Interview with Chauncey Holt
THE MAN THAT DROVE
CHARLES NICOLETTI INTO DALLAS
Holt is pictured above.
He was the tramp in the hat in the
infamous Three Tramps pictures.
He drove Charles Nicoletti into Dallas
on the morning of 11/22/63.
To read one of the first articles on Chauncey Holt click here
TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEOTAPED INTERVIEW WITH CHAUNCEY MARVIN HOLT.
HOUSTON, TEXAS, OCTOBER 19, 1991.
INTERVIEWERS PRESENT- JOHN CRAIG, PHILLIP ROGERS, GARY SHAW.
TRANSCRIBED BY WILLIAM E. KELLY, APRIL, 1992.
Names followed by question mark are spelled phonetically.
- The gentleman we are interviewing is Chauncey Marvin Holt.
Holt: My true name is Chauncey Marvin Holt. Throughout the years I have used many, as many as 25, perhaps 30 aliases, I don't remember them all. Starting with the first ones that I do remember, that were prominent in operations, there was Robert Ralston, Jack Hall, Jack Moon, Curley Sigler, William Dean Rutz...John Moon...
Those were the main alias that we used throughout the years. We did use other aliases, which are called, "floating identities", one time things, that you just sign your name on, which was used not only by me, but others as well. The best known one, I suppose, was Edward Joe Hamilton, which was used by a number of people. And I used that also, from time to time.
-When were you born?
Holt: I was born on October 23, 1921, in a little hamlet called Pine Knoll, Kentucky. My date of birth is October 23, 1921 although on some records it is referred to I was born in January of 1921, for the simple reason that I entered the (military) service before I was 18 years old and I moved my date of birth back. But I was born on October 23, 1921.
I have three social security numbers, at least three. My legitimate social security number is 402-32-1339. I am presently drawing social security under three different numbers because I worked under those names and I paid under those names.
-Can you give us some background on your military career?
Holt: On October 11, 1939 I joined what was then the Army Air Corps. It was part of the Army at that time. It was known as the Brown Shoe Air Force in those days. While in flight training I was very rebellious. I didn't take very well to hazing that we came under. The Army at that time was full of misfits. You had guys in there that couldn't do anything else and made a career of it. And do they delighted in hazing people. It was part of the game as far as the Air Force was concerned, but I didn't take too well with it. There was on guy who picked on me. He always picked on me. His name was Lada (?) He was a disgrace to the uniform.
So one day he came out and he picked on me on the wrong day, and he made some serious remarks and I hit him with a Springfield and chased him across the quadrangle. Hit him at every jump. I would have killed him if it wasn't for the MP's. Of course I got a general court martial. They gave me five years and sent me out to the U.S. penitentiary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where you really do hard time. Of course general court marshals are always subject to review by reviewing authorities. So after 7 months they decided to review my case and reduce my sentence to that 7 months that I had served up to that point and turned me back to duty, although they didn't put me back in the Air Corps. I went into the newly formed Armor Force that was formed in January of 1940. After I was turned back to duty, this is in June, 1940, I found it very difficult to adjust to the Army life. I had a bad reputation. I got all the worst assignments. I am not making excuses for what happened. But it really wasn't any picnic. We continued on. I would be in and out of trouble until 1941. Of course in December,...After I was turned back to duty, I had bad luck in getting bad commanding officers and that sort of thing. And being a rebellious teenager in the first place, I mean I didn't take to well to it. Actually I didn't adjust to Army life too well. It was a bad time. I struggled through it until 1941...until, you know, Pearl Harbor.
You know, I think that Pearl Harbor,...another guy and I went AWOL on Pearl Harbor day. We went back and continued our duty until the early part of 1942. This friend of mine said he had an automobile from his cousin, and we decided to go from Fort Knox to Louisville.
-This is early 1941 or 1942?
Holt: This is early 1942. In any case we got caught joy riding in this automobile, and the FBI frankly, tried to make a (federal) case against us. They didn't identify themselves and asked us questions and so forth and did lots and lots of work trying to prove we had taken this car, which the cousin said "No, he didn't do it." So we wouldn't plead guilty and went to trial and they did a great deal of work trying to prove we took this car across state lines, which we didn't. But they finally ended up charging us with 4 or 5 counts of violations of the Dyer Act. One charge going over, one charge coming back, one charge going here. Although the FBI claimed we pleaded guilty, I got the original FBI report. It indicates they had done considerable work on this. The Commonwealth of Kentucky refused to indict us, the FBI office in Louisville.
Through the Freedom of Information Act we got our FBI file. Hoover himself sent a wire from Washington D.C. to the Special Agent In Charge in Louisville wanting to know why we hadn't been convicted.
Now here we are, in the middle of a war, and he's taking his time out. They actually perjured themselves and we were convicted. And we were given just two years, and gave us time served so that reduced it to 18 months. Chillicotte, Ohio. The U.S. Industrial Reformatory at Chillicotte, where I met some very interesting individuals, including Bob Swick, who was an enforcer for the Licavoli's.
And it was through Swick...I was paroled in December of 1942. He (Swick) said "Hey, if you ever need too, I'll give you an introduction to Licavoli." So I went to the draft board and talked to them about re-entering the service, and a parole officer said to me, "No, you need special permission from the Secretary of War to do this. Why don't you just sit out the war and work in a defense plant?"
So for the rest of the war I worked for the Bethelem-Fairfield Shipyard Company. I worked in the design department, time and motion department. I designed, primarily, bulkheads. So I stayed there until the end of the war. And at the end of the war, I contacted Peter Licavoli. I gave him my background. And we went to Florida.
-Would you identify Licavoli for us.
Holt: Licavoli was a high ranking member of the Mafia who was involved in three of the most sensational murders in American history. The killing of Jerry Buckly, a crusading reporter, a supposedly crusading reporter in 1935, the killing of Jackie Kennedy, the beer baron of Toledo, not the president, and of course he was one of the principles in the St. Valentine's Day massacre, because it was their trucks. But Bugs Moran was highjacking to Capone.
But he didn't talk very much about that until many, many years later. But years later he'd reminiscence about those things.
Licavoli, he was originally from St. Louis, but at the time he was in Detroit. He was one of the five ruling Dons of Detroit, along with John Prisoli?, Angelo Mali?, Black Billdetoko? and Anthony Zerilli. Those five ran Detroit. Their activities ranged all the way from St. Louis to Youngstown. They controlled race tracks...they owned Hoyel (?) Track in Detroit, River Downs in Louisville, and James Licavoli, who was notorious in his own right, actually ran Youngstown, Ohio.
They were, of course, into Florida. Most of the casinos in Florida at that time were owned 1/3 New York, 1/3 Trafficante-Lansky, 1/3 Detroit. They were into everything.
-Who were your major associates during that time?
Holt: When we went to Florida, the person we answered to in Florida was an individual by the name of Mert Whorhammer (?).
First I was in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where they put me in there as a book keeper at a place called Kite's Bar & Grill. Now it looked like an innocent sort of place, but it was the center for all numbers rackets in the Jacksonville area.
The reason I went down there was Kite was coming up short in his proceeds. Their business was dropping off about $15,000 a week and they figured that Mr. Kite probably had his hand in the till. So we went down there and I stayed there about a month as a book keeper, numbers writer, that sort of thing. And as soon as we found out that, yeah, he was stealing, I moved on. Then I went on....
-What happened to him? To Kite?
Holt: He ended up with a pea in his head, as they say. They found him floating in the surf off Jacksonville Beach.
Then I went down to the casino area. The Miami area. Broward County at that time was in full swing. I immediately went to work for an accounting firm, a very respectable accounting firm. But they handled all of Meyer Lansky's accounting work. All the companies that worked for Lansky. Many of them were noted philanthropists. Max Horowitz, Dan Ruskin, Barrry Berheishyer?, Sam Becker...
The firm that I worked for at the time was a firm called Albis?, Aldimus?, Morgan and Weinberg. They handled all of Lansky's accounting work, among other things. They were very, very respectable. We did accounting work during the day and we handled gambling proceeds at night.... The principle that I worked for more than any other,...at the Colonial Inn, which is next door to the Gulton? Park Race Track. It was the plushiest of the carpet joints at that time. That and La Boheme. They were both in Broward County. They referred to Broward County as 'Lansky County'. He owned the sheriff, he owned everything.
-What was your knowledge of Lansky at that time?
Holt: Well, I knew that he had been a long time,...he wasn't a Mafia member, of course, but he was a Mafia associate and he went back a long way, to the Bugsy Siegel days when they were actually enforces for the Mafia. They were executing contracts for them. Lansky was always a real money maker for them. That's why they associated with him, although he was Jewish. Just as Licavoli cooperated with the Cleveland branch, who also was all Jews, or like New Jersey, ones like Longie Zwillman, were Jews. The Jews and Italians collaborated and cooperated with one another although those guys, the Jews, were actually never members of the Mafia.
-Were you hired by Lansky or by an associate?
Holt: I was hired by him personally.
-So you knew him well?
Holt: I knew him well after I went to work for the firm - Adison-Costa...Then Mr. Costa did, he was Italian. Then it became Adison, Morgan, Aldis, Weinberg. Then Adison left and formed a bank for Lansky, actually the Industrial Bank, which they owned.
Even when working for the accounting firm we had offices, ...I had an office in Miami Beach at one of Lansky's companies, which was called the Gator Corporation, which he used as a vehicle for practically all the other work that he did, including at the time, the main thing at that time, he was working with Louis Wolfson and they were trying to make a raid on American Motors. They didn't take it over, but they bought a lot of stock. Max Orbitson, Dan Ruskin were planning for Lansky at the time, and both of them ultimately got convicted for their association with Lansky.
-Were you ever in and out of Cuba at this time?
Holt: Many times. They were involved in setting up the casinos with Trafficante and others. Norman Rothman for instance. In Cuba...we went to Cuba many times. At that point in time Carlos Prio was President of Cuba and Batista was in exile. It was Lanksy who was instrumental in getting Prio to allow Batista back into the country. He came back into the country and one day he just walked into the Presidential Palace apparently, and made Prio an offer he couldn't refuse. This is how Batista,...Batista was always in Lansky's pocket. So we were back and forth there in regards to the casinos.
Later on, when Castro started kicking up a force, and of course after he had landed there in the Escambray Mountains, Lansky, to hedge his bet, began offering assistance to Castro in the form of money and arms that were flying in. So although he was a very close friend of Batista, he was still assisting Castro. Around that time flying arms to Castro was no problem. The State Department didn't bother you at all. They just tolerated it. So that was the experience in Havana.
-Was it at this period in time that you got involved with the CIA?
Holt: That came later. We went into Cuba many times before, without having anything to do with the CIA. How I came to be connected to the CIA in the beginning was the formation, in May 1950, of the Kefauver Committee. The Kefauver committee was scheduled to begin hearings in May 1950. At that time I was working for an accounting firm, the Eisner Firm, Dan and Seymour Eisner. They were scheduled to be the first witnesses subpoenaed before the Kefauver committee and we knew we wouldn't be far behind.
And Lansky, of course, they tried to subpoena him but they were never able to get him before the committee. He was probably the only organized crime figure that evaded the Kefauver Committee. Every other one they got, but him. So I started looking around for another job. I had to leave there and Lanksy said, "I'll put you into the International Rescue Committee - the IRC- as Controller."
-What was the IRC ?
Holt: At the time I thought it was a philanthropic organization like the Red Cross or something. But when I went over there, Lansky didn't explain anything about the position, he just said to go over there and your job description will be forthcoming. So I went over there and sat around for a couple of weeks reading the Racing Form when a guy by the name of Sluder? came down from Washington, I suppose, and informed me that this IRC was a propriety interest of the CIA. That its main function was dispensing funds for the agency. At that time I didn't know what a propriety interest was. Didn't even known what the CIA was.
-He said you would be working for him?
Holt: Yes, well, that I would be working for the agency. At that time of course, I was a pilot. I had been a pilot since 1937. I was an accomplished artist. I was one of the best shots around. I was probably in....?? too.
Richard Sluder, I assumed that he came from Washington D.C. He did not show me any credentials.
- Your impression was that the CIA was working in conjunction with organized crime in carrying out its activities, with propriety interests and so forth?
Holt: Yes. I was sure of it. Actually I talked with Meyer Lansky about it as soon as I was informed about what kind of operation it was. I went to him and asked him. And he said they had been in bed, ...his exact words were, "We've been in bed together since 1944." He elaborated a little bit on how they were able to get Lucky Luciano deported and the deals they made and how they made the deals with the Anastasia brothers, Tony and Albert, who were in control of the docks. So they wouldn't have any more acts of sabotage like the Normandy, and that sort of thing. And so we knew they scratched each other's backs.
-What about the IRC?
Holt: The IRC was concerned with two things. First was the situation in Cuba, and secondly, their primary concern at that time was in Guatemala.
It looked like Arbenz, who was a left leaning individual, had a good chance of winning an election. In 1948, (Jorge) Ubico had been the dictator of Guatemala at that point. They overthrew him in 1948 and they were concerned that Arbenz would win the election and consequently the communists would have a foothold in Latin America. So we turned our full attention to Guatemala, both from a fiscal standpoint in trying to send money down there to try to effect the election, and to even to interfere with the election that was coming up, to the extent of knocking off (Franscisco) Arana and blaming it on Arbenz. And he won the election....
As far as organized crime went, Meyer Lansky, we were loyal to Meyer Lansky and to Peter Licavoli even though I was working for the IRC. We were involved in handling various accounting functions for both Licavoli and Lansky. Even after the closing of the casinos.
In Miami, in 1948, in Broward County, they closed them all up in 1948. All of them. But Lansky had for....really interesting. Once you had his loyalty and respect. Then we did a number of things that concerned us at the time. You had to remember that casino operators were just beginning in Las Vegas. They were building the Flamingo. It was rumored that Bugsy Siegel was squirreling away some money that he and Virginia Hill were going to take off with. They got the word, and organized crime had some $6 million invested in the Flamingo at the time. I went out with Lansky, simply because I was an accountant. We went out in December 1946, I guess it was. Of course that predated when I was with the IRC. But that was one of the things we were doing. We went out to check on Bugsy Siegel. He was killed in 1947. But we did the same sort of thing all though the 50s and 54 and all the way up to 1958. Never deviated from that, as far as doing the work for Licavoli and Meyer Lansky. It had very little to do with Trafficante. He of course, was the number one guy in Florida. But he was in Tampa. We had very little to do with him.
-When did you start to forge documents and run proprietaries for the CIA?
Holt: We started almost at once, in 1950, to try to figure out ways to establish identities. The first one we did was the name of Robert Ralston, which was the name I used when we went down to Guatemala. They had suggested that I use,... at the time I was using the name Holt, and they suggested that I create some kind of an identity. And I started at once, creating the Moon identity, which went back to that time. But we were doing documentation in a small way, even then. It didn't really come to full fruitation until we went to California, in which they really wanted various documentation mills.
-Was it a proprietary interest?
Holt: A proprietary interest is what you call a wholly owned subsidiary. It is owned by the CIA. I mean they own it lock, stock and barrel, as opposed to,...they also have assets. They are someone who does something else and are called on, like newspaper men,...a lot of things. They have agents of influence - they are agents who are used form time to time to do the CIA's bidding. They have, of course, the full blown contract agents, who usually work for some propriety interests, or they are freelance, that they call on. They have contract agents so they can have plausible deniablity. That's the number one thing.
During the Bay of Pigs it was reputed that they owned 56 companies in the Miami area. They had detective agencies, they had insurance companies, they had printing companies, airlines, they had their own little fleet, and of course they had the Lykes Line, which was out of New Orleans. But the Lykes Line was always at their beck and call, although it wasn't really owned by them.
-What is a documentation mill?
Holt: I am talking about providing full sets of ID identity, either floating ones, that anyone can use, or deep cover ones. Usually on a deep cover ones would be partially...You would use the IDs that are produced to actually generate something thatUs actually genuine. In other words, if you needed a driver's license you would use something like a birth certificate to get the documents that were real. We use to produce credit cards and so forth, functional, but not usable, used for ID identification. But you didn't charge anything on them.
-How did you create the identify of John R. Moon?
Holt: As far as Moon went, I knew a John R. Moon. I knew enough about him. And this is the same technique used in establishing all of these things. I know enough about John R. Moon. I knew where he was born, I knew where he went to school, I knew everything about him. We acquired this information in a very simple way. We simply advertised (for a job) and he sent in his resume. In which I just picked it up. Now the resume that was sent in, this man's name was actually Jack Ralph Moon. Now everybody knows that Jack is the nickname for John. His name was actually Jack, but I decided to....(break in tape).
-Please repeat the answer.
Holt: We used the standard procedure that we used in practically all of the long standing ones that we were going to use. You found out as much as you could about this individual, where he was born, parents, school, everything about him. In the case of Moon, we got the information from the resume he sent us. He put everything on there.
You have to remember that back in that period, establishing identification was much easier than it is today. For instance, I could go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a drivers license without any problem. You could go to a bank and open an account by just putting money in there. You could go to the Post Office and get a P.O. box. They didn't ask you for anything at all. No problem. You didn't need to verify anything. Later, throughout the years, it became more difficult. They wanted authenticated verification. So we had to develop some information that would get us a genuine driver's license or something like that. An authentic drivers license is a must because you can not run around using a forged driver's license.
-What is the advantage of using the name of a real person, as opposed to making up a fictitious alias?
Holt: So long as you don't have interference from the real person, because this person actually exists. In the case, as in most of them, you had people running around actually with 2 names. In some cases, of course, you would pick a person that had to be dead. Unless someone actually knew they were dead, they would have an advantage. It is very hard to build up an identity that is completely false that will absolutely stand up. You have got to have some kind of a background.
-How did you develop your skills as a forger? How did you learn your craft?
Holt: Well, I was interested in art from the time I was six, seven years old. I sold my first painting in 1927 and I had been painting continually. During the war, when I worked at the Bethelem-Fairfield Shipyard Company, I was very interested in art and thought I'd like to make a career of it. I went to the Baltimore Art Institute. I also did anatomical drawings for some well known scientists at the John Hopkins University, actually the School of Medicine. Mostly there were physical anthropologists, so I was always interested in increasing my skills as a draftsman, and I was noted as being one of the better ones around. It just naturally followed that you could forge.
-What about the CIA operations against Castro you were involved in?
Holt: Operation Mongoose was the yoke and seed, almost idiotic plan to assassinate Castro, in which they decided, of the plans that they had, the one that ended up as Mongoose was the most ridiculous of all, in which they decided to use organized crime. The idea, I guess, was that organized crime was as skillful at that sort of thing.
There may be certain types of assassination that they're good at, but other types they're not. So they enlisted the better known names, Giancana, Roselli, in Operation Mongoose. And you had Edward Lansdale, and William King Harvey, all the guys who became legends. And there is no use in expounding on their careers and how they got involved in this.
Also, one of the lesser known people involved in this was Peter Licavoli. Licavoli was a confidant, close to both Giancana and Roselli. And he had a ranch in Tucson, Arizona. It was very nicely placed and had a landing strip on it. So he was involved in Mongoose because of the location (of his ranch), and it was a nice place to have meetings and they had meetings there. His involvement in Mongoose was a marginal type thing.
I really don't think that Roselli or Giancana or Maheu ever were all that serious about knocking off Castro. They wanted to get some leverage against the government. They were trying to deport Roselli, they were chasing Giancana all over the landscape and they were willing to use anything they could to actually give them an edge.
-You were involved in this operation. What were your duties?
Holt: We provided some assistance to them in the form of identification. We did very little actually as far as the operational end of it. As for as they were trying to poison Castro, they had some plan that we understood to be a viable plan that had been hatched by (Rafael) Trujillo. Of course you forget that Trujillo hated Castro with a passion and was an old hand at assassination. He was the one they could turn to if they,....I thought that was the best plan. Though they had a pretty good plan in place at one time where they were going to knock off Castro during one of those harranges at the television studio where he walks back and forth. But before they had a chance to implement it, the CIA and the State Department decided they were going to rid the country of Trujillo, so they concluded this thing.
But I am not as knowledgeable about Mongoose as some other operations. We (I) knew what was going on, we talked to William King Harvey. We discussed, we had seen Lansdale one time. We met down at Ray Ryan's place in Palm Springs. Ray Ryan was a big gambler, an oil man. He was friends with Licavoli and Giancana. He had a propriety interest in Palm Springs - the Bermuda Dunes Airport, which is owned by the CIA. We had a meeting down there in which time, it was the only time I participated when all those groups got together. Which was in December, 1961, when they discussed project ZR/RIFLE. How they intended to proceed, they also indicated that James J. Angleton knew about it. And that they were going to insert things into what was called, we referred to as the Central Registry. They referred to them as the 201 Files. We were referring to them as the Central Registry. Frankly I don't know the difference between the 201 File and the Central Registry. Now the Central Registry was...I don't know the difference.
-What other operations were you more involved in than Mongoose?
Holt: Well after Castro came to power in January, 1959, there was a very, very short honeymoon, and the CIA began at once, or certain elements of the CIA was involved. The official stance from Langley was that they wanted no part in it. But other operatives from the CIA, together with organized crime, together with some anti-Castro Cubans, some of them were from Batista, some of them were from the Carlos Prio regime and so forth, were very anxious to get rid of Castro.
At that time Castro's grip on Cuba was actually not that great. I mean that he was very heavily opposed, not only by Cubans in Miami, but by Cubans who were in Cuba at the time. They had a second front organization, which was critical. The second front organization which we were flying material, providing money and buying boats for them, and that was what led to the operation that William Alexander Morgan, - that I knew very well, whose career paralleled my own. I knew him. He was down there. He came to Miami, he and a guy named Talaha?, who had been an official in the Batista government. They were trying to develop funds for this operation. It turns out that Morgan was a double crosser and Castro knew all about the entire matter. And they actually had a bunch of Globemasters that were outfit by a company that Jimmie Hoffa owned, and they were actually scheduled to fly troops. One group actually went into Trinidad. They were putting up a big demonstration for them. Guns fired, and they saw signs all over the place saying, "Viva Americans", "Down With Castro." It was all really hyped.
Actually they were trying to get the principle down there to execute him. It turned out that only a handful went down there, 10-12 guys, in a C-54, and Castro grabbed the.
-What about the Bay of Pigs?
Holt: Well our involvement, I was still with the IRC - the International Rescue Committee. Our involvement as far as the IRC went, was strictly from a fiscal point of view.
Initially the Bay of Pigs was to be a very small, secret operation. It depended upon the uprising of the Cuban people. It wasn't going to be an over the beach amphibious assault that it finally turned into. But after it got transformed, a guy from the Marine Corps, Jack Hawkins came over, then it got to be a, like a Terra-type of assault. It became a great logistical problem. The thing to do was to look around and get, especially the ships and other equipment, this was simply, principally what the IRC did at that time. It was a conduit for all of those funds,...but the logistical problems.
....Like some of the others like Rip Robertson and Grayston Lynch, who as far as I know were the only two Americans that were actually on board ship at the time. We had very little involvement in that.
-Where were you?
Holt: I was in Miami. I left in t he latter part of April, almost immediately after the Bay of Pigs. I went to California. It w as partly because a purging from the company and partly at the insistence of Licavoli and Lansky. I just wanted a change of scenery and they said, "Why don't you go to California? We need a documentation mill out there. We have a lot of friends out there,..." And that's when I went out there, before the assassination of Trujillo. I went to California in May, 1961.
-Would you characterize your activity at this time as criminal, but authorized?
Holt: It was all very criminal and involved,...was authorized by the CIA, and some was not. Every contract agent that I knew had some little thing going on the side. And the CIA never objected, so long as it did not interfere with their operations. When we had a documentation mill and we were forging documents and disinformation for them, and if we wanted to do something else on our own, we got no interference from them at all.
-What about the the Bay of Pigs fiasco. It was a disaster for this country, and much of the blame was laid at the feet of John Kennedy. Do you recall the scuttlebutt? What was going through the grapevine of your group at this time?
Holt: It ran very strongly against him, not only with the Americans, but with the Cubans, to the point where his conduct was characterized as cowardly, as treasonous and they felt they had been led into something and they were simply deserted. And this would not have happened if there was another president.
-How did Licavoli and Lansky feel about it?
Holt: Both of them held great resentment...although both of these individuals, as they knew it, thought the plan was too hard. They didn't think that was the way to retake Cuba. They were as interested as anyone else in getting back because it cost millions in casino receipts and they were very interested in it, but both of these individuals thought, their viewpoint was that this couldn't have happened under a president like Eisenhower, and Eisenhower, of course, was president during the Guatemala operation, and he gave full responsibility to the commanders there to do what they would, and if they needed military backup, they would have it.
-In California you worked for both the CIA and organized crime. Would you describe that?
Holt: When I first went to California I had a long list of friends of either Lansky, organized crime and the Company, and of course, I was looking for employment and the company was looking for businesses there. Perhaps one that I could run. Something within my capabilities. So one of the longtime assistants of Meyer Lansky was Doc Stacher. He finallly ended up, ...he was a titan of organized crime, like Lansky. The only time they ever got Lansky was on some gun wrap in upstate New York. And Stacher was arrested with him. So he had a lot of influence in California and we went out there and were given a lot of very prominent names of people who we could count on for employment or for assistance. Among those were Goodwin Knight, a former governor of California. There was Alfred Giberson?, who was a Superior Court Judge, and a whole group of individuals who worked with him, known as the KG Group. They had a company called KGO, and maybe a dozen companies they operated.
Among the individuals that was with him was Morris Kaling?, Sid Colby?, Isadore Reinhard?, these were guys who Lansky said, "If you want a job, you go to these guys. They are always looking for someone whose talented, yet not to scrupulous to do these things."
On the other hand, we also had some democrats. These guys were all dyed in the water republicans, but we also had some democrats. Principally among these was Frank Belcher, who was one of the most prominent attorneys in California, president of bar associations, he was very rich, his wife was a Penitz?, and he could be counted on to provide service. His grand daughter was with the Bank of America.
So we were given these people, and they said, "We're also looking for some other interests. We're looking for a documentation mill. We'd like to have an on going firm. So we started looking into an old line company - the Los Angeles Stamp and Stationary Company, LASCO, which was owned by Philip Shore. He was the board director, and he was in dire financial straits. So the Company came in and bailed him out. He had a real nice building in downtown Los Angeles. They did all types of badges, banners, that sort of thing. They had police badges actually, from every municipality in the United States. They had drawers of them. So it was the type of operation the CIA was looking for.
-When you say "the Company" you mean the CIA.
-They actually gave you instructions to look for a specific propriety company that they could acquire in LA to produce documents that we have described here as illegal, illicit forms that could pass for real documents?
Holt: Yes. LASCO, we referred to it, we bailed them out and brought in a man by the name of Tony Materna, who had been very high up in the Hughes organization, to run the company. 95% of their business was legitimate, and they continued to do their legitimate business. Probably 5%, not more, would be for the Company. But if you needed something, then they had a wonderful facility. Four stories, the lower three stories were devoted to their, what you would call legal activities. The top floor had all this specialized graphics equipment, photograph studio....we used that from 1961 till 1972.
They were also interested in a fixed base operation where they had hangers, airport repair facilities and that sort of thing. We found that at Bermuda Dunes, which is between Palm Springs and Indio, California. It was isolated. It was a nice area, and the Company put up the money to buy Bermuda Dunes Airport, which was fronted by Ray Ryan, a big developer in that area, and Ernie Dunlevy, who had been an Air Force pilot and had connections with the OSS.
We also located at the Van Nuys Airport, where we had a facility that was operated by an individual by the name of Roger Clarke. His last name had an 'e' on the end. He had a number of very qualified flight instructors, all of whom had flown for Paragon Air Service in Miami and Inter-Mountain, which was another propriety interest of the Company which was not as well known as Air America or CAT, but was the same type of operation. Ray Rafferty was a full time flight instructor who had flown for Paragon Air.
James J. Canty was a high level official of the Veterans Administration. He was able to, this gave him plenty of opportunity to fly all over the country. He had no problem at all going anywhere he wanted to. At the same time Frank Belcher Jr. had a company, Belcher Aircraft. Although his father and mother were worth millions, they sort of looked down the nose at him because he married the wrong girl. So they weren't giving him too much in the way of financial assistance. So he went into Belcher Aircraft, and we also used him from time to time because he was an ATR? rated pilot and he was a very close personal friend. He was the type of person who would not shrink from asking you to do anything and you wouldn't shrink from asking him to do anything. There are very few individuals in that business that fit into that category.
-At this time you did some printing that ended up with Lee Harvey Oswald?
To be continued in the book: Files on JFK or DVD
Reprinted with permission of John R. Craig, owner of this video interview.