U.S. Nabs Anti-Castro Fighters-Why?
By DON BONAFEDE and BOB MONO
Herald Staff Writers
Thirteen anti-Castro fighters, including 10 Americans accused of planning a pocket-size expedition against Cuba were arrested in the Florida Keys Tuesday. The big question was why?
Existence of the group has been known for the last several months by federal officials. But until their arrest, members of the cadre had not been interfered with by U.S. agents.
Cuban exile leaders speculated that the crackdown indicates a stiffened U.S. policy toward anti-Castro resistance forces operating in Florida.
Dressed in battle fatigues kind equipped with a large quantity of arms and ammunition and a boat named Sally, the unlucky 13 were picked up on isolated Sombrero Key, near Marathon, and charged with violating U.S. neutrality laws.
Led by a swashbuckling young giant named Gerald Patrick Hemming, the brigade has been training Cuban exiles on brush-covered No Name Key.
The recruits, supplied by various anti-Castro groups in Miami, were then sent to join the underground in Cuba.
In Key West, the 13 were arraigned before U.S. Commissioner William V. Albury.
Many exiles believe that the action was taken in line with President Kennedy's conditional no-invasion pledge to the Soviets. Previously, U.S. officials closed their eyes to refuge training in the Everglades and the Keys.
Joseph Fortier, U.S. Customs chief in South Florida, said his men had been watching the 13 for two nights and decided to move in "when it became obvious they were planning to take off for Cuba."
Hemming, who goes by the name of Jerry Patrick, is a beared ex-Marine and adventurer. He dislikes being called soldier of fortune, but he looks and acts like one.
Following an investigation by the FBI, the group last May set up camp in Belle Glade, later moving to No Name Key.
At Tuesday's federal hearing, Customs Agent Wallace Shanley said Patrick and his followers were arrested at 2 a.m. as they loaded arms, ammunition and military gear aboard the Sally.
Found on the boat were 15 rifles, at least five pistols, boxes of ammunition, blood plasma and first aid supplies, a lone hand grenade and two plastic bombs.
Each of the 13 pleaded not guilty. In binding the group over to Federal Court for trial Commissioner Albury said:
"The U.S. government is attempting to settle the Cuban situation and it doesn't help when isolated groups interfere with its plans."
Albury added, "You men could upset the whole apple cart."
Bond was set at $1,000 each.
Bound over were:
Roy Emory Hargraves, 22 1847 SW 12th St., Miami, Ronald Ponce de Leon, 22, same address, a Cuban-born American citizen; Justin Wilson, 26 of 1925 SW Fourth St., Miami, Edwin Anderson Collins, 27, of 1925 SW Fourth St., Miami, Lawrence Howard, 27, of 8325 Coral Lane, Peco Rivera, Calif.; William Seymour, 25, of 1925 SW Fourth St., Miami; Remigio Arce, 43, of 1125 SW 27th Ave., Miami, a Cuban citizen; James Lewis, 29, of 1925 SW Fourth St., Miami; Eleno Oviedo Alvarez, 26, of 12138 Blscayne Blvd., Miami, a Cuban citizen; Edmund Kolby, 30, of 1295 SW Fourth St., Miami, an American citizen born in Finland; Joe Cavendish Garman, 32, of 1925 SW 45th St., Miami; Gerald Patrick Hemming Jr., 25, of 1874 SW 12th St., Miami, and William Dempsey, 21, of 1925 SW Fourth St., Miami, a Canadian citizen.