Collected Articles About The Mena Airport


"Plane downed in Nicaragua once owned by Adler `Barry' Seal"
By  John Semien
THE BATON ROUGE MORNING ADVOCATE 
October 10, 1986

     A supply plane shot down over Nicaragua this week was
dubbed "the fat lady" by one of its former owners, slain drug
informant Adler "Barry" Seal.
      The Contra weapons supply plane identified by the Sandinista
government is owned by Doan Helicopters Inc. of Daytona Beach, Fla.,
according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
       Attorney Dale Baringer, who is handling Seal's estate, on
Thursday said a 1985 purchase order shows Seal sold the Fairchild
C-123 K-model transport plane to Doan in June 1985.
        "Barry acquired it to complete an undercover operation in
Nicaragua," Baringer said. "Barry sold it with certain rights to
reacquire it or to share in the profit if it was sold."
         Seal acquired the large transport plane in June 1984 for a DEA
undercover operation that ultimately involved the CIA, producing the
first documented evidence of the communist Sandinista government's
involvement in cocaine trafficking, according to court testimony from
DEA agents.
          Transcripts of court testimony show Seal allowed the CIA to equip
the plane with hidden cameras that produced photographs of Nicaraguan
government official Federico Vaughan loading a shipment of cocaine
onto the C-123, with the help of members of the Cuban Army and
reputed Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar-Gaviria.
          Release of the photos and details of the operation by federal
officials prematurely ended the undercover DEA operation in late
1984, according to court testimony.
          But one of the photos resurfaced in March when it was displayed
by President Reagan in a nationwide television address to help
explain his administration's charge that Nicaraguan government
officials are involved in drug trafficking.
          Baringer on Thursday said the agreement of sale shows signatures
of Seal and Doan's president, Harry Doan, also of Daytona, Fla.
          He said Seal traded a boat and a Bell helicopter belonging to "a
guy in Honduras" for a plane in early 1984 and that Seal later traded
the plane for the Fairchild C-123, which had the tail markings
N441OF.
           Baringer would not disclose purchase prices or value of the items
in the transaction.
          DEA Special Agent Ernest Jacobson, who worked closely with Seal
on the 1984 operation, recounted it in court testimony before U.S.
District Judge Jose A. Gonzales in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Aug. 14,
1984.
           At the time, Seal was an informant for the DEA in an
investigation of Escobar and Jorge Luis Ochoa's drug cartel and
possible links to cocaine trafficking in Nicaragua.
           At the hearing, Jacobson said Seal documented that the
Sandinistan government was involved in shipping cocaine to the United
States and processing coco base into cocaine in Nicaragua.
            Jacobson said a plane loaded with 700 kilograms of cocaine and
piloted by Seal had been accidentally shot down by Sandinistan forces
in Nicaragua in an ill-fated smuggling attempt when Seal returned to
the United States and acquired the C-123 in early June 1984.
           "During this time that Mr. Seal was there, the CIA was directly
involved," Jacobson said. "They were, we were trying to get them to
find out about Mr. Seal's presence down there to see if he was alive
or dead."
           "... During Mr. Seal's flights in and out of Nicaragua, the CIA
had satellite pictures taken which verified in fact that the
Sandinistan government was directly involved in the shipment of
cocaine," he said.
           In a hearing before U.S. District Judge Norman C. Roettger Jr. in
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in October 1985, DEA Special Agent Robert Jura
confirmed that the CIA involved Seal in efforts to document
Nicaraguan involvement in drug trafficking.
           In his testimony, Joura said Seal was approached by the CIA in
Nicaragua with the proposal to equip his plane with hidden cameras.
           "On the flight Mr. Seal made to Managua, Nicaragua, that returned
in bringing back the 1,500 pounds of cocaine, Mr. Seal was approached
by the CIA and (they) asked him if cameras could be installed in Mr.
Seal's aircraft to take pictures while on the ground in Nicaragua,"
he said. "And Mr. Seal consented to this, and the plane was equipped
with 35-millimeter cameras."
           Joura testified that the trip was dangerous because Seal was "on
his own" if captured in Nicaragua.
           "He was told he was absolutely on his own, as far as Nicaragua
was concerned," Joura said. "This was a first time that it was being
done, not only for the government, but also for the Ochoa
organization. No one had ever gone into Nicaragua before as far as
I'm aware, and brought drugs out."
           In August 1985, Seal testified about the Nicaraguan flight before
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben in a Nevada drug case he was
involved in with the DEA.
           In the Nevada case, Seal testified he was accidentally shot down
by  Nicaraguan anti-aircraft fire in a plane loaded with 600
kilograms of cocaine while attempting to leave Nicaracua.
Seal said he returned to Nicaragua in the C-123 and successfully
photographed members of the Cuban Army, communist Sandinistas and
Escobar loading the plane with 1,300 pounds of cocaine.
          "They gave me two radio-controlled devices with pushbuttons on
them ...  but they didn't work too well," he said. "Mr. (Emile) Camp
snapped the camera at my direction."
          Seal recounted the operation several times in federal cases
involving large-scale cocaine smuggling, including an appearance
before the President's Commission on Organized Crime in October 1985.
           After a court battle with local federal prosecutors, he was
sentenced to six months in a halfway house operated by the Salvation
Army Community Treatment Center on Airline Highway in early 1986.
           A flamboyant businessman who continued to deal in aircraft, Seal
lost several planes among assets seized in Louisiana and Arkansas in
a jeopardy assessment by the Internal Revenue Service in a
$29,487,718 tax lien placed against his property.
          He was shot to death by two machinegun-wielding men while behind
the wheel of his Cadillac in the Salvation Army parking lot Feb. 19
in what federal officials have called a professional assassination.
          Both federal and state grand jury investigations have linked
powerful Colombian drug smugglers to the murder.
          A former sheriff in Polk County, Ark., where state and federal
officials are conducting a separate investigation into Seal's
dealings with an Arkansas aviation firm, said the plane was stored at
Ridge Mountain Aviation shortly after Seal's exploits in Nicaragua
until it was transported to Florida.
         "That 123 was here at Mena from shortly after the Nicaraguan
sting deal until a year later," said former Sheriff Al Hadaway.
"Then it was moved to Love Field in Dallas and then to Florida."
          Hadaway said the plane was part of an investigation his office
was conducting with other members of a "President's Drug Task Force"
on Seal's dealings with people in Arkansas and Louisiana.
          "At  one time it was a target of my investigation," he said of
the plane. "Some of that is still under grand jury investigation."
          Reagan and other U.S. officials have denied that the plane or its
crew had ties to the U.S. government in its recent flight over
Nicaragua.

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