Aldereguia once worked with FBI
HELGA SILVA and HILDA INCLAN
Salvador Aldereguia-Ors, who was arrested a month ago at Miami International Airport with a briefcase allegedly containing documents sensitive to national security, is no stranger to federal law enforcement officials.
Aldereguia had been cooperating with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration by volunteering information on drug traffic and other matters.
Federal officials detailed a long-standing relationship between the two agencies and the 46-year-old Gay of Pigs veteran and former right-hand man of Guillermo Hernandez-Cartaya, president of the Coral Gables-based financial conglomerate, WFC Corp.
Aldereguia has helped the FBI and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (now DEA) solve some New York drug cases, according to federal officials.
The officials said his contact with them began in the late 1960s and lasted at least until 1974 - three years after he was hired as Hernandez-Cartaya's assistant.
"No one has to defend me. My actions speak for themselves," Aldereguia said last week. "I don't know how I can be accused of working against the national security of the country when I have worked for the national security of this country."
Aldereguia said his first ties with federal agencies began in a New York restaurant 10 to 12 years ago when a Cuban real estate agent introduced him to Jack Cogswell, a retired U.S. naval officer.
Cogswell, described by federal agents as a "patriotic American who would do anything for his country," said he developed a fondness for Cuba and its people after he first visited the island on vacation in 1956. He liked it so much, he remained there until 1960. Cogswell said he was not a CIA agent but said the agency "knew I lived in Cuba so I did some favors."
"After 1960 I was involved in helping the Cubans fight Castro," Cosgwell said.
When he first met Aldereguia. Cogswell said, he suspected the motives of the Bay of Pigs veteran because Aldereguia wanted to talk about the need to fight drug trafficking.
"I thought it was kind of funny the way he got to meet me... through a man, Otto, I hardly knew," Cogswell said. "I always thought there might have been a connection between Castro people and drugs... He said he knew something about narcotics so I told him, 'Why don't you do something about it? ' "
Eventually, Cogswell said, his suspicions faded and he steered Aldereguia to the FBI.
"I am the guy who told him the right places to go." Cogswell said. "I knew who the people were. Any American citizen could do that."
Cogswell said he introduced Aldereguia to a New Jersey FBI agent, Frank O'Brien, who has been a Cuban affairs specialist for 22 of his 28 years in the agency.
"Aldereguia's information concerned narcotics traffic," Cogswell said. "What he told O'Brien about the political situation, I don't know.
"I am his friend and I never knew him to do anything against his country ... He worked with the old Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs."
O'Brien, due to retire from the FBI next month, confirmed he met Aldereguia in the 1950s, but refused to comment on the information he furnished until 1974. "He was brought to me . . . I listened," O Brien said. 'I am a great listener, but I can't get into it."
He added he checked out Aldereguia's information but refused to comment on its reliability. He said Aldereguia "was cognizant of Cuban groups in the New York Metropolitan area."
Aldereguia said O'Brien originally referred him to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in New York.
Cogswell said Aldereguia was instrumental in helping to solve at least one case but O'Brien said he was not aware that the Bay of Pigs veteran had contributed to any other agency's investigations or done anything heroic for this country."
Anthony Phol, former assistant regional commissioner of the BNDD in New York, said he knew Cogswell, but added that he didn't remember Aldereguia. "I may have met him, but I just don't recall it in connection with an investigation," he said.
Aldereguia claimed that he had talked to Phol, now a businessman, by phone as recently as December.
Shortly thereafter. Cogswell said. Aldereguia contacted him to ask for help in landing a lob with DEA in New York.
"He wanted to go back and talk to the same guys in New York," Cogswell said. "But nobody was there, the people he knew were not there…Nothing happened."
After Aldereguia was arrested in March on an alleged passport violation involving Hernandez-Cartaya, he met an old contact in Miami. O'Brien, who was here on other business after the arrest, said he talked with Aldereguia for about 20 minutes.
The meeting, O'Brien said, was set up by Miami FBI agent Willis Walton, the man who arrested Aldereguia and confiscated his briefcase. Walton testified in court that the briefcase contained "operational instructions from a foreign government."
O'Brien said he and Aldereguia did not talk about the case. "He did not ask for help," the agent said. "He was understandably distraught about the arrest, but he was relaxed when he talked to me. He has nothing to fear from me."
But according to sources, the two did discuss the contents of Aldereguia s briefcase at the meeting.
Federal investigators said Aldereguia's background with U.S. government agencies "'will probably help him in court."