Proven: collaboration CIA and the mafia

Proven: collaboration CIA and the mafia

While America was completely captivated by the election battle between Kennedy and Nixon, a remarkable meeting took place in New York on September 14, 1960. In the famous Plaza Hotel by Central Park, a certain Bob Maheu spoke with Johnny Roselli, a well-known figure in the Chicago underworld. Other people in the hotel didn’t know they were witness of a collaboration of the CIA and the mafia.

Maheu had been approached by the CIA in August. The intelligence agency wanted to put an end to the life of the Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro. Hardened gangsters were deemed necessary for the sensitive mission, according to the CIA. Director Allen W. Dulles and department head Richard Bissell approved the remarkable alliance, an idea of their close associate Sheffield Edwards. Hiring the mafia would provide the CIA with a credible smokescreen, thought Edwards. The CIA would always remain beyond reach. Maheu later stated, “The CIA often gave me cut-out assignments, tasks where they officially could not be involved.” Ending the life of the dictator was equally high on the priority list of the mafia bosses because Castro had closed their profitable brothels and casinos in Cuba. The underworld wanted those sources back. So, not only did the CIA have clear reasons to eliminate Castro.

Only a few people were aware of the intentions. The conspirators within the intelligence agency knew Maheu and knew that he had some underworld figures in his network. He was reasonably acquainted with Roselli, especially since they had crossed paths several times at events in Las Vegas, where both had business interests. For the CIA, Maheu was no stranger, and it was only logical that he was approached. Robert A. Maheu, born in 1917 in the state of Maine, was hired by the FBI during World War II to infiltrate Nazi circles as a spy. After the war, he started his own intelligence service, and the CIA had been using his services since that time.

Maheu knew that Roselli held a high position in the mafia and had many connections in Cuba. The mafia boss would never find out that the initiative came from the CIA. Conversely, Roselli knew Bob Maheu as a businessman with many domestic and foreign clients. In the prestigious Plaza Hotel, Maheu lied to the mafia boss, telling him that an important foreign relation was suffering significant financial losses due to Castro’s policies. El Presidente had to disappear from the stage, and quickly. Roselli was offered $150,000 for the job. CIA agent James O’Connell was also present at the meeting. He would be, ostensibly as an employee of Maheu, Roselli’s contact throughout the project.

The mafia boss initially refused to cooperate, but Maheu managed to convince him. However, Roselli wanted nothing to do with the money. He promised a meeting with a certain Sam Gold. Later that month, the gangster arranged a meeting at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami. On October 11, Maheu spoke with Sam and Joe, two strangers to him at the time. Not much later, Maheu recognized both men in a newspaper: they were the mafia bosses Sam Giancana, the successor to Al Capone in Chicago, and Santo Trafficante, a mafia boss from Tampa, Florida. Trafficante had an extensive network in Cuba. Inquiries with the CIA revealed that both were on the Department of Justice’s list of the ten most wanted criminals. Sam was practical: he immediately made it clear that he was not fond of firearms. Poisoning Castro’s food seemed more effective to him. His acquaintance Juan Orta was involved: he had access to Castro and could use some money. With Sam Giancana, the plans gained momentum. Multiple pills were manufactured, and on March 12, 1961, they ended up in Roselli’s hands in Miami.

After some failed attempts, Orta got cold feet. He dropped out of the conspiracy and fled to Venezuela. Another person in Castro’s inner circle tried several times, but he also failed to incorporate the poison into the food. The deadly ambitions were then put on the back burner. Dr. Anthonie Verona, who, like Orta, had access to Castro, offered to solve the problem in his own way. However, American priorities had changed. Time had not stood still: in April 1961, the failed invasion of the Cuban Bay of Pigs took place, changing the situation drastically. Castro escaped unharmed.

The Family Jewels
The story reads like an exciting Hollywood movie. If the CIA had not confirmed that it indeed happened this way, the facts could be dismissed as fabrications. Rumors about the collaboration between the CIA and the mafia have been circulating since the 1970s, and Maheu, who passed away in August 2008, revealed some details in his book “Next To Hughes.” But we are only sure of the truth since the intelligence agency has also admitted it. On June 25, 2007, they released the Family Jewels: a document with 693 pages full of highly sensitive files (complete PDF). In addition to the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, it contained details of LSD experiments involving innocent citizens. It also revealed how various journalists and government opponents were shamelessly wiretapped. It became clear in detail how, in the early 1960s, the cooperation with organized crime was established with the help of liaison Robert Maheu.

In addition to contacts with the underworld, the LSD project would also become an interesting subject for researchers of the Kennedy case. Seven German Nazi scientists were sentenced to death by American judges for their experiments on people in concentration camps, but their research material was forwarded to America and continued by the intelligence agency there. According to the CIA, LSD could be used for brainwashing, and that could be interesting when people were needed for the dirtiest jobs. The project was codenamed MK-ULTRA. The movie “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) is about it; a book adaptation that was a favorite of President Kennedy and was produced again in 2004 with Denzel Washington in the lead role.

MK-ULTRA is especially interesting because one of the two CIA stations experimenting with LSD was located in the Japanese Atsugi, where Lee Harvey Oswald was stationed when he was in the navy. Author Jim Marsh writes in his book “Crossfire,” “The CIA later admitted that the most suitable test subjects were people with dubious loyalty to their country, people interested in emigration, and who could possibly be used as agents or spies. Oswald, it would later appear, fit perfectly into that profile.”

Such speculations will likely always remain speculations. It is different with the alliance the CIA made with organized crime. Unthinkable matters that were previously dismissed as tall tales, such as the CIA’s involvement in a plot to assassinate President Kennedy, suddenly seemed very plausible. The intelligence agency apparently was capable of anything to achieve its intended goals. And if they were so ruthless, why should the murder of another opponent be dismissed as unlikely? JFK was certainly not popular within the CIA. Motives were abundant, they had the means, and as it now turns out, the audacity as well. The CIA did not shy away from anything. Was John F. Kennedy murdered by a conspiracy involving the intelligence agency? Or at least involving certain CIA employees?

Oswald was known to the CIA long before the assassination

Perry Vermeulen

Author of two books related to the assassination of JFK, published in The Netherlands in 2008 and 2012. Wrote a lot about this subject; built this website in 2023 to accommodate all those different stories. I will continue to produce new articles on the case.

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