"Deposition summarizes rumors about Seal" THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE June 26, 1988 The allegations contained in the sworn deposition of Eugene Wheaton summarize most of the rumors about Barry Seal at Mena. Wheaton said Seal took part in an alleged "secret" effort to use profits from drug smuggling to buy and deliver guns to the contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Wheaton's story, which has yet to be proven, includes allegations hat Seal played a part in: Drug smuggling and gun running with the consent of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency. Clandestine pilot training at a grass airstrip near the Nella community in southern Scott County. Commando training of "Latins" near the airstrip by CIA veterans of the war in Southeast Asia. Many allegations doubted Investigators have expressed doubt about many of Wheaton's allegations. Other assertions by Wheaton, they said, fall in line with leads they are following. The investigators spoke on the condition that they not be identified because the case is still being investigated. Efforts to interview Wheaton through the Christic Institute over the course of more than a month were unsuccessful. Wheaton said in the Christic Institute deposition in March that he is a former Marine and former Air Force and Army criminal investigator who served as narcotics adviser and security consultant to the late Shah of Iran and later worked for corporations in the Middle East and elsewhere. Moved to Mena in '82 Wheaton said Seal moved his drug-smuggling operation to Mena in 1982. After Seal became a government informant in 1984, Wheaton said, he began "flying missions out of Florida into Central America hauling weapons down and drugs back under the control of the DEA and the CIA." Wheaton said Seal was "directed by agents of the government" to move from Baton Rouge to Mena and to continue his smuggling as a cover for his DEA and CIA undercover work. "In other words, they said if he would go to Arkansas, continue what he was doing he would, if not be protected, he would be ignored by federal agencies while he continued his covert help to the government in Florida," Wheaton said. Alleged partner Wheaton said Seal made Fred L. Hampton, the owner of Rich Mountain Aviation at the Mena Airport, his associate and was himself a financial supporter of Hampton's company. Hampton said last week, however, that Seal "was strictly a customer." Hampton said the company had performed maintenance on "six or eight" of Seal's planes between 1981 and 1986. He said Seal had paid cash for the work and was charged the same rates as other customers. Hampton said Seal was slow to pay his bills and owed the company $13,000 when he died. Wheaton also said Seal brought "at least one large load of cocaine" into the Mena Airport and that Hampton had transported it to Louisiana. Hampton said he had "never seen any cocaine in my life." Bought plot of land Wheaton said Seal bought an isolated plot of land in the Ouachita National Forest near the Nella community in Scott County through Hampton. Scott County tax records show that Hampton bought the land in November 1982 and that he sold it to his father, Fred V. Hampton Sr., in January 1986. Seal and Hampton then built a 2,000-foot, dirt airstrip on the land in the National Forest, Wheaton said. The airstrip later became a base for training pilots for night takeoffs and landings at unimproved airstrips using special night vision and video equipment, he said. At the same time, Wheaton said, "a covert paramilitary commando training operation" began and continued until late 1987. Hampton said he bought the land as "an investment" and for recreation. He said he and others had landed on the airstrip in small, single-engine planes "on two or three occasions." He said he had planned to build a house on the land but never did. "The speculation is that the land was used for a private smuggling operation and that it had something to do with the Iran-contra affair," Hampton said. "That's totally ludicrous."
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