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The Governor of Kentucky to be Indicted Soon?

by J. Orlin Grabbe

Operation BOPTROT lives. Federal authorities are looking closely into the campaign finances of Governor Paul Patton (D) of Kentucky. According to Charles "the Angel of Death" Hayes, Patton will soon be indicted and there will be a top-to-bottom shake-up of the Kentucky State Police.

Operation BOPTROT was supposed to have concluded. According to the Lexington Herald- Leader, detailing the big stories of 1995:

"All good things must come to an end, including federal investigations. The feds closed the most successful investigation of public corruption in Kentucky history--Operation BOPTROT.

"Nabbed: 20 people, including 15 current and former lawmakers, a top governor's aide and a former state auditor . . ." [December 30, 1995].

But Hayes says the BOPTROT investigations are continuing.

Corruption in Kentucky has been around for some time. Sally Denton's The Bluegrass Conspiracy (a book, not the band), published in 1990, tells about gun and drug smuggling in Kentucky, and the connections between the Las Vegas Mafia and the highest levels of state government.

Some find the real origins of Operation BOPTROT in drug smuggling into and out of the Mena, Arkansas, airport. Mena represented the brainchild of the CIA's Bill Casey, who wanted to do to Russian soldiers in Afghanistan what had been done to U.S. soldiers in Korea and Vietnam: namely, turn them into drug addicts.

The idea was to take cocaine confiscated in U.S. drug raids and to collect it in places like Mena. Then it would be flown to Miami and then on to Turkey, and finally carried overland into Afghanistan to be sold cheaply to Russian soldiers. When the operation began in 1983, there was only modest skimming by the drug couriers: 3 or 4 kilos per hundred. But since few records were kept comparing the amount arrived to the amount shipped, the skimming percentages quickly increased. Sometimes 30 to 40 percent, or even an entire shipment, would disappear. The skimmers were making lots of money selling the confiscated cocaine back into the U.S. market. Whatever the individual roles and motivations, the system acted in such a way that the U.S. government stole cocaine from the Medellin cartel and sold it themselves on the U.S. market.

This is not to say that the effects in Afghanistan were not a success also. The demand for coke by Russian soldiers increased not only because of the growing personal use by them, but also because the soldiers would buy supplies to take home when on leave. But by 1985 the demand for cocaine, both for sale in the U.S. and for distribution in Afghanistan, exceeded the supply obtained by confiscation. So elements of the U.S. government made a deal with the Medellin cartel for increased supplies.

When people complained to Casey about the diversion of his original plan, Casey would point to the high-level U.S. government officials involved--ones he indicated he was afraid to cross.

Some of the pilots carrying cocaine between Mena and Miami would air-drop quantities at designated locations in Kentucky. Officials were bribed to look the other way, or were consulted to help manage the operation. This may have been the real beginnings of the corruption that led to Operation BOPTROT.

What, specifically, the more-recently elected Governor Paul Patton was involved in remains to be seen. But the AOD says his days are numbered.

August 3, 1996