Longform

A Friend Indeed

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New Times obtained a Justice Department file that included a copy of an investigative background report produced by Dade's OCB detailing the WFC investigation. The report was meant to orient investigators from other agencies involved in the case. "The following report is only an attempt to bring together and possibly show a relationship of the many separate facts, concerning the possible ties between illicit narcotic trafficking, terrorist activities.... This information may stem from a multitude of sources, such as many confidential informants, street talk, federal law enforcement, and local agencies throughout areas of the United States." (Today Hernandez Cartaya, who lives in Miami, denies allegations that he or WFC did anything illegal.)

At the time, investigators suspected that Hernandez Cartaya was linked to the Central Intelligence Agency, which may have used the WFC banking network to move funds to anticommunist guerrillas and agency operatives in South America and Cuba. "Files of the Miami FBI office disclose that several persons suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are employed by WFC," the report states. "Perhaps the most prominent figure is Duney Perez Alamo, allegedly the building manager for WFC. Perez Alamo has expertise in guerrilla warfare and explosives, and self-admittedly was an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency in the mid-1960s." (Hernandez Cartaya acknowledges that his company employed Perez Alamo. "He worked security for us," he says. "I had nothing to do with hiring him." As for the alleged CIA link: "I don't recall any of that. There is no direct connection to the CIA.")

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."

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.")

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten