|English | Español||February 6, 2016 | Issue #48|
New Document Provides Further Evidence That Owner of Crashed Cocaine Jet Was a U.S. Government Operative
Signatures Link Florida Pilot Greg Smith to DEA/FBI/CIA Operations in Colombia
By Bill Conroy
Top, the signature of Gregory D. Smith on Aero Group Jets’ 1998 annual report filing; and below, “Greg Smith” on the Gulstream II’s September 16, 2007 bill of sale.
However, there are some striking similarities as well, including the fact that some of the letters appear to be penned in precisely the same way.
Mike Levine, a former undercover DEA agent who now works as an expert witness in court cases (and also has his own radio show in New York City), had this to say after comparing the signatures:
I did much of this handwriting comparison work, without using an expert, but my opinion was accepted before grand juries as having a significant amount of work experience in comparing handwritings (IRS, BATF, Customs and DEA). I would say the samples you sent me are definitely the same handwriting.
So it does appear Vega’s Greg Smith and the Greg Smith linked to the crashed cocaine jet are, in fact, the same person.
Ultimately, though, it is you, kind reader, who has to make that judgment call.
In all of this, we must remember that the cocaine that was onboard the Gulfstream II when it crashed came out of Colombia.
In prior stories, Narco News has reported that leaks of classified information from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, were allegedly discovered in 1999 during a DEA operation targeting Colombian narco-traffickers. That operation, codenamed “Cali-Man,” played out between 1997 and 2000, utilized Vega as an asset, and was overseen by Miami-based DEA Supervisor David Tinsley.
The U.S. Embassy leaks uncovered by Tinsley in 1999 are also referenced in an internal memo drafted in 2004 by a Justice Department attorney named Thomas M. Kent. That memo was leaked to Narco News last year.
In the wake of reporting the U.S. Embassy leaks, Tinsley found himself the target of an internal DEA investigation that resulted in his suspension and eventual dismissal from his job.
Tinsley sought to get his job back, claiming the charges against him were bogus. He brought a claim of wrongful termination before a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) judge, who, in April 2004, ruled in his favor and ordered the DEA to reinstate him — with back pay, plus interest.
Vega worked as a cooperating source for Tinsley’s Cali-Man operation and likewise ran across the trail of the alleged U.S. law enforcement corruption in Colombia. He, too, was targeted by the government — at the same time Tinsley was being investigated.
The FBI charged Vega in 2000 with obstruction of justice, alleging that he used an illegal scheme of promising Colombian narco-traffickers lenient sentences in exchange for money and their cooperation with the U.S. government. Those charges were dropped, however, because prosecutors were later forced to concede that Vega’s so-called “corruption scheme” was actually a government-sanctioned cover story. In fact, Vega claims the FBI authorized the cover story.
But the government still found a way to stick it to Vega by hitting him with a misdemeanor tax charge. Vega says he served 52 days in jail after being convicted in 2004 of that taxing transgression. Ironically, one of the allegedly corrupt Colombian law enforcers who Vega claims was part of the Bogotá Connection, Col. Danilo Gonzalez of the Colombian National Police, was assassinated in Bogotá on the very day Vega was sentenced in the tax case.
Vega, in a recent lawsuit filed in federal court, claims the FBI and DEA both used him between 1997 and 2000 to help broker plea deals with Colombian narco-traffickers and that, in the end, the U.S. government stiffed him out of $28.5 million in promised payments for his work.
It was during that work for the FBI and DEA that Vega ran across Greg Smith, whom Vega claims was brought in by the FBI to pilot some 25 to 30 flights that involved couriering federal agents, Colombian narco-traffickers and lawyers back and forth between the United States and Latin America as part of the naroc-trafficker “recruiting” efforts.
Vega also says that the CIA was very involved in this effort, assisting with assuring the safe transport of the narco-traffickers to the airports in Latin America.
“We did have the full cooperation of the CIA…,” he told Narco News.
On at least one occasion, Vega adds, a CIA agent actually flew in the jet during one of the Latin American missions — though he stresses the agent simply needed to hitch a ride and was not directly involved with the operation.
The CIA even popped up during the course of Tinsley’s Cali-Man investigation in Colombia. A DEA report obtained by Narco News provides the following details concerning that incident:
[DEA Miami Division Special Agent] SA Vasquez … stated between June and December 1999, he received a complaint from unknown CIA personnel concerning GS Tinsley. According to SA Vasquez, the information he received was vague and pertained to GS Tinsley’s unexpected arrival in Panama [where the informant Vega often arranged meetings with high-level Colombian narco-traffickers as part of Cali-Man], and the fact that he [Tinsley] was somehow interfering with CIA operations. SA Vasquez was unable to recall the exact time frame of the incident.
In addition, one of the files leaked out of the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá to a narco-trafficker was a CIA file, according to Vega. The file provided to that narco-trafficker, Vega alleges, was a record of all the intelligence gathered by the CIA in Colombia on some 200 narco-traffickers.
So it appears the CIA’s fingerprints are all over the Bogotá Connection.
And now, given Mr. Smith’s possible link to the Gulfstream II jet — an aircraft reportedly linked to past CIA operations — Vega says he cannot rule out that Smith might be an asset of not only the FBI, but the CIA as well. He stresses, though, that it is only a “suspicion.”
However, Vega says that suspicion is fueled, in part, by the events that played out after he was released from his 52-day jail stint stemming from the tax case. Vega claims that prior to his arrest on the tax charge, as part of a lease-purchase deal, he put $250,000 down toward buying the jet that Smith had piloted in the narco-trafficker recruiting trips to Latin America.
Vega explains that in addition to the missions for the U.S. government, he also used the jet in traveling for his personal business as a fashion photographer.
Vega, who has a long history working as a CIA asset, explains that the fashion business was a perfect cover for his work.
“My operations used fashion as a cover and beauty as a weapon,” he says.
After getting out of jail, Vega says he attempted to recover the jet or the money he had advanced for the aircraft, but was paid a visit by the FBI who told him in no uncertain terms to “stay away from the plane.”
To this day, Vega alleges, he has not recovered the money nor does he know what happened to the jet.
It seems that in the world of spooks and covert jets, finding the truth is like finding the source of a light in a house of mirrors.
Several law enforcement sources familiar with CIA operations told Narco News that the Agency’s practice is to set up separate companies for each operation, so that if something goes wrong — a jet is lost, for example — there is no bleed over to other operations, which also are being carried out through a matrix of separate companies.
In addition, the sources say the CIA operates like a large management company and regularly contracts for services as needed, including pilots. And because of the nature of its clandestine work, the sources contend the CIA has to deal in the shadowy world of criminal organizations — because the Agency itself is considered an illegal operation in most of the foreign countries in which it has operations.
But it must be stressed that, at this point, it is not clear what role Smith really played in the ill-fated flight of the Gulfstream II.
If you, kind reader, believe the signatures are a match, which means we are dealing with one individual, then it appears that the Smith involved in the purchase of the crashed Gulfstream II has a history of piloting flights for sensitive government operations where the FBI, DEA and CIA intersect.
If, as one scenario might suggest, Smith is indeed a CIA operative — and that is only “speculation” at this point as Vega says — then he likely is only one reflection in an array of mirrors. It just so happens that in this particular case, one of those mirrors has been covered with four tons of coke.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism