization the called itself 'The Company.' Whether a renegade offshoot of the CIA, which was commonly called 'the company' in intelligence circles, or not, it was a highly sophisticated, impenetrable enterprise. The DEA was force, with some embarrassment, to admit that 'The Company' surpassed the federal government's crime-fighting abilities. Codenaming the Caesars Palace drug trafficking and money-laundering probe Operation Jaeger, the DEA admitted in a highly confidential internal memorandums to Washington superiors that 'the magnitude, scope, and complexity of the operations' exceeded its field capabilities. At the heart of the Las Vegas investigation was a Texas highroller named Jamiel 'Jimmy' Chagra, an American drug kingpin tied to the Patriarca crime family in New England and the Chicago Syndicate."
(The Money and the Power, Sally Denton & Roger Morris, pg. 326)
|Las Vegas' Caesars Palace, which we shall return too|
"Bradley and Drew had formed Executive Protection Ltd. in 1975 – a corporation owned and operated by Bradley Bryant and Drew Thornton to which they would refer in private conversations as 'the Company.' But it wasn't until 1977 that the two men felt capable of putting 'the Company' into full-scale action. They recruited operatives, drawing from a pool of former police officers and drug agents from various state, local and federal agencies.
" 'The Company' could serve two purposes for them: to provide cover for drug-smuggling ventures and to serve as a legitimate private security service. Bradley had met dozens of people, through Chandler in Vegas and through Halloran in Philadelphia, who had the need and wherewithal to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for sophisticated bodyguard protection. Through their allies in the law enforcement and SOF world, they had plenty of contract employees to perform both security and drug trafficking services.
"Meanwhile the security company provided a perfect cover for acquiring weapons, assimilating a private army of enforcers and obtaining airplanes ostensibly needed to shuttle clients into foreign countries, from which Bradley and Drew could then import marijuana back to the United States...
"They had spent several years amassing the tools of their trade: AR-15s, Uzis, AK-47s, Ingrams, Walther PPKs, cartons of ammo, electronic surveillance equipment, nightscopes, explosives, night-vision goggles. Now it was time to put them to use.
"Bradley claimed that his cousin, Larry Bryant, would help them add to their cache of arms, using his top-secret Defense Department security clearance to embezzle scopes and radar equipment from the highly restricted Navy weapons-testing center at China Lake in California's Mojave Desert.
"Forging a subsidiary partnership with his police colleague, Bill Canan, Drew bought a remote farm on a bluff overlooking the Kentucky River, where they would train their employees in guerrilla war tactics and hide their growing stash of weapons.
"Bradley and Drew also had a ready-make client base to buy their product. They had access to Kentucky's big-money horse crowd, the Philadelphia Main Line group, and the Vegas gamblers. Their blue-blood connections proved even stronger than they had anticipated, as they found Lexington society to be a huge market for illicit drugs. In fact, it was a larger market than they could supply.
"Both men considered Kentucky their strong and secret asset. Kentucky was a haven of remote landing strips, nonexistent law enforcement, crooked politicians, lax airports, and rivers leading to the Gulf of Mexico."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 64-65)
|an Ingram Mac-10, which plays a curious role in our story|
There's a lot to take in here. Many of these allegations will be examined in depth over the course of this blog, but for now I would like emphasize Biff Halloran's role in all of this. He clearly played a key role in setting up "the Company" with wealthy clientele during the early going in the Philadelphia area. This would have been shortly before Halloran began supplying concrete to Trump, but construction on the Grand Hyatt New York was well underway by the time "the Company" was at its peak of influence.
By the late 1980s Trump would develop quite an obsession with private security, accumulating what has been described as a private army at times. During the Company's peak years Trump likely didn't have the means for such services, but his path does seem to have frequently intersected with the Company's, as we shall see.
Before moving on, its worth emphasizing again the scale of Biff Halloran's reach. Not only did he help set up an extremely elaborate drugs-and-arm trafficking outfit in his early years, but he also played a key role in the rise of a future president. This is quite a feat for a mere member of the Genovesse crime family. Couple this with his shadowy disappearance in 1996, and one is left with quite a mystery.
"During the mid-1970s, Bradley and Drew had become deeply involved with what is known as the SOF crowd – a group of freelance military advisers and mercenaries whose unofficial leader is Robert Brown, the publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine. How that association developed is not clear. Since both Bradley and Drew had been gung ho military types who fancied themselves as paramilitary experts, the SOF crowd was a natural melting pot. At the annual Las Vegas convention of soldiers of fortune, Bradley and Drew came into contact with a number of Vietnam veterans who were looking for action.
"It was time, Bradley convinced Drew in 1977, to use those contacts for profit. Under the auspices of a private security firm, hiring independent contractors through the classified advertisements in Soldier of Fortune, they would find a retinue of pilots who weren't afraid of the risks and danger – pilots who enjoyed the challenge of flying below radar in the middle of the night and into remote jungle landing strips of foreign countries to pick up a load."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 63-64)
|Robert K. Brown|
Prior to becoming a publisher, however, Brown was a soldier. He first entered the US Army in 1954 and served until '57. He then returned in '64 and participated in Vietnam. At some point he was trained in intelligence as well. Warren Hinckle and William Turner in their classic Deadly Secrets note "... Brown was a graduate of the counterintelligence school Fort Holabird, Maryland..." (pg. 180).
This is most interesting. Fort Holabird was specifically known for training the Army Counterintelligence Corp (CIC), which participated heavily in the Army's branch of Project ARTICHOKE. As was noted before here, ARTICHOKE experiments were conducted at Holabird during the mid-1950s as well. Unfortunately, I have been unable to determine when Brown went through Holabird.
By the time Brown was dispatched to Vietnam, he had become a Green Beret. As was noted above, Army Special Forces are based out of Fort Bragg and it is thus highly likely Brown went through airborne training at Fort Bragg at some point as part of his Green Beret training.
During Vietnam Green Berets were used extensively in the CIA's highly controversial Phoenix Program, which in some accounts is alleged to have killed up to 30,000 "insurgents." In Douglas Valentine's classic The Phoenix Program, Valentine indicates Brown was a participant in Phoenix and that he later started the "Phoenix Associates" in 1974 for veterans of the program.
During his time out of the service in the late 1950s and early 1960s Brown assisted in the efforts to overthrow Castro by training Cubans and enlisting American mercenaries in such efforts. Unsurprisingly, Brown has also been linked to the Kennedy assassination as well.
"... according to an FBI reports prepared in the wake of the JFK assassination, Brown 'advised that he had been active in Cuban matters for several years and during the spring of 1963, in connection with anti-Castro activity, he was in contact with the National States Rights Party in Los Angeles, California. In connection with this, he contacted Dr. Stanley L. Drennan (of North Hollywood, a Party activist). Brown stated that once while a guest at Dr. Drennan's home, Drennan stated in general conversation that he could not do it, but what the organization needed was a group of young men to get rid of Kennedy, the Cabinet and all members of Americans for Democratic Action and maybe 10,000 other people. Brown stated that he considered the remark as being "crackpot"; however, as tDrennan continued the conversation, he gained the impression that Drennan may have been propositioning him on this matter.' "
(Spooks, Jim Hougan, pg. 76n)Brown stayed active in various intrigues after Vietnam as well. By the mid-1970s he was using Soldier of Fortune to recruit mercs to fight in various southern African nations such as Rhodesia. By the 1980s his efforts had gained near official sanction. In The Phoenix Program, Douglas Valentine notes that "... the person initially chosen by North to resupply the contras was former SOG commander John Singlaub, who in doing so worked with Soldier of Fortune publisher Robert Brown..." (pg. 428).
|General John Singlaub|
WerBell is worth dwelling on for a moment as there are many similarities between WerBell's operation and the Company's. For years WerBell aided the CIA and various corporate clients (WerBell famously plotted a coup in Haiti at the behalf of CBS during the 1960s that the network planned to film while it was in progress) in supplying various regimes with weapons in addition to assisting in the occasional coup. WerBell was also implicated in trafficking drugs at times, but not nearly to the extent of the Company.
Of course, WerBell had many less the reputable clients as well. There are longstanding rumors that some such clients received special training at compound WerBell owned in Georgia.
"... The Farm --sixty acres of rolling beauty-in-the-boondocks, located near Atlanta in Powder Springs. It might be thought that a lack of imagination gave The Farm its name, but that isn't so. One says 'The Farm' in much the same way that Bela Lugosi might say 'The La-bor-a-tory'; the name's emptiness is meant to hint at clandestine activities incapable of bearing the weight of sunlight. And, more specifically, it's meant to hint at (and even be confused with) the CIA training facility at Camp Peary, Virginia, also called The Farm.
"And like its government counterpart to the north, WerBell's Farm was not known for its contributions to agriculture or animal husbandry. It was instead devoted to perfecting the tools and techniques of sniping, counterinsurgency, and the coup d'etat. Weapons, men, and tactics of war were all tested on the elaborate shooting range that substituted for a garden."
(Spooks, Jim Hougan, pg. 29)
|a little small arms training at The Farm|
While I've found no evidence of a direct connection between WerBell and the Company, it is highly probable that one existed. Beyond the similarities between both operations, both recruited heavily from Soldier of Fortune, run by WerBell's good friend and frequent collaborator, Robert K. Brown. As was noted above, Ingrams were one of the firearms the Company dealt in and WerBell was one of the largest distributors on Ingrams in the 1970s. What's more, he was not very discerning about whom he sold them too, so long as they were suitably anti-Communist (which the Company surely was).
Finally, Bradley Bryant relocated to Savannah, Georgia in the late 1970s on Company business. Most of WerBell's operations were also based out of Georgia, specifically Atlanta and the surrounding area. As such, it seems highly likely that the two operations were aware of one another. This researcher suspects that WerBell's operations may even have provided a kind of inspiration to Bryant and Thornton. But moving along.
"The meeting of Bradley Bryant and Jimmy Chagra was a fortuitous combination of like-minded souls. Though the organization of Bradley and Drew had met with success, they couldn't have dreamed up a better association. In 1978 the Chagras were considered by the DEA to be the kingpins in the country's largest heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and firearms distribution system. Not only did the Chagras have their own cocaine and marijuana suppliers in Columbia, a source for Lebanese heroin, and connections to Middle Eastern terrorists, but their organized-crime connections in the United States were said to be at the highest levels of the traditional La Cosa Nostra."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pg. 73)
|Oscar Goodman (right) with Trump at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Trump's Vegas hotel|
"The DEA believed that Gordon provided aircraft for the entire Medellin Cartel – the Colombian cocaine import and distribution network responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States and Canada. Gordon, according to the DEA, worked directly for Carlos Lehder – the convicted Colombian billionaire whose cocaine empire was part of his political vision to destabilize America.
"The reason the DEA knew so much about Bert Gordon was because Gordon worked for them..."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton. pgs. 349-350)
"... Larry Bryant, about whether he had obtained the military equipment he had promised Bradley. Stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Larry Bryant possessed a national security clearance to work on classified radar systems, and had offered to provide Bradley with sophisticated electronic deception equipment from the government's top-secret China Lake.
"Bradley was especially anxious to receive several Starlight nightvision scopes and IFF Radar, called the 'Green Box.' The Green Box, nicknamed 'friend or foe,' is a classified devised that U.S. military aircraft used for communicating with other military installations and friendly countries. Such an instrument would allow Bradley's drug-smuggling aircraft to enter and leave numerous Central and South American countries, his planes sending a signal that they were friendly, without resorting to radio communication."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 83-84)
After the legal troubles began for the Bryants in 1980, Larry Bryant told authorities an interesting story while being questioned about how classified military hardware from China Lake had ended up in Bradley's possession.
"He claimed that several nightsscopes had been retrieved from China Lake to be traded to Libya for a Soviet radar system the Libyans had purchased from the Russians. The U.S. government wanted to examine the Russian system, according to Larry Bryant's scenario, in order to duplicate it. All of the China Lake employees implicated in the disappearance of the items were top-secret specialists in long-range, surface-to-air radar systems, as was Larry Bryant.
"Larry Bryant contended that the covert operation was going to save the US government millions of dollars in research and development costs. 'We're good guys; we work for Uncle Sam,' said one of the employees later indicted for pilfering the equipment."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pg. 127)Specifically, the Bryants and other implicated China Lake employees claimed that the thefts were sanctioned by the CIA. By the time of the Bryants' arrest, Bradley and Drew Thornton had been claiming their operations were sanctioned by the CIA for several years. More than a few of the federal employees tasked with investigating the Company had come to similar conclusions.
Keep the allegations concerning Libya in mind dear reader, as we shall return to this point in the next installment. For now, there is one final aspect of the Company's operation I would like to address before wrapping up.
Finally, we come to the mysterious compound the Company operated in rural Kentucky. It was operated by a corporation Bryant and Thornton founded called Triad and soon drew the attention of both local residents and federal agents for the strange happenings there. Some dealt with more concrete concerns, such as indications the compound was being used to stockpile arms and engage in paramilitary training.
"Other federal agencies had also been enticed by rumors of arms-stockpiling and mercenary training at Triad. U.S. Customs agents in New York, who were monitoring the activities of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, briefly entertained the possibility that Triad was a subsidiary of Khashoggi's Triad American Corporation. The fact that Khashoggi was frequenting Lexington added fuel to the speculation.
"...The FBI in Lexington had received reports that foreign 'dark-skinned' soldiers of unknown nationality – possibly Libyan or Nicaraguan – were being trained at Triad in guerrilla warfare techniques. Some of the report suggested the Triad was CIA-sponsored... ATF had conducted an investigation into activities at Triad that had concluded that those attending the 'camp' were 'survivalists who on occasion dress in military fatigues and play war games – i.e., shoot each other with plastic bullets containing red blood-like dye, parachute from airplanes, firearms training, etc.' Triad evidently offered training in self-defense, advanced first aid, radiation detection, and the perfection of individual survival skills. ATF investigators found that trainees rappelled off the back cliffs of the farm down to the Kentucky river bed, while avoiding automatic fire. But ATF found 'no information indicating any connection between above-described activity and foreign/domestic terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and other activity possibly in violation of neutrality laws.' "
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 114-115)Right. A few "survivalist" types were able to come up with the cash to keep such an elaborate operation profitable. And a threat later made to state police who had infiltrated the compound --that the Company would shoot down any more surveillance flights the state police sent over the compound --was just in jest.
Before moving on to other allegations surrounding the compound, it is interesting to note its connection the infamous arms trafficker Adnan Khashoggi. For years Khashoggi was a key CIA asset who may have also been plugged into Le Cercle, an international fascist network (noted before here) of some notoriety.
Probably the strangest aspect of the Triad compound are the allegations encountered by state cop Ralph Ross, for years the lead investigator of Drew Thornton in Kentucky, of occult activity at the compound.
"Coincidentally, Ralph had suddenly been receiving complaints about suspicious activity on Triad. Neighbors had reported to state police that a cult of devil worshipers frequented the property, and that the constant firing automatic weapons could be heard..."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pg. 114)This takes us into some truly muddy waters. As I'm sure fans of the late, great David McGowan are well aware, there have been allegations for decades of paramilitary training compounds spread out across the nation with an occult flavor that "trained" various serial killers.
These allegations probably originate with infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who in the 1980s claimed to a member of a cult he called the Hand of Death. As was noted before here, Lucas alleged that this cult trained out of a paramilitary compound located in the Florida Everglades. While nominally this claim seems ridiculous, it is important to remember that anti-Castro Cubans were being trained in paramilitary camps in the Everglades up until at least the early 1960s. What's more, this training was largely being overseen by the same mercenaries who would later gravitate to Robert K. Brown's Soldier of Fortune crowd. Brown himself was quite active in assisting the anti-Castro Cubans during the early 1960s as well.
As was noted before here, Henry' claim was further bolstered by the discovery of Adolfo Constanzo's ranch near Matamoros, Mexico (which is directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas) in 1989. Constanzo was a Cuban-American occultist who became a major figure in the Mexican drug trade during the 1980s. Constanzo and his followers were believed to have performed human sacrifices at this ranch in addition to storing large amounts of contraband there. Prior to the discovery of the ranch, Lucas had alleged the Hand of Death kept a ranch near Matamoros for such purposes. It is also interesting to note that Constanzo was almost surely an affiliate of the Gulf Cartel, which the above-mentioned Los Zetas originally belonged to as enforcers before breaking away (noted before here).
While this might seem like a strange digression, I would further expand of this serial killer cult theme in the next installment. Also up for consideration Bryant and Thornton's contacts in Lexington's upper crust as well as further ties Trump has to the Company. And finally, I may even get around to considering the implications of it all. Stay tuned dear reader.