CIA denies link to heads of Nicaragua-Calif. drug ring Agency says it didn't know of leader's tie to contras

November 06, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Central Intelligence Agency said yesterday it has no record of any CIA relationship with the principal members of a Nicaraguan-American cocaine-trafficking ring that operated in California during the 1980s.

In a legal declaration filed in federal court in San Diego and released in Washington, the CIA said it knew as early as 1984 that cocaine smuggler Norvin Meneses was a major drug trafficker.

But it said a search of its records found no evidence of any CIA relationship with Meneses.

At the time, Meneses was a financial contributor to the CIA-backed rebels who were fighting Nicaragua's leftist government.

The cocaine trafficker made at least one visit to the contras' military headquarters in Honduras in 1982, when the CIA was deeply involved in directing, training and supplying the rebels.

Still, the CIA said its initial investigation did not turn up any evidence that the agency knew then of Meneses' link to the contras.

A spokesman said the CIA's inspector general was looking into that issue, and noted that the declaration released yesterday focused only on the question of whether the agency had a relationship with the trafficker.

Meneses was the principal figure in a cocaine-trafficking ring that imported drugs from Central America to California during the early 1980s. One of Meneses' lieutenants, Oscar Danilo Blandon, later sold drugs to Ricky Ross, a major crack cocaine dealer in South-Central Los Angeles.

The agency's search "identified no records indicating that CIA had any kind of operational, contractual or employment relationship" with Meneses, Blandon or Ross, the CIA said.

The agency also found no records of any relationship with Ronald J. Lister, a former Laguna Beach, Calif., police officer who claimed that he worked for the CIA when he was arrested on drug charges in 1986, or David Scott Weekly, the man Lister named as his CIA contact.

The Meneses operation, which began to disintegrate when two of its members were arrested in 1984, came under renewed investigation after a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News. The newspaper reported that Meneses, Blandon and Ross introduced Colombian cocaine to South-Central Los Angeles and sent millions of dollars in drug profits to the contras.

The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers said, however, that the Meneses ring was only one of many that supplied cocaine to Los Angeles and that only $50,000 in contributions from him to the contras could be established.

The articles prompted Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, and other members of Congress to demand a CIA investigation. That internal inquest will not be finished for several months, CIA officials said.

The CIA declaration released yesterday was prepared after federal prosecutors in San Diego asked the CIA to do a quick check of its records in connection with Ross' trial on drug-trafficking charges.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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