Second Informant Surfaces in ICE’s Mayan Jaguar Cocaine-Plane Op

US Attorney Dismisses Criminal Case Against Brazilian Informant

The secrecy cloaking a corporate jet with a CIA-linked tail number that crash landed in Mexico in the fall of 2007 with a nearly four-ton load of cocaine onboard continues to unravel, one string at a time.

The Gulfstream II cocaine jet was part of a suspected US intelligence operation wrapped in the garbs of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) undercover operation called Mayan Jaguar, law enforcement sources suspect.

The newest revelations in the case pop up in court pleadings recently unearthed by Narco News and show the cocaine jet that ditched in Mexico’s Yucatan in September 2007 was part of a much larger web of cocaine planes sold to drug-traffickers with the assistance of at least two informants who continue to work for or own aviation brokerage companies.

The ICE undercover operation played out in the first decade of the 2000s (roughly 2004 until sometime in 2008) and involved the use of US government front companies to sell aircraft to suspected Latin American drug-trafficking organizations.

Brazillian national Joao Malago has already been identified as one of the key ICE informants for Mayan Jaguar. He oversaw several front companies as part of the operation, including Florida-based Donna Blue Aircraft, which was used to broker the sale of the CIA-connected Gulfstream II cocaine jet, tail No. N987SA, to two individuals — one of who, a pilot named Greg Smith, has past connections to US government operations, prior Narco News reports revealed. Shortly after Smith and his partner inked a bill of sale and took over ownership of the Gulfstream II, it crashed in Mexico with a payload of Colombian cocaine onboard.

But court pleadings unearthed recently by Narco News show that Malago was not alone in his informant role with Mayan Jaguar. Larry Peters, owner of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Skyway Aircraft Inc., also was “a confidential informant for ICE and operation Mayan Jaguar for a time period that coincides with Mr. Malago’s cooperation as a confidential informant,” the recently surfaced court pleadings state.

“In fact, Mr. Peters and Mr. Malago were brought in by ICE agents at approximately the same time and signed up as sources at approximately the same time,” the court records reveal. “The government has released discovery of confidential source documentation from ICE pertaining to both Mr. Malago’s and Mr. Peters’ official status as confidential sources.…”

Dismissed and More                     

Peters was never charged with a crime in relation to his role with Mayan Jaguar or his aircraft brokerage business. Malago, though, somehow got on the wrong side of US law enforcers and was hit with narco-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy charges in an indictment filed in federal court in Florida in January 2012.

That criminal prosecution was dismissed suddenly this past March, about a month after Narco News’ published an expose on Mayan Jaguar that alleged it served as a global cocaine-plane pipeline that was marked by CIA fingerprints.

The dismissal of Malago’s case is seemingly in line with a prediction made by one DEA source, who told Narco News earlier this year that if a court case gets too close to exposing a CIA-enabled covert operation, then it will be shut down behind the scenes using the hammer of national security.

Malago is not alone in helping to broker the sale of a plane later linked to the CIA. Larry Peters’ Skyway Aircraft also is connected to a plane transaction that has the Agency’s number all over it.

Peters’ Skyway Aircraft sold a Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft to a Venezuelan buyer in October 2004, about a month before it was found in a cotton field suspected of hauling a payload of some 1,100 kilos of cocaine. The Beech 200 was discovered in Nicaragua with a false tail number (N168D).

That tail number was registered at the time to Devon Holding and Leasing Inc., a CIA shell company, and also was being used by a separate CIA aircraft as well, press reports and an investigation conducted by the European Parliament into the CIA’s terrorist rendition program show.

Narco News has reported previously as part of a multi-story series that ICE’s Mayan Jaguar — known pejoratively within some law enforcer circles as “Mayan Express,” because it allegedly allowed huge volumes of cocaine into the US market —appeared to use ICE as a cover for a US intelligence agency mission. The real goal of the operation, the sources suspect, was not to interdict illegal narcotics, but rather to use the sale of the cocaine planes — which, according to court records, were equipped with location-monitoring equipment — to monitor, penetrate and ultimately manipulate narco-trafficking mafia organizations and their government allies.

Mayan Jaguar, law enforcers tell Narco News, made little sense as a anti-narcotics effort because it ran for some four years without being coordinated with the DEA or foreign governments and involved selling dozens of aircraft to drug-smuggling organizations with tentacles in Latin America and Africa, yet produced few prosecutions — and, according to court testimony by US prosecutor Andrea Hoffman, resulted “in no seizures in the United States.”

“…[The] seizures and captures happened largely from crashes [outside the US] or foreign national activity with after-the-fact reporting to US authorities, not the other way around,” Hoffman stated in a hearing in the recently dismissed criminal case against Mayan Jaguar informant Malago.

ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell previously confirmed that Mayan Jaguar was an ICE operation “initiated to target drug trafficking.”

“I don’t’ think anything came out of it,” she adds.

Loose Ends

The CIA-connected Beech 200 plane found in Nicaragua some 10 years ago was far from the only aircraft Peters’ Skyway Aircraft sold during the span of Mayan Jaguar. In fact, between October 2003 and January 2008, a total of 11 planes were registered to Skyway Aircraft Inc. just prior to being exported to purchasers in Latin America, FAA records show.  [See links here, here and here.]

All but one of those 11 aircraft were exported to buyers in Venezuela, whose leader at the time was President Hugo Chavez, the target of an unsuccessful US-backed coup d’état in 2002. However, the fact that drug-plane sales were routed through Venezuela could well have been a misdirection maneuver rather than a sign the South American country was the target of yet another US covert operation — or it may have been both. Narco News reported previously that a number of the cocaine planes sold as part of Mayan Jaguar were ultimately destined for Africa, a major gateway to the lucrative European drug market.

The primary purpose of the cocaine-plane sales via Mayan Jaguar is still a mystery that is likely to remain obscured now that the litigation against Malago has been dismissed.

But the fact that both Malago and Peters are now identified in public court records as past US government informants who played key roles in Mayan Jaguar is important, because they are both still connected to aircraft brokerage companies and to yet another company with global reach: Atlantic Alcohol.

Peters and an individual named Neil Singer are listed as managers of the biofuels company, according to Florida corporation records. Malago told Narco News previously that he served as a “business partner” in the Atlantic Alcohol venture, which he said purchases ethanol from third parties and then resells and distributes the fuel to buyers around the world.

Malago told Narco News in a story published in 2008 that Atlantic Alcohol LLC [company brochure here] had operations in Brazil (Malago’s home country} as well as the British West Indies and the Dominican Republic. It is based in St. Petersburg, Fla., corporation records show, at the same address listed for Peters’ aircraft brokerage business, Skyway Aircraft — 341 8th Ave. SE, Hangar 3C.

Interestingly, Peters and Malago, court pleadings allege, also were, for a time, officers in a similarly named firm, North Atlantic Aircraft Services, a successor company to Donna Blue Aircraft — the ICE front company involved in brokering the sale of the Gulfstream II cocaine to Florida pilot Smith and his partner.

Peters’ other business associate at Atlantic Alcohol, Singer, has a quite an eclectic professional background, including acting as a consultant in helping to develop a robotic patrol force for the US Army. Singer’s LinkedIn social-media profile shows he has previously done work for AT&T, General Dynamics and the US Department of Defense — the latter requiring a “secret” security clearance. Singer also is a pilot, according to his Twitter profile.

In yet another coincidence of connection, Malago now lists his current employer as Omni International Jet Trading, where he works as a “sales representative.” Also listed as a contact for jet sales at Omni is an individual named Chip Harrup, who is the owner of Central Virginia Aviation Inc. in Petersburg, Va.

In addition, Harrup’s LinkedIn page indicates he is an active member of the Air Guard and an “F-22A Fighter Pilot” with the US Air Force, and “now a Major flying at Langley AFB” — near the CIA’s headquarters. Harrup, when contacted for comment, said he had to take another call and Narco News was not able to connect with him after that point.

So, it’s now clear that both Peters and Malago worked for years as US informants for a highly secretive global undercover operation known as Mayan Jaguar, which supposedly ended by or in 2008 and involved brokering the sale of dozens of aircraft to drug-smuggling organizations — with at least two of those planes later found with tons of cocaine onboard and bearing CIA-linked tail numbers. And it appears that both Malago and Peters are still in a position to sell planes, and more.  

Narco News contacted Peters seeking comment on his work for Mayan Jaguar as well as to ask him directly if he was aware of any intelligence agency connection to the operation. Peters was clearly agitated by the fact that he had been identified in court pleadings as an informant and declined to comment.

Malago, when contacted, also declined to comment on the dismissed legal case against him or any details of Mayan Jaguar. However, he did say Omni “has a huge aircraft market in South America.”

Malago also indicated that he is currently the target of immigration proceedings that are still playing out. Court pleadings state that he does face a high risk of being killed if returned to Brazil due to his past clandestine work with the US government.

“He [Malago] is seeking asylum based on the fact that if he leaves, if he is deported … he will surely be killed,” said Mycki Ratzan, one of Malago’s attorneys, in a February 2012 court hearing.

“Until the situation becomes clear, I can’t talk about it,” Malago told Narco News.

Narco News contacted Brittney Brooke Horstman, the attorney for Malago’s now-dismissed criminal case, who also declined to comment. Malago’s immigration attorney, Mary Kramer, did not return phone calls.

As far as the ultimate fate of Mayan Jaguar, Attorney Mark Conrad, a former high-level supervisory U.S. Customs agent with extensive background in the intelligence world, offers this assessment.

There’s never been a semi-successful intelligence operation that has been shut down. Maybe it’s renamed and new personnel attached to it, but if it is working, it continues.

Stay tuned…

 For past Narco News coverage of this story, check out the links below:

• US-Sponsored Drug-Plane Operation Had Global Reach

• ICE Investigation Targeting Drug Planes Plagued by Scandal

• DEA Case Threatens to Expose US Government-Sanctioned Drug-Running

• Cocaine plane trail is open challenge for Obama administration 

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