In two previous posts I’ve reviewed one Chicago incident reported to the Secret Service (Vallee) by an individual who had a conversation with him in a public place (Bowling alley diner) and passed a warning to the Secret Service who in turned involved the Chicago Police Department in an investigation which resulted in the arrest of Vallee (for a traffic violation) and continued Secret Service routine PRS follow ups on him for a number of years. That case was well documented and also reseived HSCA attention.
A second incident (Bolden) was investigated by the HSCA but unfortunately remains almost entirely undocumented, relying on Abraham Bolden’s statemets on the affair. According to Bolden the FBI had advised the Chicago Secret Service office that individuals were traveling to Chicago who might represent a dancer to President Kennedy on his upcoming appearance in that city. Bolden has stated that the indivudals were named and that surveillance was established on them; apparently the surveillance was bungled and two men were taken into custody while others fled. The office reports on the incident were ordered collected and transported to Washington, leaving no local record of the incident. Investigations by the HSCA failed to unearth anything in regard to the Bolden incident. However work and inquiries conducted by the ARRB did produce information confirming that various individuals who had worked in both the Chicago Secret Service and FBI offices were aware of issues related to the planned JFK visit and adamantly refused to provide details on its cancellation. Further speculation has been fueled by the discovery that a number of Secret Files pertaining to the President’s fall travels were destroyed by the Secret Service – as late as the 1990’s during the ARRB’s work – apparently far outside any normal records retention criteria and in direct violation of an ARRB stay order on such records.
There remains a third incident out of Chicago which has fueled the idea that there were known threats to the president in the fall of 1963. That incident was reported to the FBI by one of its sources (Thomas Mosley) and passed on to the Secret Service. It involved remarks made by a Cuban who Mosley had been in contact with in regard to the sale of weapons and explosives. Homero Sameul Valdavia Echeverria, an anti-Castro activist, had expressed interest in weapons purchases and in doing so his remarks suggested he might have knowledge of some plan which had targeted President Kennedy. Reportedly he had stated that “we have plenty of money, our new backers are Jews, as soon as they [or we] take care of Kennedy… at that point the conversation had terminated.
It was certainly a suggestive remark and well worth investigation. I wrote at some length about Echeverria in Someone Would Have Talked, his possible associations and the idea (widely repeated in the JFK research community) that a through investigation of his remarks had somehow been blocked or dropped…creating more suspicion and more mystery. Based on recently available documents it appears that I (and others) were quite wrong about that last point. We can now see that a follow on investigation, involving multiple sources, ongoing contacts with Echeverria by Mosley and surveillance on Echeverria was conducted. In fact the investigation extended to other indivudals contacted by Mosley (a very long time source for the FBI, on his own sales activities and more importantly those of Richard Lauchli, a major weapons and explosives dealer to anti-Castro Cubans and ultra right groups such as the Minutemen).
The reality turns out to be that neither the Secret Service nor the FBI dropped its investigation of the incident. They continued an effort to determine what exile group(s) Echeverria had been associated with, to develop the context of the remarks through additional meetings with (and reports from Mosley) and whether or not an actual threat was in play that might extend to President Johnson. A detailed (albeit convoluted) synopsis of their report may be found at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.
In the end the determination was made that no ongoing threat existed and that no illegal acts had actually been committed in regards to weapons or explosives sales. At that point investigation ceased as there were no grounds to refer the information for charges. While that is certainly unsatisfactory it is consistent with a number of other investigations of exile weapons purchasing contacts (and even sales) in which the FBI appears to have determined that protecting ongoing sources and surveillance was more valuable than recommending charges – especially in incidents were sales might not have actually been illegal. The chronology of the inquiry is as follows:
September – Thomas Mosley approached Echeveria in Sept offering machine guns (Sten guns) and received no response.
November 21 – Mosley reapproached Echeverria at which point the remarks about new backers, Jewish, with money and proceeding once JFK was out of the way were made. During that conversation Echeverria cautioned Mosley that his superiors would have to meet with and evaluate Mosley to ensure the approach was not a sting.
November 26 – Mosley telephoned to reach Echeverria on Nov 26 but could not reach him.
Secret Service and FBI investigation of Echeverria was underway and continued up to November 28th when it was deemed to risky due to it being detected. Echeverria eventually did respond to Mosley and a meeting was scheduled for Nov 28.
November 28 – Homer Echeverria was brought into a conversation about JFK and characterized him as an intellectual who had not committed himself to the anti-Castro effort in the way that Johnson, described as a common man, would It was felt Johnson would not would not stand in the way of direct Cuban exile military action against Cuba.
On November 28 Echeverria and Mosley, after a telephone call from Echeverria, left Homer’s home in Mosley’s car. After driving near Logan Square Homer told Moseley to stop and a man got into the car.
Mosley pitched his Sten guns to the man and in turn was given a shopping list for a much larger range of weapons and explosives…the Cuban began to vet Mosley – asking him how he felt about the death of JFK and then asking for references. Moseley brought up an association with Michael Ponce in earlier days and the man said he had known Ponce in Cuba. Ponce was officer in Cuban Navy under Batista and had been associated with Mosley in gun smuggling in the 1950s. Mosely suggested his Chicago arrests and CPD file would verify his experience. It should be noted that the “shopping list”related to Mosley was almost identical to the DRE shopping list which had been submitted by the DRE to John Thomas Masen in Dallas.
Mosley talked sales details, partial payment etc and the Cuban found it acceptable and if Mosley checked out further dealings would be through an attorney. Future contact was outlined, through classified ad and telephone number. It was a rather sophisticated contact and cut out communications process and Moseley was told he would be contacted by the Cubans if they wanted to pursue the deal after checking him out.
An FBI informant identified the unknown Cuban as a DRE member and Echeverria was also identified as a DRE member. The description of the unknown Cuban appeared to match that of Juan Francisco Blanco-Fernandez who had been observed by an FBI source at the same grocery store as Homer Echeveria only days earlier. Blanco had been in Chicago shopping for weapons and explosives on previous occasions. The FBI referred the Blanco inquiry to Miami and the local FBI office used one of their sources to personally contact Jaun Blanco Fernandez and establish that he was in Chicago during the period in which the Echevarria/Mosely meeting had occurred.
November 30 – Another meeting was being planned between Echeveria and Mosley. Mosley was also reported in contact via Echeverria with another individual referred to as Mannie. Mannie asserted himself as representing all groups in the Chicago area. Mannie has communicated the desire for a shopping list of items for an upcoming attack on Cuba event – they were needed in a short time frame as attacks were planned to begin within 90 days – by March 1964.
There are more details to the ongoing Echeverria inquiry – which continued through December and they can be found in the link cited. This post had already gotten too long so I’ll return to my thoughts on what the overall takeaway from these three Chicago incidents may tell is in Chicago Part 4.