I have no idea where this goes & it will probably be a mess...
Iran Contra, October Surprise, PROMIS, the Mob, Reagan/Bush.
The death of Joseph Daniel Casolaro (June 16, 1947 – August 10, 1991) became very controversial because his notes suggested he was in Martinsburg to meet a source about a story he called "the Octopus." This centered on a sprawling collaboration involving an international cabal, and primarily featuring a number of stories familiar to journalists who worked in and near Washington, D.C. in the 1980s—the Inslaw case, about a software manufacturer whose owner accused the Justice Department of stealing its work product; the October Surprise theory that during the Iran hostage crisis, Iran deliberately held back American hostages to help Ronald Reagan win the 1980 presidential election, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and Iran-Contra. Later developments of the Inslaw Case implied that derivative versions of Enhanced Promis sold on the black market may have become the high-tech tools of worldwide terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and international money launderers and thieves.
During the 12-year long legal proceedings, INSLAW accused the Department of Justice of conspiring to steal its software; attempting to drive the Company into Chapter 7 liquidation; using the stolen software for covert intelligence operations against banks and foreign governments, as well as in U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and failure to conduct a credible investigation of the violent death of an investigative journalist, whose violent death occurred the same week the reporter had told confidants he had broken the case of the Justice Department's theft of the PROMIS software, following a 12-month, full-time investigation.
Joseph Daniel Casolaro (June 16, 1947 – August 10, 1991) was an American freelance writer who came to public attention in 1991 when he was found dead in a bathtub in Room 517 of the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia, his wrists slashed 10–12 times. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
His death became controversial because his notes suggested he was in Martinsburg to meet a source about a story he called "the Octopus." This centered on a sprawling collaboration involving an international cabal, and primarily featuring a number of stories familiar to journalists who worked in and near Washington, D.C. in the 1980s—the Inslaw case, about a software manufacturer whose owner accused the Justice Department of stealing its work product; the October Surprise theory that during the Iran hostage crisis, Iran deliberately held back American hostages to help Ronald Reagan win the 1980 presidential election, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and Iran–Contra.
Casolaro's family argued that he had been murdered; that before he left for Martinsburg, he had apparently told his brother that he had been frequently receiving harassing phone calls late at night; that some of them were threatening; and that if something were to happen to him while in Martinsburg, it would not be an accident. They also cited his well-known squeamishness and fear of blood tests, and stated they found it incomprehensible that if he were going to commit suicide, he would do so by cutting his wrists a dozen times  A number of law-enforcement officials also argued that his death deserved further scrutiny, and his notes were passed by his family to ABC News and Time Magazine, both of which investigated the case, but no evidence of murder was ever found.
What happened to Danny Casolaro? Did this freelance reporter become so disheartened in pursuit of the biggest story of his life -- a story that struck even one of his best friends as improbable -- that he retreated to a hotel room miles from home, got into a bathtub and slashed his arms as many as 12 times? Or was he murdered because he knew too much about a scandal that reached to the highest levels of government?
Perhaps no one will ever know with any certainty. Martinsburg authorities initially ruled the death a suicide, and their investigation has so far yielded no evidence of foul play. They continue to examine forensic evidence and Casolaro's psychological profile. An autopsy report released yesterday said he had traces of an antidepressant and a prescription painkiller in his system. A bottle of painkilling medication, prescribed to Casolaro after root canal work in 1988, was found in his room. Casolaro's brother, a doctor, said that as far as he knew, Danny Casolaro was never treated for depression.
Friends are urging the family to hire a private detective.
Casolaro had told people he was going to West Virginia to meet a source. He said he was about to break a story that he had been pursuing for more than a year, a story about a global conspiracy that tied together several scandals and alleged scandals -- the Iran-contra affair, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the Justice Department's alleged theft of software from a computer company called Inslaw.
On Aug. 10, two days after he arrived, his body was found by hotel employees -- an apparent suicide. There was a brief note, which authorities have refused to release even to his family. He was embalmed -- on a Sunday -- with haste that later seemed peculiar to relatives, who had not yet been notified. Local authorities said they followed routine procedures.
In the ensuing weeks, friends and family still say they cannot believe Casolaro, 44, would kill himself -- even though several concede that suicide may be sudden, unpredictable, inexplicable. Arthur Weinfield, a retired staff officer at the National Security Agency and a friend of the Casolaro family for 28 years, has considered the circumstances again and again.
"I come out with 100 different answers and I've stopped playing that game with myself," says Weinfield, 59. "But I can say that the Danny Casolaro who was my best, beloved friend, who I grieve for very much, was not a person that would have committed suicide."
Danny Casolaro was a freelance journalist who told his friends and family that he was close to cracking a story he called The Octopus, which he referred to as the political conspiracy of the century. In August of 1991 he packed his notes and headed to West Virginia to conduct some final interviews for his forthcoming book. On August 10, 1991, he was found dead in his hotel room. The death was immediately ruled a suicide.
* * Newly released records shows Bureau lied to Congress about the case, and may have interfered in their own investigation * *
The FBI file for the suspicious death of journalist Danny Casolaro is obviously incomplete, even before realizing that the release is about 1,000 pages smaller than the FBI first estimated. However, the file does reveal several key things. First, the FBI’s sources contradicted what the DOJ would declare were the motives behind Casolaro’s “suicide.” Second, the file shows that the Bureau lied to members of Congress about not investigating Casolaro’s death. Third, documents show that the FBI agents who did investigate it questioned the conclusion of suicide, even though doing so was understood to be a threat to their careers.
Danny Casolaro was a journalist who had been working on a complex case involving government corruption stretching from the DOJ and FBI to the CIA and beyond. His death has often been connected to the death of Alan Standorf, who had been one of his sources. Like Casolaro’s, Standorf’s death is suspicious for a number of reasons discussed here. Despite asserting that it was a simple robbery-homicide and unconnected to his work with the Army and NSA, the FBI claims that there is an ongoing law enforcement proceeding regarding Standorf’s death. Casolaro’s death was ruled a suicide, although those conclusions are challenged both by previously released documents and new materials in the FBI file.
The official report issued by Judge Bua - the ostensible independence of which is questionable - states quite clearly that the motive behind Casolaro’s alleged suicide was financially based.
The FBI’s interviews with sources, however, contradict this conclusion. According to one of the individuals interviewed, Danny wouldn’t have killed himself over money - he “could have borrowed whatever money [he] needed.”
At the time of his death, Casolaro was investigating a network of corruption that included PROMIS, and the BCCI and BNL banks. From there, his investigation spread to other events. A copy of one of his notes and book proposals on the subject was provided to the Bureau.
“What may have begun,” Casolaro wrote, “for these few learned men as a utopian response to the harsh post-war realities quickly gave way to what simple men have always known to be the real enemy which is selfishness and its allied forces of fear, greed and power.”
Given the nature and suspicious circumstances of Casolaro’s suicide, his family and many of his friends suspected the suicide had been staged. While there was plenty of disagreement (much of which now seems tainted by revelations such as the forensic expert basing his conclusions on a police reenactment video), the suspicion was more than enough for multiple calls to be made of a major inquiry into his death. That his source Alan Standorf had also died under mysterious circumstances and that the law was violated by embalming his body without consent or a proper autopsy simply added fuel to the fire. A year after Casolaro’s death, this led to Congressman John Porter writing to FBI Director Sessions about the matter.
It’s unclear precisely when the FBI investigation into Casolaro’s death began, but FBI’s Inspector in Charge for the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs assured Congressman Porter that there was no investigation on September 14, 1992.
However, FBI documents reveal that they were investigating Casolaro’s death as early as the next day.
While this response might not have been a willful lie to Congress, the next assurance issued by the FBI’s office was - several weeks after the Bureau had begun investigating aspects of Casolaro’s death, they informed Congressman Vic Fazio that not only weren’t they investigating the matter, but they were “unable to” investigate it.
Other FBI interviews prior to the letter to Congress make it explicit that the Bureau was investigating aspects of Casolaro’s death.
The FBI’s claim to Congress that they could not investigate the matter, and that no federal law appeared to have been broken, is also contradicted by materials from the Martinsburg offices that the Bureau insisted had jurisdiction. According to a letter from the then-assistant prosecutor, who still worked in the office years later, the Casolaro file had been sealed on the direction of “federal authorities” who took copies of everything after informing the Martinsburg offices that they were no longer the custodians of those records. The federal authorities then instructed the Martinsburg offices not to unseal or otherwise discuss the materials unless they received a “federal release.”
Some of these Martinsburg materials, such as notes from the Martinsburg Police, have subsequently been obtained and seem to contradict what the official report says the notes say.
Other FBI documents, previously released as part of a Special Access Review being conducted by the National Archives, also contradict the assertion to Congress that the matter was not being investigated by the FBI. These documents show that FBI agents attempting to investigate the matter found themselves meeting “almost complete resistance from the Martinsburg police and prosecutor’s office.” While one agent in Pittsburgh suggested this was because they “felt besieged,” the letter from the prosecutor’s office implies that it may have been the result of instructions from federal authorities.
Another section of the formerly SECRET report shows that the FBI was aware of threats made against Casolaro’s life, but that they “expressed little interest” while the DOJ declared the death a suicide.
The FBI similarly ignored the recommendation of FBI Special Agent Thomas Gates that a murder or ITAR investigation be opened into the death of Danny Casolaro and the surrounding events.
This document also shows that additional interviews were conducted but unreleased, which may have been in the approximately 1,000 pages that the FBI decided were non-responsive to the request.
When the FBI BCCI Task Force tried to gain access to this information, they were simply denied.
Significantly, more than half the FBI agents that did look into Casolaro’s death “questioned the conclusion of suicide” and recommended further investigation. This level of doubt “was especially significant, because even at that time (December 1992), it was clear that to express those views risked one’s own judgment being called into question.” For an FBI agent to have their judgment called into question was to have their career called into question.
Collectively, the FBI documents which have been released do a great deal to undermine the official narrative of Danny Casolaro’s death and the DOJ’s conclusions. Not only did the Bureau lie to Congress, but they dropped leads and may well have interfered in their own investigation. This, combined with the DOJ’s decision to ignore the changing alibi of the main suspect in Casolaro’s death, and the FBI’s sources contradicting what the DOJ said was the motive behind the alleged suicide, casts significant doubt on the Bureau.
Additional materials from his FBI file will discussed in a future article, along with the FBI file on PROMIS, which has been called a forerunner to PRISM. In the meantime, you can read the FBI file embedded below, or on the request page.
Questions about the death of Alan David Standorf, a Whitehall High School graduate whose corpse was found at a Washington, D.C., airport 10 days ago, may never be answered because of the highly classified nature of Standorf's Army job, his brother said yesterday.
Standorf, 34, was a civil employee of Vint Hill Farm, a military security installation near Manassas, Va., but he resigned from that job in December because his Army Reserves unit had been called for Persian Gulf War training at Fort Bragg, N.C., police said.
A brother, Mark Standorf of Bethlehem, said the last time family members saw Standorf alive was Dec. 28, when he was visiting relatives in the Lehigh Valley before heading back to the D.C. area. Mark Standorf said Alan visited friends in Virginia on New Year's Eve, and he saw his landlady the following day.
Dr. Stephen Sheehy of the Medical Examiner's Office in Northern Virginia confirmed information the family was given -- that Standorf died of a blunt force blow to the back of the head around Jan. 4.
Standorf's body, with no visible wounds, was found the night of Jan. 28 under clothing and luggage on the back floor of his small car, Sheehy said.
Standorf's car had been on a short-term parking lot at Metropolitan Washington National Airport since Jan. 4, said David Hess, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airport police.
Mark Standorf said his mother, Jeanette, would worry when Alan might casually mention that he was thinking of getting out of military work to become a policeman. When Mrs. Standorf once commented that a policeman's job would be too dangerous, Alan replied, `What I do now is dangerous,'" Mark Standorf recalled. "Apparently whatever he (Alan) was doing was for the war."
"Everything he did was classified," Mark Standorf said, adding that if family conversation turned to work, Alan would quickly remind them he couldn't talk about it.
That Standorf's death might have been connected to his job at Vint Hill is being investigated, police said. However, they said, they have not ruled out robbery as a motive for the death.
Police feel certain that Standorf "was killed in an area remote from the airport and transported to airport property," Hess said.
Hess said he talked with investigators yesterday and was not given any further information about the case.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that a former Whitehall Township man found dead in his car had been a source for an investigative reporter whose body was discovered in a West Virginia hotel bathtub.
"It would be wrong to say I'm not looking for a link," said Detective Joseph Young of the Metropolitan Washington Airport police. "But I see none."
The body of Alan D. Standorf, 34, of Warrenton, Va., was found in his car last January at Washington's National Airport. Authorities blamed the death on a blow to the head. Free-lance reporter Joseph Daniel Casolaro was found dead last month with his wrists slashed in a hotel bathtub in Martinsburg, W. Va. Authorities initially ruled the death a suicide.
Standorf worked at a super-secret military "listening post" not far from Washington. Casolaro, 44, of Fairfax, Va., was investigating allegations of government wrongdoing. Eight months after their son's death, Norman and Jeanette Standorf of Whitehall Township, have few clues about what happened to him.
"They answer our questions with their own," Jeanette Standorf said last week of federal authorities. "It's frustrating."
Standorf gave his parents no indication he was in trouble. Nor did he ever discuss his sensitive job.
"When he came home, we only talked family stuff," said his father.
A review of the personal effects of both Standorf and Casolaro revealed no written proof of any contacts between them, said Young. Police checked after receiving a tip from a Casolaro associate. But Bill Turner, a defense industry whistleblower who met with Casolaro just before his death, suspects that Standorf was a Casolaro source who "dried up."
Turner remembers Casolaro speaking of the disappearance of a key source. Although Casolaro did not name Standorf as that person, the circumstances surrounding Standorf's death correspond with what Casolaro said about the source.
Turner now believes Standorf was the source.
"That's not enough to go on," said Young, of the airport police. "There's no link. I don't have anything to go on."
Authorities believe Standorf was killed weeks earlier at another site. His car had been in a short-term parking lot at the airport since Jan. 4. Authorities have made efforts to "tone down" the release of information surrounding Standorf's death from the start.
"This is not strictly a police investigation anymore," Lt. Norman Ford, of the airport police, was quoted as saying in early February. "The government is involved, too."
The FBI and Army authorities reportedly are investigating, along with police from the airport and from Martinsburg. Young said he lacks promising leads.
"Standorf was killed around the first of the year, and the body was found at the end of the month," Young said. "That gave the killer 25 days. It was a cold trail when we started."
Ed Opperman with his special guestTed Rubinstein follow up on the on Danny Casolaro - Octopus & Promis Software - The Involvement of Adnan Khashogi and also breaking news on Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson's involvement.
What do Iran-Contra, the October Surprise, surveillance software, super-spies and mysterious mafia hits all have in common? The answer might surprise you.
On the morning of July 1, 1981, three bodies were discovered behind a shabby, concrete ranch house on Bob Hope Drive, a main drag in a sand-swept stretch of California’s scorching Coachella Valley. The corpses were sprawled in a semicircle, on chairs and beds that had been dragged into the backyard. Each of the victims—the house’s owner, Fred Alvarez, his girlfriend, Patricia Castro, and a guest named Ralph Boger—had been killed by a single .38-caliber gunshot to the head. Police surmised that Alvarez and his friends had been planning to sleep outdoors to escape the heat of the house, which had no air-conditioning, and were surprised in the dark by one or more assailants. There were few clues and no witnesses left at the scene; the crime had all the hallmarks of a professional hit.
Boger’s daughter, Rachel Begley, who was 13 at the time, says she learned of her father’s death from a television news bulletin. Her parents were divorced, and though she spent occasional days with her dad, riding in his motorcycle’s sidecar, she didn’t know enough about his life to make sense of what had happened. The police would eventually conclude that Boger and Alvarez were killed in connection with shady doings at the nearby Cabazon Indian reservation. But Begley’s mother shielded her from all the murky details of the investigation.
After the murders, Begley went through a rebellious phase and fell in with a bad crowd. By the time she was 15, she was pregnant and had dropped out of high school. Eventually she got her GED and moved to Iowa. She says she would periodically wonder about the case and check in with the police, who never seemed to have any new information. Beyond that, she didn’t have time or tools to delve too deeply.
Then one night in 2007, she idly typed her father’s name into Google. She didn’t find much, but as she clicked through the few results that came up, she found a book entitled The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. Based on the work of a fringe freelance journalist, the book argued that the 1981 triple slaying was wrapped up in an enormous plot involving arms dealing, private-security firms, and the upper echelons of the Reagan administration. Skeptical but intrigued, Begley dug deeper and discovered that over the years the murder case had taken on a curious life of its own, preserved on obscure websites and nurtured by a grassroots community of obsessives. To these conspiracy theorists, Boger’s killing was the work of a secret syndicate that they called the Octopus, because its tangled tentacles supposedly reached into some of the most powerful organizations in the world.
Begley’s simple Google search launched a four-year-and-counting odyssey, during which she has devoted herself to tracking down forgotten documents, corresponding with federal prisoners, putting questions to Oliver North, and even confronting the man who may have shot her dad. Her work, she says, has placed her own life in danger and made her a target of the same forces that killed her father. And yet she cannot stop. She keeps following the siren song of the conspiracy theory, the same beguiling cognitive path that lures others to the JFK assassination and Area 51. What was once a family tragedy has blossomed into something else entirely, a vast puzzle whose solution promises to illuminate not only her father’s death but the dark forces behind the world’s apparent chaos.
On a sweltering afternoon last June, Begley was sitting in front of a wheezing Dell Dimension 8300 desktop, beneath a photocopy of a prayer for protection from “evil spirits who prowl about the world,” trying to sum up the dimensions of the Octopus conspiracy. “You’ve got the drug people, mixing with the mafia, mixing with the Hells Angels, mixing with the government—various governments, actually,” she says as she clicks around on the computer. “This is where I piece it all together.”
Begley lives and works in a rickety house at the end of a gravel road, next to a small pond and a rotting wood barn in a rural town outside Louisville, Kentucky, that she doesn’t want named for security reasons. Out front, her “guard dog,” an aging flat-coated retriever named Lucky, lazes beneath her porch. Begley is 43 and heavyset, with piercing blue eyes. On this day, her air conditioner is broken, and her round face glistens with sweat. She has four children, and for the moment she is collecting unemployment and selling a line of weight-loss shakes to make money on the side.
Before she heard about the Octopus, she never gave much thought to politics or read the newspaper, and she certainly didn’t size up her dad—a bearded mechanic who liked to drink, smoke pot, and ride motorcycles—as the type to be tied up in byzantine plots. “I thought it was a normal thing,” Begley says of the killings. “Well, murder is never normal, but I thought somebody went to try and rob them or something.”
In fact, within days of the crime, investigators had fixed their suspicion on John Philip Nichols, who was serving as financial manager for the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, a group of fewer than 30 descendants of a desert people that had long inhabited the Coachella Valley. Nichols was encouraging the Cabazons to open a casino, a radical idea at the time that caused clashes with the police and attracted some alleged mob associates to the reservation. Boger’s friend Fred Alvarez, a dissident tribe member, opposed the plan. Before his death, Alvarez had approached a local reporter to talk about blowing the whistle. “There are people out there who want to kill me,” he warned. No one knew what Alvarez was preparing to disclose, but initial speculation involved embezzlement.
When Begley stumbled upon The Octopus, though, she found a more nefarious explanation: Nichols proposed to use the tribe’s sovereign status to build an arms factory on the reservation and ship weapons to Central American rebel groups like the Contras. Drawing heavily on a San Francisco Chronicle investigation, the book reported that he had struck a partnership arrangement with Wackenhut, a private-security firm with alleged ties to the CIA and Republican Party.
That strange story was widely reported in the early 1990s. But since then, others had embroidered those findings with more bizarre information, speculation, and extrapolations. Before long, Begley was tearing through websites and bulletin boards, finding herself drawn into the conspiracy. Much of what she found traced back to Danny Casolaro, the freelance journalist who had been the first to write about a shadowy “international cabal” of covert operatives he dubbed the Octopus. Casolaro tied the Cabazon tribe’s arms company to a Reagan crony, who figured in the so-called October Surprise of 1980 and was connected to a computer program called Promis, which was supposedly used for spying. In 1991, the writer was found dead in the bathtub at a West Virginia hotel, his wrists slashed. Authorities deemed the death a suicide, but others presumed Casolaro was killed because he knew too much.
“Most of the stuff, I didn’t believe,” Begley says. “I thought all these people were making money off my dad’s murder, writing these books.” She was angry enough, in fact, that she was determined to prove the speculators wrong. At the time, Begley was working in customer service for an Internet service provider, which was moving its back-office operations to another state, and she was spending her days sitting idly at her computer, waiting to get laid off. Begley had once worked for a collections agency, and she knew how to track people down. “I went into it with a mindset, I guess, almost like a police officer would,” she says.
No one had ever been charged in the killings. Nichols was long gone—he had died of a heart attack in 2001. But Begley talked to Alvarez’s sister, who recounted her family’s thwarted efforts to get the police to pursue the case. She then found William Hamilton, the developer of the Promis software, who had collaborated with Casolaro on his investigation. Hamilton called her back on her cell phone as she was leaving work one day, and he talked and talked until his battery died. “It was like—boom,” she later said. “He dumped it all in my lap.” Begley may have started out trying to resist the Octopus, but she gradually gave in to the theory’s implications: Her father had been caught up in a vast conspiracy, and it had killed him.
So Begley dove deeper, into the submerged ecosystem of interconnected message boards where initiates continued to discuss and dissect the Octopus. “I was one of those thinking that the conspiracy people were weird,” she posted on one of these boards in 2008. “Then I had my eyes opened, REALLY FAST.”
As she set out on her search, one of the first things Begley did was fashion a new identity. She came up with a screen name, Desertfae, and introduced her character in a series of YouTube videos. The first ones, set to pounding music, consisted of montages of images—an Indian chief, a close-up of her eyes—and cryptic messages: “I am lost … I need your help and guidance to bring closure … I will be silent no longer … Soon the clues and proof will be found.”
As Begley plunged into the world of the conspiracy theorists, she found more than facts and assertions—she found a community with its own rules, ethics, and currency. And it was a difficult one to penetrate; the cluster of people devoted to studying the Octopus tended not to throw their arms open to newcomers. Over the years, they had built a kind of gnostic society, a belief system that was both all-encompassing—a grand unified theory of everything sinister—and exclusionary, open only to the select few who could accept the devastating truth. They were suspicious of outsiders and divided into factions that warred over arcane points, often accusing one another of being double agents.
With persistence and a convert’s zeal, Begley managed to win the trust of some of the leading theorists. She formed a particularly tight bond with Cheri Seymour, a matronly San Diego woman who had been working for nearly 20 years on a book called The Last Circle. The two sealed their friendship with a transaction of weathered documents, the Octopus community’s customary medium of exchange. Copying Seymour’s files, which the author had gathered from archives, courts, and a confidential source’s hidden trailer, Begley glimpsed the far reaches of the speculation: bioweapons, Lebanese heroin shipments, Howard Hughes, the yakuza.
There were many competing interpretations of the Octopus—Seymour was particularly interested in the alleged role of entertainment company MCA—and they were infinitely adaptable, able to accommodate the Patriot Act or the financial crisis. Devotees found and fought one another on sites like Above Top Secret, conspiracy clearinghouses that host every conceivable thread of discussion. Begley forged an alliance with a retired FBI agent who was exploring a link between the Octopus and Satanic cults. She did battle with a prominent UFO enthusiast who thought the Octopus was hiding the government’s collaboration with a colonizing alien force. (In January, online sleuths discovered that alleged Arizona assassin Jared Lee Loughner was a regular poster on Above Top Secret, but his bizarre ramblings about currency and space travel, widely disdained by other contributors, never touched on the Octopus threads.) Begley also developed a venomous rivalry with Virginia McCullough, a California writer who accused her of being an enemy impostor, not really Ralph Boger’s daughter. When Begley posted a copy of her birth certificate online, McCullough called it “a cut-and-paste job.”
“I do not believe that Desertfae is a ‘victim,’ and she has not posted any information that she is who she claims to be,” McCullough wrote on one message board. “She is a low-stage puppet reporting to the puppet master and two or three of his minions.”
The man McCullough called the puppet master is a federal narcotics prisoner named Michael Riconosciuto, Casolaro’s principal source, who had worked for the Cabazon arms company in the 1980s. The convict, who claimed he’d been framed, continued to play a leading role in the factional wars, penning letters in loopy cursive to numerous correspondents. Shortly after Begley began communicating with Riconosciuto, she posted a new video, entitled “OMG Michael Called!!!!!” Looking rattled, she reported that Riconosciuto had warned that the Octopus was watching. Then she cut to shaky handheld footage of a black helicopter that had appeared over her house.
Begley wasn’t scared off the trail. She interviewed retired cops and unearthed new witnesses. She amassed thousands of documents: news clippings, police reports, Casolaro’s notes, leaked memos, reams of legal filings and depositions. (For a secret cabal, the Octopus was remarkably litigious.) Informants found her website or friended her on Facebook and promised they could tell her about the Octopus from the inside. “If you’re involved with some kind of high-level weird thing,” she explains, “and you’ve held it in for 20 or 30 years, and you can’t talk about it, eventually you’re going to be, like, ‘I want to tell somebody before I die.'”
Begley continued to post YouTube videos documenting her investigations, and before long they started winning a small but avid viewership—and not just fellow conspiracy theorists. It seemed the police were paying attention as well. Back when she had first begun investigating, Begley called the police department in Riverside County, where Coachella is located, telling them the case was bigger than Watergate. She got a dismissive response. But after she started posting her videos, she received a phone call telling her that the cold-case squad was reopening the inquiry into her father’s murder.
Soon, Begley focused her attention on one player in the killing: Jimmy Hughes, a former Cabazon reservation employee who worked for John Philip Nichols. In 1984, in the midst of a business dispute, Hughes implicated Nichols to the police, claiming he had ferried a cash payment from Nichols to some unidentified contract killers for the Alvarez hit, which he said his boss had called a “US government covert action.” The police had looked into Hughes’ claims but gradually shifted their suspicion to the informant himself. At that point, Hughes fled town, and the grand jury investigation into the murders fizzled.
Begley discovered that Hughes had become an evangelical minister based in Honduras. In December 2007, she began trying to contact him, but he ignored her. She had an idea why: On the website of a religious group, she discovered an autobiographic essay Hughes had posted that sounded eerily familiar. In it, he called himself “a hit man with a new mission” and told a story of elite military training and a career as a contract killer, a life that was transformed when he was born again. She also found a list of upcoming speaking engagements, which indicated that Hughes was scheduled to address an evangelical banquet in Fresno, California. Begley booked a flight.
On a rainy evening in February 2008, Begley sat in the gilded ballroom of a historic Fresno bank building as Hughes took the floor to preach. Inside her handbag, she carried a hidden camera that peeked out through a discreet hole she’d cut just beneath the zipper. Next to it sat a loaded pistol—just in case.
Hughes stalked off, fuming, and Begley began to cry. That seemed to bother the minister, because he came back, speaking in a tone that was softer but full of veiled menace. Apparently, he had seen her web videos. “Are you aware that that goes all over the world? Are you a crazy lady?” Hughes said. “Think about your children. They need a mother.” He told Begley and Alvarez that the murder was a “mafia hit,” and though he didn’t explicitly admit to carrying it out, he intimated that he knew much more.
“Your parents were involved in some very dangerous things,” Hughes said. “It’s a lot bigger than just the murder of this guy or the murder of that guy. You’re talking political people. You’ve got babies to take care of, mama. Go home tonight and be at peace.”
Suddenly, the murky crime had come into focus, and the conspiracy theorist confronted an unaccustomed feeling: vindication. Hughes’ outburst seemed to confirm Begley’s deepest fears and also her most far-fetched fantasies. After so many decades of false starts and mysterious ends, Begley had finally hit upon something undeniably tangible—an actual lead in the case. Within two days, Begley posted excerpts of the confrontation to YouTube, ending her video with a postscript in stark black and white: “This ‘crazy lady’ wants the murders solved. The Octopus will be exposed.”
Shortly before Begley confronted Hughes, she began cooperating with John Powers, a Riverside County homicide detective who was investigating the reopened 1981 murder case. When Powers saw the video of her run-in with Hughes, he was impressed. “The statements she got from him,” Powers says, “no police officer would ever have been able to get.” He and Begley went on to form an unusually tight partnership. She shared everything she learned with the man she called “my detective” and helped to persuade a pair of reluctant witnesses to offer damning testimony against Hughes.
Still, the case had to overcome some curious obstacles. Powers was surprised to find that the records of the 1980s grand jury investigation had somehow disappeared. And it turned out that the district attorney of Riverside County, a long-serving prosecutor, was actually related to Hughes. Because of the conflict of interest, the case was transferred to the California attorney general’s office. After much procedural wrangling, a warrant was finally issued. In September 2009, Hughes was arrested at Miami’s international airport. Begley posted a celebratory video, scored to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” It flashed up an image of Hughes’ mug shot, across which she had scrawled: “Gotcha.”
As fond as he was of Begley, Powers’ arrest complaint completely ignored the Octopus conspiracy. The detective doubted that a jury would believe—or even be able to follow—the abstruse connections that purportedly linked Hughes to the CIA, the Contras, and all the rest. Instead, he wanted to focus on the old dispute over building a casino on the Cabazon reservation. “Nichols thought he was going to be making millions, and Fred Alvarez was a threat to that,” Powers says. “That was motive enough for murder.”
On the afternoon of July 1, the 29th anniversary of the murders, a grim-faced Begley walked into a courtroom in Indio, California, for an important hearing. The chamber was packed with an expectant crowd of reporters, members of Hughes’ family, and a few supporters from the Octopus community, including Cheri Seymour. Hughes was ushered in, wearing chains and an orange jumpsuit.
Then Michael Murphy, a dapper prosecutor from the attorney general’s office, rose and delivered a shocking blow. “We have lost confidence in our ability to proceed with the prosecution,” he said. Begley closed her eyes tightly as the prosecutor gave a vague reason for his sudden about-face, something about “new information” and a reassessment of the evidence. Begley was allowed to address the court. “How many people must die or suffer at the hands of Jimmy Hughes,” she asked, “before he is brought to justice?” But the judge dismissed the charges anyway. It was enough to make you wonder, if you were of a certain mindset, whether the fix was in.
Afterward, Powers stood next to Begley outside the courtroom as she addressed the television cameras, sobbing. The detective was disgusted by the outcome. The attorney general’s office gave no further public explanation for its decision, but Powers sensed that the prosecutors were eager to “dump” the case. Murphy, he said, started to question the credibility of the witnesses Begley had uncovered. Throughout, Begley had used Twitter and Facebook to mobilize the Octopus believers to pressure Murphy, and at least a few called the prosecutor to urge him to look beyond Hughes and dig into the myriad connections they had spent decades documenting. Begley’s devotion and inventive use of the Internet had helped to ensnare Hughes, but the obsessions of her fellow travelers may have helped to undermine the prosecutor’s confidence. (Murphy declined to comment.)
Powers, for his part, doubts there ever was an Octopus. The detective blames Nichols, the self-aggrandizing adviser who convinced the Cabazons to build a casino, for conjuring the intrigue that continued to befog the case long after his death. “Nichols had a lot of people fooled,” Powers says, “believing that he was some secret spook working for the government.” Even Nichols’ own underlings bought into his mystique; Powers thought it entirely plausible that Hughes truly believed his boss gave orders on behalf of shadowy overlords. In that sense, the Octopus may have existed, if only as a deceived and malignant state of mind.
On the night of his release, Hughes emerged from jail into a furnace blast of desert darkness. “Only God can justify and vindicate those who are really innocent,” he triumphantly told reporters outside the Indio jailhouse. Fearing retribution, Begley had already split, driving over the mountains to San Diego, where she holed up at Seymour’s house. “It’s not over by a long shot,” she told me on the phone. Her cell phone kept ringing: the Los Angeles Times, Dateline NBC, her newly materialized pro bono lawyer, a victims’ rights advocate who often appeared on Nancy Grace’s talk show.
Finally, the world seemed to be listening. “Actually, this might be better,” Begley says, sounding curiously invigorated. Though this experience has been draining, it has given her a sense of purpose, of a momentous cause. Hughes might be free, heading back to Honduras, but in a way, defeat offered a perverse validation. The Octopus wouldn’t be the enemy she thought it was if it gave up its secrets so easily. “You’re going to find out real soon,” Begley says, “that the world isn’t what you think it is.”
The state attorney general's office on Thursday dropped murder charges against a self-described Mafia-hit-man-turned-minister accused of killing a Cabazon Indian tribal leader and two others in 1981.
James Hughes, 53, faced murder and conspiracy charges in the shooting deaths of tribal Vice Chairman Fred A. Alvarez, Patricia R. Castro and Ralph A. Boger near Indio. Alvarez had planned to go to authorities with evidence of reputed mobsters skimming casino profits when he was slain.
During a court hearing in Indio, Deputy Atty. Gen. Mike Murphy told a Riverside County Superior Court judge that his office was dropping the charges because of new evidence uncovered by state prosecutors investigating the 29-year-old case. Neither Murphy nor a spokesman for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown provided details on those new findings.
"We conducted an exhaustive review of the evidence provided by the Sheriff's Department, re-interviewed key witnesses and uncovered additional evidence tied to the case," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown. "This process and the new information our office discovered materially changed our assessment of the nature and quality of the evidence."
Hughes, an ex-Army Ranger and former security director at the Cabazon casino and the tribe's bingo operations, was charged in October with the crimes, dubbed the "octopus murders" because the tentacles of complex conspiracy spread worldwide.
The Times reported in 1991 that at the time of the killings, the reservation's casino room was run by a reputed organized crime figure and that Alvarez began complaining that money was being skimmed. Shortly afterward, he and the two others were killed. The three victims were found on Alvarez's back patio, each shot in the head with a .38-caliber handgun.
Begley tracked Hughes for two years and, with Alvarez's son, confronted him at a 2008 religious conference in Fresno and secretly filmed their conversation.
"Your parents got killed in a Mafia hit. That's life. That's what happened," Hughes was taped as saying.
The Riverside County Sheriff's department is looking into possible connections between a triple murder in 1981 and murder-suicide in 2005 that claimed six lives.
A chilling email written by a detective shows just how dangerous this case is.
When this detective writes he "can't look his wife in the eyes" and risk his family's lives, you know it's a big case.
Nicauraguan arms deals, stolen computer databases, weapons testing on local Cabazon Indian land and a lawsuit alleging conspiracy from the highest federal officials for the past 30 years: all of these are now being investigated by the Riverside County Cold Case Division.
Three people were murdered execution style in a Rancho Mirage home on July 1st, 1981. There were never any arrests. The victims included Cabazon Indian Vice Chairman Fred Alvarez. Family members say he was going to blow the whistle on a business partnership between defense contractor Wackenhut Services and the Cabazon Indians to build machine guns and biological weapons for Central American countries.
Confidential sources close to the investigation recently handed over an email written by a riverside county sheriff's detective. The email's source was confirmed by multiple people inside the investigation. The detective who wrote the email hasn't responded to additional requests for information. We're not revealing his name to protect his identity.
The email states the Cold Case Division reopened the Alvarez triple murder several months ago. There were three Rancho Mirage murders in 1981, and a Riverside County District Attorney Investigator left the office in the early 80's after threats on his life.
Journalist Danny Casolero investigated what he called "The Octopus" and was found dead in his hotel room in 1991. His reporter notes disappeared. The book on the conspiracy he was to name "Indio" was never finished.
The detective is also investigating whether DA Investigator David McGowan and his family of five were murdered in 2005 after McGowan looked into the case.
The detective writes he "doesn't want to continue on the case based on the number of people who have met an untimely demise while doing so."
But the detective is continuing the case. Newschannel 3 learned former computer programmer Michael Riconisciuto was recently questioned.
Documents show a secret government computer spy program named "PROMIS" was modified on tribal land in Indio. PROMIS is linked to a major spy scandal that has stretched for years. With all of these national security implications, the detective states he "feels like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole" and he "no longer has a complete grasp on the real world."
The stakes are high, the secrets are growing, and the suspicious deaths remain unanswered. Even the detective desperately asks, "am i just another lamb to the slaughter?"
Now I won’t go into details that will spoil the film for you, but most of what the film hints at is a very important story in conspiracy history. The Octopus is a non-fictional story that has been published by Author’s Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith. The story should be familiar with all conspiracy buffs and those who like to read the stories in the margins of a newspaper or magazine.
Danny Casolaro was just a reporter that stumbled onto a story that would cost him his life.
Casolaro’s investigation began with his inquiry into the case of Inslaw, from whom the U.S. Justice Department stole a software package called PROMIS and sold it to governments and financial institutions around the world, after modifying it to provide a back door by which they would track the movement of money and other assets everywhere.
It was the ultimate surveillance software.
PROMIS is short for “Prosecutors Management Information System. The super intelligence and surveillance software was created by Bill and Nancy Hamilton who formed a company called INSLAW. The software was created under contract of the U.S. Government for $10 million dollars. After the software was installed in the U.S. attorney General’s office – the Justice Department refused to pay for the software.
After entanglements with the creators of PROMIS – a company called Hadron owned by Attorney general Ed Meese tried to purchase the PROMIS software and try to lease it out for $500 million dollars to the same justice department that refused to pay $10 million dollars for it.
In investigations, it is an old rule that you “follow the money”, but in this case, Danny Casolaro had to track the spread of the PROMIS package to follow the people who are following the money, and in so doing, illustrated the links in the network of criminal influence around the world and back to their origins, the way a physician might use an angiogram to reveal the blood flows in a human body.
The Hamilton’s refused the offer but somehow PROMIS eventually found its way into foreign law enforcement computers.
Casolaro wanted to investigate the INSLAW scandal and found that the PROMIS affair had so many conspiracies ties to it, he compared it to an Octopus with every tentacle involved in criminal malfeasance.
PROMIS created what he called a BIG BROTHER master file – where political dissidents, tax protesters, whistle blowers, reporters and conspiracy theorists were listed as potential threats to the government.
Danny Casolaro learned of one unintended PROMIS application from his main informant, electronics genius Michael Riconoscuito. He told Casolaro that he modified the PROMIS software to have a backdoor access feature for the CIA.
He claimed that this backdoor feature helped CIA heavyweights William Casey and George H.W. Bush pull off the October Surprise where they paid Iranian authorities not to free the hostages but keep them alive until after the Presidential election where Ronald Reagan would be installed as a puppet president for the CIA.
In fact, the American hostages were not released until minutes after Jimmy Carter officially left office with the swearing in of Ronald Reagan.
Riconoscuito’s back door access allowed the CIA to tap into military, law enforcement and intelligence files all over the world with just a touch of a button.
Isn’t it odd that the new Bond film’s plot includes this type of surveillance system that allowed Spectre’s Octopus to carry out false flag operations?
Caslolaro’s Octopus was about the electronic Trojan Horse that was smuggled into 88 different countries who all paid to be plundered, monitored and spied upon. They also fell victim to attacks and most countries were compromised including Iraq in the Gulf War.
PROMIS also revealed that black budget projects were being conducted at the Cabazon Indian Reservation. These forbidden projects were chemical and biological weapons tests and secret fuel air explosives, said to rival nuclear devices.
PROMIS also had information about exotic technology that used anti-gravitic fields to lift discs into the air, discs that of course looked like Flying Saucers. This was linked to the SDI program. Knowledge of such experiments had its price. In the 1980’s, 21 British and American Scientists died mysteriously or committed suicide.
Another tentacle that Casolaro discovered reached from the CIA, right into the heart of the Bank Credit and Commerce International, home of the world’s worst banking scandal.
Robert Gates of the CIA said that BCCI stood for Bank of Crooks and Criminals.
On August 10th 1991, Casolaro was searching for more tentacles in the Octopus and decided to meet with a former CIA agent connected to the INSLAW affair. The ex-CIA man arranged a Martinsburg, West Virginia meeting between Casolaro and Bush Justice Department official, Peter Videnieks.
The next morning, Danny Casolaro was found dead in the bathtub of his hotel room – his wrists slashed a dozen times. It was promptly ruled suicide even though Casolaro’s briefcase notes and manuscript were all missing.
Shortly before his death, his housekeeper reported that Danny received a threatening phone call. She also noticed the disappearance of his papers and notes from his desk.
More than once before his death Casolaro had told his brother “If anything happens to me and it looks like an accident don’t believe it.” The authorities ordered that his body be embalmed immediately without permission from his family.
It appeared that Casolaro was murdered for what he knew – a victim of the very Octopus he tried to expose.
A lot of other people got bad vibes from BCCI, and among bankers it acquired the nickname of "Bank of Crooks and Criminals." But it took a dozen years for regulators overseeing BCCI's far-flung empire in Britain, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands and elsewhere to reach the same conclusion.
In the interim, BCCI wove what its auditors, Price Waterhouse, belatedly discovered and now describe as "probably one of the most complex deceptions in banking history."
BCCI made phony loans, concealed deposits, hid huge losses, and was the bank for a host of shady customers ranging from terrorists and spies to drug runners and dictators.