A Friend Indeed

Meet Camilo Padreda, dynamic businessman, faithful Republican, patron of law enforcement, convicted felon

In addition the background report notes that Myriam Rodgers, daughter of notorious anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch, was arrested on June 17, 1977, while trying to smuggle 7.5 pounds of cocaine through Miami International Airport. In her purse investigators found the address for WFC offices in Coral Gables. Court records show that Rodgers pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence.

Camilo Padreda's involvement with WFC, according to the report, appears to have begun in 1973, in association with a troubled housing project in Virginia Gardens called, simply, the Virginia Gardens Project. The project's owners, Orlando Mendez and Oscar Ferrer, ran short of money to complete construction. They took out a second construction loan with WFC Mortgage, a subsidiary of WFC, but still encountered delays. At that point Hernandez Cartaya wanted to foreclose, according to the report, which cites a WFC source working on the deal with Hernandez Cartaya.

"At this time, Camilo Padreda came into the picture," the report states. "[Padreda] told Hernandez Cartaya that he was going to obtain a building permit regardless of the faulty building construction. A major structural defect was present at the point where the two sections of the building connect. The permit was obtained by Padreda."

Valerie Sebring
The FBI's Hector Pesquera (left) is a Camilo Padreda fan, as is recently retired Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez (right)
Steve Satterwhite
The FBI's Hector Pesquera (left) is a Camilo Padreda fan, as is recently retired Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez (right)

The report continues: "As a result of C. Padreda's influence, they 'muscled out' Ferrer & Mendez, who were furious." (Hernandez Cartaya counters: "It was all very friendly. Padreda had nothing to do with it.")

Nonetheless a business partnership was born. Padreda and Hernandez Cartaya got along so well that within a year the two resourceful entrepreneurs worked together to expand Hernandez Cartaya's business interests into other fields. "On five separate occasions during 1977, Guillermo Hernandez Cartaya attempted to incorporate a life insurance company," reads the report. "On each attempt the Dade County Organized Crime Bureau supplied the Insurance Commissioner's Office with sufficient information to stop the certificate of incorporation. On the fifth application for incorporation, Hernandez Cartaya withdrew his name from the corporation and had it appear that the following individuals would control the company: Camilo Padreda, head of Latin Builders Association; José R. Paredes, Miami Assistant City Manager; Mike Abrams, head of Dade County Democratic Party." (Hernandez Cartaya says this passage from the report sounds "accurate." Abrams says he can't recall specifics from so long ago, but that it's possible he put his name on the incorporation papers. "I did do some consulting work for him," Abrams recounts. "I liked the guy.")

Once again the organized-crime task force was able to provide sufficient documentation to prove that these men were merely fronts for Hernandez Cartaya, according to the report. The application was denied.

Despite WFC's anticommunist connections, investigators wrote that they developed credible leads indicating it received money from Castro's government and may in fact have interacted with the Cuban military. "It would appear that WFC would be anti-Castro, but with facts obtained by Dade County Organized Crime Bureau ... there is a question where WFC's political loyalties lie," the report asserts, citing among other things loans to WFC from the Bank of Moscow in London; meetings between a WFC representative and Cuban military officials in Cuba, and then that WFC representative's apparent debriefing sessions with Hernandez Cartaya; and statements from "the supervisor of the telex mechanic in the WFC office stating that coded messages were sent to Cuba via Panama." (Hernandez Cartaya scoffs at this assertion: "Everybody knows I'm a veteran of the Bay of Pigs and that I'm a very strong anti-Castro person. I had nothing to do with Cuba and didn't meet anybody from Cuba.")

In 1982 the FBI snapped shut its six-year investigation of WFC and a federal grand jury in Texas indicted Hernandez Cartaya, his father Marcelo, and Camilo Padreda on four counts of embezzlement and fraud. The feds alleged the three men embezzled $500,000 in December 1977 through a complex series of bank transactions that funneled deposits from the WFC-controlled Jefferson Savings and Loan in McAllen, Texas, to the Miami bank account of the WFC-controlled American Atlantic Assurance Co. (The father and brother of former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen sat on the Jefferson Savings board of directors.)

A year later federal prosecutors in Texas labeled the WFC investigation "flawed" and dropped all charges against the three men. The assistant U.S. Attorney who launched the probe, Jerome Sanford, was incensed. After leaving for private practice, he told New York Newsday in 1988 that "the CIA may have intervened with the FBI to limit the scope of the investigation," given WFC's alleged ties to the CIA. Sanford filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA to obtain WFC-related documents. The agency denied his request but did reveal it had 24 reports and memoranda dealing with the company. Sanford has since rejoined the U.S. Attorney's Office, and works in Florida's northern district, in Gainesville, where New Times contacted him. He declined to comment for this story. James Rider, currently the Glades County Sheriff, was a sergeant with Dade's Organized Crime Bureau at the time. His unit worked the WFC investigation for two years from a secret office near the airport until the FBI took all the files for its case against WFC. He was surprised the case was dismissed. "It was my opinion the CIA was involved," Rider says.

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