By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Jeb later told reporters that he didn't recall the conversations with Heckler or Haddow, though he remembered calling another top HHS official on IMC's behalf. He said later that he was simply trying to ensure Recarey received a fair hearing in Washington. He succeeded. According to the sworn congressional testimony of HHS officials, Jeb's phone calls were influential, if not decisive, in keeping Recarey's fraudulent operation going for two more years. During those two years, 1985 and 1986, Recarey and his associates gave more than $25,000 to George Bush's political action committees. And in 1986 Recarey hired Jeb Bush to find new corporate headquarters for IMC. Although Jeb failed in that task, he received $75,000 in fees from Recarey anyway.
Recarey was indicted in April 1987 and again in October 1987 on racketeering and wiretapping charges. He fled to Caracas, Venezuela, where he lived openly in a luxury suburb called El Llanito. More recently he is rumored to have left his wife and moved to Spain, and one Capitol Hill source familiar with the IMC case believes Recarey is also under investigation for drug trafficking.
Leonel Martinez was no smooth talker like Miguel Recarey, nor was he a Republican Party insider like Camilo Padreda. He was an audacious and skillful smuggler who in almost 30 years in the United States learned only the most rudimentary English. One police officer who saw him at a political fund raiser says Martinez sat quietly at his table with his wife and did not talk to other guests. Never one to ingratiate himself to others, he nonetheless demanded respect, and as he grew more respected, he became more demanding.
In December 1984, a pilot who worked for Martinez confronted him outside his office at 85 Grand Canal Drive in West Dade, demanding he settle a $4000 debt. Martinez first told his accountant to pay the pilot, then moments later, federal prosecutors say, he ordered his underlings to kill the man. The pilot was bludgeoned to death the same day, his body stuffed into the trunk of a car. According to one informant, when Martinez was asked by his associates how a man of his stature could allow someone to speak to him so disrespectfully, he hesitated for a moment, then said, "Boys, very few people talk to me like that, and as for that particular individual, there are ants crawling out of his mouth now."
Martinez was a man of stature in Miami. Not only did he contribute to Jeb Bush's Republican Party, he was also on friendly terms with some of the biggest bankers in town. And he associated with Eden Pastora, a leader of the contra rebels fighting in Nicaragua. The charismatic Pastora, who broke with the Sandinista leadership after the 1979 revolution, was a hero to anti-communist Latins in Miami, and a favorite of Reagan administration policymakers in Washington.
Martinez first met Pastora in 1984 in Miami and reportedly told him, "We will help you liberate Nicaragua and then you will help us liberate Cuba." In April 1985, Martinez sponsored a fund-raising event for Pastora, collecting hundreds of pledges. Alcides Cruz, Martinez's long-time partner in drug trafficking, has told investigators that he and Martinez arranged for Pastora to receive two helicopters, military clothing, arms, and ammunition.
It was at this time that Martinez's drug trafficking may well have come to the attention of the CIA. Alan Fiers, a senior CIA official, later testified in a closed session before Congress that "we knew that everybody around Pastora was involved in cocaine. His staff and friends [word deleted], they were involved in drug smuggling."
Pastora's friend Martinez was certainly involved in drug smuggling. In July 1985, he transported 440 kilos of cocaine through the Bahamas. By autumn he was attempting to import large cocaine shipments into Miami every few weeks. In September, when notorious Bahamian pirate Nick Stuart hijacked one of Martinez's 375-kilo shipments, he paid a $300,000 ransom to recover the load. In October he successfully imported another 400 kilos.
In late October, Martinez transported a shipment of 407 kilos for Colombian drug dealer Margarita Escobar, purported to be a relative of cocaine billionaire Pablo Escobar. After Bahamian police seized the twelve duffel bags of cocaine in Freeport, Escobar, known as "La Doctora" because of her advanced university degree, paid a visit to Leonel's office on Grand Canal Drive and demanded $750,000. If he didn't pay, she said, she would kill him. Martinez offered ten condominiums as payment, but La Doctora said no. Then, according to informants who were at the meeting, Martinez declared, "You can kill me or you can wait." La Doctora replied that she expected to be paid, and returned to Colombia. ("It was a typical business meeting in Miami," quips federal prosecutor Carol Wilkinson.)
Martinez set about collecting Escobar's cash, but he wasn't so strapped that he couldn't afford to continue his political largesse. On December 5, 1985, he made his biggest political contribution to date: a check for $5000, the maximum allowed by law, to a political action committee called the Fund for America's Future, which had been established to lay the groundwork for George Bush's 1988 presidential candidacy and was designed to tap Bush's most fervent supporters. Martinez paid off his debt to La Doctora, and in February 1986, he imported another 375 kilos of cocaine.