No one spoke to me about what John was charged with. His indictment was sealed so we could not know what would lie ahead. We could only search on this primitive internet trying to link names and newspaper reports from the few archives that were available in 1994. I was mildly familiar with RICO and how it was enacted. I did not know that it enabled Federal Prosecutors to indict you for a crime that never took place, in a place you'd never been, with people you do not know. There were two smuggling operations reported in west coast papers in the 1980s that Florida Federal Prosecutors were now trying to link to John. They were very different, but both mentioned one name - Thomas Gary Smith. I would remember this name. I would also remember the monumental amounts of money the Federal Prosecutors in Northern Florida were artfully attaching to John's name. It was a wonder.
I roamed the internet for articles that might tell us who Thomas Gary Smith was and why he would have been mentioned in the "Drug Tug" case
On January 10, 1988 The Arizona Republic ran a story on fugitives and mentioned that Thomas Gary Smith aka George Earl Hannah was convicted in Massachusetts in 1978 for smuggling marijuana. He disappeared and next turned up in Michigan as Thomas Gary Vance. He was arrested in Sacramento California December 3,1987 in connection with a conspiracy charge. Three America West Pilots, Earl Patrick Thurston, Robert J Russell, and Carl Joe Webster part of this conspiracy which took place in 1985.
This smuggling operation was linked to Jaime Bermudez-Botero. These pilots were charged with using a DC-6 aircraft to fly marijuana into Texas, and Arizona from Columbia. The aircraft was registered to Desert Petroleum. The principle in Desert Petroleum was "Ralph Carmichael" which was an alias used by Thurston. The three pilots were released on bail, but Smith who was also arrested in this case was not given bail. July 15, 1989, Helmut B Bubbel, the owner of the Pump House Restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska was charged as a co-conspirator. Bubbel's attorney, Edward Novak said his client had an outstanding military record and hadn't done anything wrong in his entire life. He was former Vice President of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Center. He was charged with meeting with Smith and Thurston to plan the purchase of the plane for $ 315,000.00. It was speculated that Helmut Bubbel had been, perhaps was a CIA operative.
Before Thomas Gary Smith and Helmet Bubbel's trial began in June of 1990, the three America West Pilots had accepted plea bargains that required them to be witnesses for the prosecution. It was decided that Smith was the key member of the plot. Smith's attorney was Bernie Segal from San Francisco. Prosecutors said Smith headed an arm of an international marijuana smuggling operation that was paying for Smith's defense and the prosecutors said that Segal had a conflict of interest. Segal moved to remove himself, but his request was not granted.
Earl Thurston, a former Vice President of America West was to be the government's star witness against Thomas Gary Smith The Judge was US District Judge Paul Rosenblatt. The three pilots, Thurston, Russell , and Wobser said they became part of the conspiracy because it was big money and a bit of adventure. All three were founding pilots of America West. Thurston, a Vice President, said the scheme took them from Thailand, Canada, Mexico, Columbia and Arube. Thurston had been a pilot with the CIA Airlines Air America. The three pilots were sentenced to two years and testified against Smith who was convicted. The Bureau of Prisons web site now says that the three pilots were unknown to the prison system and were never incarcerated. Smith, who was convicted, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Bernard Segal said Smith was just a middle man and prosecutors wanted to punish him because he would not cooperate.
So - now I thought I knew of two smuggling operations that Prosecutors had decided to link to John, These two cases were the Calvin Robinson case where the barge was seized under the Golden Gate Bridge, and the case where the three pilots from America West were arrested. Both cases on the internet claimed links to the CIA. This presents a problem for me, as I have never adopted a single conspiracy theory in my life. I believe the single bullet theory of the Warren Commission. I don't know or care about Roswell, but I think it is probably something innocuous. I know little about Iran- Contra, but intend to find out more. I don't believe the government spies on folks without a warrant. Life has been straight forward. Well, it must be taken for what it is.
I could not find much information about this case, but many years later Prosecutors chose this as their starting point for John's prosecution.