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by Carol Marshall
Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2002 at 7:13 AM
The rest of the story can be found following the link
The Last Circle - Chapter 6
Thursday, August 8: Casolaro called Danielle Stalling and asked her to set up appointments for him the next week with a former police officer, now employed as a private investigator, to learn more about the Laotian warlord Kuhn Sa's proposed Golden Triangle drug trade.
Friday, August 9: By now Hamilton was starting to worry. I talk to Danny everyday," Hamilton said. "I had never [gone without speaking to him for so long] before, so I called Bob Nichols in Los Angeles and asked whether he had heard from Danny recently."
Nichols told Hamilton "Yes," he had spoken with Danny late Monday night [August 5th] and he had been "euphoric." Nichols told Hamilton he (Nichols) was taking off for Europe that evening.
It was at that point that Olga, Danny's housekeeper, received four or five threatening phone calls. The first was about 9 a.m., a man's voice, in good English, said, "I will cut his [Danny's] body and throw it to the sharks."About a half hour later, another call came in. "Drop dead," the man's voice said.
Saturday, August 10: At 12:30 that afternoon, a maid knocked on the door of room 517 at the Sheraton Martinsburg Inn. Nobody answered, so she used her passkey to open the door; though it had both a security bolt and a chain lock on the inside, neither one was attached. When she glanced into the bathroom, she saw a lot of blood on the tile floor and screamed. Another hotel maid came into the bathroom and saw a man's nude body lying in the bloodfilled tub. There was blood not only on the tile floor but splattered up onto the wall above the tub as well. The police were called to the scene.
At 8:30 p.m. that night, unaware that Danny's body had been found, Olga, Danny's housekeeper, returned to Casolaro's house to look for him. The phone rang. A man's voice said, "You son of a bitch. You're dead." It was not until Monday, August 12, that authorities notified family and friends that Danny Casolaro was dead.
Had Danny in fact called Robert Booth Nichols on Monday, August 5th, and confronted him about his relationship with Mike Abbell? Had he told Nichols he planned to meet with FBI officials from Lexington, Kentucky? And what about FBI agent Thomas Gates, Nichols' antagonist? SPY magazine's article on Danny Casolaro indicated that he spoke with Gates three days before his death, relating a conversation in which Nichols had warned him to abandon the investigation.
Riconosciuto later conceded that he had tried repeatedly to reach Hamilton and Casolaro between August 5 and 10th to warn them NOT to mention Abbell or Rodriguez to Nichols, but it had been too late. Bill Hamilton told one investigator that he did NOT know WHY Riconosciuto was inquiring about Mike Abbell - until AFTER Danny's death.
Bob Bickel's confirmation that Danny WAS trailing Mike Abbell in the last days before his death indicate that Danny may have unknowingly stepped into the largest narcotics trafficking/intelligence operation the world.
Another indepth article came to my attention which further corroborated Danny's investigation of Gilberto Rodriguez. "The Strange Death of Danny Casolaro," by Ron Rosembaum in Vanity Fair's December 1991 issue included an interview with Michael Riconosciuto. According to Rosenbaum, Danny's investigations were taking him into areas that involved dangerous knowledge and dangerous characters. It was Danny's habit of "bouncing" Riconosciuto's stories off Robert Nichols that put him in peril, Riconosciuto told Rosenbaum. One of the things he reportedly "bounced" involved a major heroinrelated sting operation.
Another involved Riconosciuto's claim about an "effort by the Cali cocaine cartel to derail the extradition of an alleged Columbian kingpin called Gilberto."
Nichols "went ballistic," according to Riconosciuto, when Danny bounced the Gilberto (Rodriguez) matter off him. Riconosciuto said he tried to warn Danny. "I called from that day on it was on a late Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, all the way through the weekend when they found Danny [dead]," he said. "Every day I was calling the Hamiltons, asking if anybody had heard from Danny. And I was frantic."
Labeled by Rosenbaum as the "resident demon of the labyrinth," Riconosciuto said "Danny's theory was different from the typical megaconspiracy theory. Danny was dealing with real people and real crimes."
Rosenbaum asked Riconosciuto about the germ warfare technology he had found in Danny's notes. Riconosciuto admitted that he had learned about "horrible things" going on at the Cabazon Indian reservation but did not elaborate on the subject. Wrote Rosenbaum, "This is the labyrinth [that] Riconosciuto was leading Danny into the one he died in."
Just days before his death, Danny had planned to visit the reservation. In his notes were cryptic references to slowacting brain viruses like Mad Cow Disease, which could be used against targeted people by slipping the virus into meat pies. Riconosciuto told Rosenbaum that Danny was "concerned" that he may have been a target of this virus. "That was one of the reasons he [Danny] had such an obsession with this story. He felt he had been hit by these people."
Accordingly, Riconosciuto filled Danny's head with allegations of Robert Booth Nichols' sinister, international covertworld connections. He painted a picture linking Nichols to organized crime syndicates, the fearsome Japanese Yakuza, and various CIA and British intelligence plots emanating from Nichols' friendship with "a legendary Bondish Brit known as `Double Deuce' [Sir Denis Kendall]."
Riconosciuto said Nichols was the key to Danny's Octopus. But Danny was receiving warnings from Riconosciuto's counterpart as well. Robert Booth Nichols had flown to Washington D.C. from Puerto Rico to warn Danny to stay away from Riconosciuto.
Danny's girlfriend, Wendy Weaver, had been present at one of the meetings at the Four Seasons Hotel bar when Nichols issued the warning: "You don't know how bad this guy Riconosciuto is ... he might not get you today, he might not get you next month. He might get you two years from now. If you say anything against him he will kill you."
Nichols repeated the warning several times, said Weaver. "At least five times." Weaver described Nichols as "very charming, very handsome," but said "it [the meeting] was a weird night, so weird."
Another friend of Danny's met Nichols at a luncheon at Clyde's in Tysons Corner where Nichols allegedly informed them that he had just been asked to become "minister of state security" on the island of Dominica. Reportedly, the island was going to be transformed into a CIA base. The friend, who spoke to Rosenbaum on condition of anonymity, said Nichols was "very slick, very civilizedappearing" ... "oozing intrigue," but he added that he had never witnessed a performance like the one that ensued.
After lunch Danny had pulled his friend aside and showed him a purported FBI wiretap summary on Nichols. The summary was part of FBI agent Thomas Gates's affidavit in Nichols' slander suit against him. The summary linked Nichols to the Yakuza and to the Gambino crime family as a money launderer.
Danny's friend had been shocked. "You just put me in a meeting with this man and didn't tell me what the hell why didn't you tell me before?," he asked Danny. Danny said he wanted to see how Nichols would react. The friend told Rosenbaum, "In other words, he gaffed me with a hook and tossed me in the water to see if the Octopus would move!"
Danny HAD in fact been receiving death threats on the phone. One threat reported by his housekeeper, "You're dead, you son of a bitch," which came hours AFTER Danny's body had been found, ruled out Danny himself as a possible source of the threats. And his prophesy to his brother, Tony Casolaro, "If anything happens to me it won't be an accident," made it unmistakably clear that Danny did, indeed, feel threatened.
Nevertheless, Danny appeared upbeat to most of the people he talked to prior to his death. Dr. Tony Casolaro, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, told Vanity Fair that he didn't believe his brother committed suicide because Danny was so excited and upbeat about his investigation on that last Monday when he saw him.
The autopsy examination of Danny's brain had revealed possible symptoms of Multiple Schlerosis, but friends and family dismissed this as irrelevant because Danny had never complained of symptoms or, to their knowledge, known of the disease, if he had it.
Tony was also troubled by a number of facts, one of which was Danny's current papers and files which he took to West Virginia were missing from his motel room. His body had been embalmed even before family members were notified of the death, and the motel room had been commercially cleaned before any type of investigation, other than a cursory look at the death scene by police, could occur.
In his Vanity Fair article, Ron Rosenbaum wrote that he had obtained one of Casolaro's surviving notebooks and found mentioned under the heading of August 6, four days before Danny's death, the name "Gilberto." It read: "Bill Hamilton August 6. MR ... also brought up `Gilberto.'" Rosenbaum did not speculate publicly who Gilberto might be, but it was obviously Gilberto Rodriguez, head of the Cali Cartel, at that time deeply involved with Michael Abbell, formerly of the Department of Justice.
A dozen or so drafts of Casolaro's proposed manuscript along with notes and phone bills had been sent to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri by his brother, Dr. Tony Casolaro.Tony Casolaro had sent the material to the University because, at one time, the IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) Association, headquartered at the University, had researched the fatal carbombing of reporter Don Bolles in Arizona.
Bolles had been researching a mobconnected gold smuggling operation in that state. Through Tracy Barnett at IRE, I learned that a graduate student at the University had been assigned to catalog all Danny's material for eventual insertion into a data base. In contacting the graduate student, who by then (September 1994) worked for ABC in Houston, Texas, I learned that few if any journalists had inquired about the notes.
But, interestingly, Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Zipperstein from Los Angeles, working for the Department of Justice, had requested copies of Danny's NOTES, but declined Danny's phone records. The graduate student noted that the notes and drafts of Danny's proposed manuscript focused on a Cabal of intelligence people who, originally consisting of numerous names, were subsequently narrowed down to about eight. One of those names was Glen Shockley. Shockley, of course, was listed on the Board of Directors of F.I.D.C.O. along with Robert Booth Nichols.
Shockley was also a corporate partner in Meridian International Logistics, headed by Nichols. Shockley was also a CIA contract employee (according to several sources) who allegedly "ran Jose Londono" of the Cali Cartel. This according to Riconosciuto's taped interview with government agents while negotiating for Witness Protection.
I purchased everything of any significance pertaining to Danny's writings and documents, including the FBI wire tap summaries which corroborated everything I had learned to date.
In reviewing the summaries, it became apparent that the FBI had inadvertently stumbled onto a CIA drug trafficking operation which included high ranking La Cosa Nostra figures, the Gambino crime family and the Japanese Yakuza.
One affidavit in support of an application to intercept wire communications over the telephone listed names of those to be intercepted: Robert Booth Nichols, Eugene Giaquinto (then President of MCA Corportion Entertainment Division, and corporate partner with Nichols in Meridian International Logistics), Angelo Commito, Edward Sciandra, Michael Del Gaizo, Joseph Garofalo, and others.
The purpose of the interceptions was to determine "source, type and quantity of narcotics/controlled substances, methods and means of delivery, and the source of funding for purchasing of narcotics/controlled substances."
The intercepted conversations read like a "Who's Who" of organized crime. It was also apparent that Eugene Giaquinto enjoyed a special relationship with John Gotti.
Ann Klenk, a long time friend of Danny Casolaro's and former associate of Washington D.C. columnist Jack Anderson, held all his personal notes which were not sent to the University. In a September 14, 1994 phone interview, she noted that the last time she talked to Danny, that last Monday before his death, he told her he'd cracked the Inslaw case.
I asked her, "Do you think he resolved that?"
Ann responded, "Oh, yes. I KNOW he did. He TOLD me he did. He said, `Ann, I broke Inslaw.' And I said, `Geez, Danny that's great!' But, I never asked him what he found because he was very despondent about it. He said, `You can have it. You and Jack [Anderson] can have the story. I don't even want it.'"
Ann said Danny was disgusted and related their last conversation: "I said, `Danny, you worked on this [so long] and now you don't want it?' He said, `It's just a little piece of the puzzle anyway.' See, Inslaw led him into this, but Danny quickly became more involved with the drug aspects ... with the CIA aspects, with the Wackenhut aspects."
I said, "I know what you mean, because I followed the same trail."
Danny's proposed drafts and notes obtained from Western Historical Manuscript Collection at University of Missouri revealed information never published in mainstream media. Typewritten and handwritten lists of contacts included names and telephone numbers of Ted Gunderson, Raymond Lavas, Robert Nichols, Peter Zokosky, Bob Bickel, Fahim Safar, Earl Brian, Peter Dale Scott, Art Welmus, John Vanderwerker, Jack Blum, Dr. Harry Fair, Bill Hamilton, Bob Parry, Bill McCoy, and numerous others.
Most of Danny's drafts focused on the Southeast Asian heroin connection, CIA drug money used to finance the Contras, and the ability of terrorists to send missiles containing dangerous chemicals and biological diseases into the U.S.
One typewritten draft, entitled, "Behold, A Pale Horse," described an "international cabal [in Southern California] whose freelance services covered parochial political intrigue, espionage, sophisticated weapon technologies that included biotoxins, drug trafficking, money laundering and murder-for-hire." According to Danny, the cabal continues today, "its origins spawned thirty years ago in the shadow of the Cold War."
Casolaro's June - July (1991) phone bills told a story of their own. Having followed Danny's investigative trail for three years, I had an entire directory of phone numbers relating to his inquiries. Most obvious were Danny's numerous calls prior to his death to Robert Booth Nichols in Los Angeles. Most of the calls from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles lasted an average of one to two hours, invariably in the wee hours of the morning 1:50 a.m., 12:36 a.m., 1:13 a.m., 12:18 a.m., etc.
It was also apparent that Danny was riding a seesaw with Nichols and Riconosciuto. He would talk to one, then the other, often on the same day, back and forth for months. Then suddenly, he cut off Riconosciuto and his calls to Nichols increased in frequency.
Other phone numbers matched those of Ted Gunderson, Alan Boyak, a lawyer in Utah, Bo Gritz, Heinrich Rupp and Chuck Hayes, a self-professed (on the Internet) CIA operative. Danny often called Hayes immediately after he spoke with Nichols. Oddly, Hayes never came forward during the official investigation of Danny's death to disclose the content of those conversations.
Within six months of Casolaro's death, Riconosciuto was again attempting to trade information in exchange for entry into a Witness Protection Program. But this time, instead of using Casolaro or Bill Hamilton, he was using me to make the contacts.
At Riconosciuto's request, I contacted a man whom I will identify as N.B. at the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) in San Francisco. Michael had advised me to call this agent because the BATF was "Treasury Department" as was FinCen.
I set up the phone meeting and Riconosciuto called the San Francisco BATF collect, as scheduled. N.B. listened attentively to Michael, then ran a check on him through the departmental computer system. Shortly thereafter, I received an unnerving phone call.
N.B. advised me in strong terms to "get out of this" while I still could. He said I would end up getting subpoenaed as a witness if I didn't discontinue my investigation. He added that sometimes people got killed or committed suicide when they got involved with Michael Riconosciuto or Robert Booth Nichols.
N.B.'s computer inquiry had bounced back on him. His superior in the BATF had been notified by someone from another agency he didn't say who who had instructed N.B. that he was to have NO further contact with Michael Riconosciuto or me.
When I related this conversation to Michael, he indicated no surprise, but immediately wanted to be put back in touch with R.J. He needed someone in the government with access to his files to verify his credibility and get that information back to Tom Olmstead, his attorney. Regarding the computer inquiry, Riconosciuto explained as follows: "I know what's happening here. Tell R.J. if he uses FOIMS, Field Office Information Management System, and if he leaves an audit trail, he's going to be exposed. There are all sorts of different levels of flags on my name. Whenever the computer gets a hit, the issuing agency is notified as to who made the request and from where it came."
"Mike," I asked, "how can he get around that? I don't understand ..."
"Listen, whenever there's a hit on one of those flags, whether it's a want or [a] warrant, or whether it's simply an administrative interest, unbeknownst to the user who's making the request, his access is audited. Tell R.J. before he starts making inquiries, no matter how discreet he thinks they are, that he should have someone totally uncoupled from him to enter into FOIMS."
"Now," Michael continued, "if he goes into NCIC or NADDIS, ah, NCIC is the least dangerous as far as making inquiries, because NADDIS can track just like FOIMS ..."
"Now, on NCIC there is a `nonelectric' filing on me and he can make the request that way without alerting anyone. If he has trouble checking anything out, tell him I can help him along."
"He can't call you at the jail. How can he get in touch with you?"
"Through my attorney. The minute he [R.J.] gets a line on me, ask him to notify my attorney. Tell him he can check my attorney out through the government. Tom has excellent records with the government."
"Explain to R.J. that I know PROMISE, I know FOIMS inside out. I helped develop that internal tracking audit trail ..."
I had lost all hope of R.J. rescuing Michael Riconosciuto, and I think in his heart, Michael knew that too, but I passed the information along as requested. R.J. politely accepted the information as he always did, then I never heard from him again.
| Chapter 7, Part 1 | Chapter 6, Part 3 |Table of Contents |
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