THE PARIS/NEW YORK CONNECTION
Throughout the decade of the sixties America, particularly big cities such as New York were suffering a heroin epidemic.
Opium growth in Turkey was refined in Marseilles, France, usually by French Corsicans, and smuggled into the United States. Entry was made through body carries, false bottom suitcases, hidden in cans of fish, and every conceivable manner.
The principal policy of the United States was to stop the drugs at the border before they could be diluted hundreds of times over. Heroin was fueling a terrible crime as addicts committed burglaries, robberies, shoplifting, and, in general, had a serious adverse impact on the quality of life. You could not leave a camera or transistor radio visible in your car without coming back to a broken window. Purse snatching was epidemic!
The case of Georges Henrypierre is significant for two reasons. First, he was not among the usual suspects; rather, as an airline crew member, he was far from being suspected, and accorded the usual cursory search. The discovery of his participation certainly proved that airline personnel were just as vulnerable to being corrupted as anyone else.
Second, since he was a dual courier, smuggling heroin in and money out, that in itself was unusual. He was definitely trusted. The amount of cash going out was triple that necessary for what he was smuggling in, proving that this was a very significant operation. Henrypierre was important.
Finally, the drugs were winding up with Mafia personnel in New York City who, at the time were violating the ostensible Mafia rules, no dope. The police suspected their involvement, and this corroborated it.
A REAL FRENCH CONNECTION
One day in 1965, Georges Henrypierre, an airline steward for Air France, arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) carrying his usual small airline bag. Georges had been steward for almost 14 years and was about 13 or 14 months away from reaching Air France’s retirement requirement of 15 years of service.
It was rather routine to provide a cursory customs examination to airline crews and staff, but on this particular day, the inspector inserted one hand into Georges’ bag, and one hand on the table. There was, in the inspector’s opinion, a noticeable difference between the depth that the hand in the bag revealed compared with the depth of the hand outside the bag, which reached all the way to the table.
Georges was caught with over a kilo of heroin.
Georges had made many trips, and every time he entered the United States, he carried the usual amount of heroin. Unfortunately for him, the rules of human nature, specifically greed, had caught up with his employer, Henri LaPortarie, and Georges had an extra half kilo of heroin, creating a larger base in the false bottom of Georges’ bag. Georges, the diligent, trustworthy courier, was unmasked and under arrest.
As the inspector led Georges away, Georges discarded a key into the sand of a standing ashtray, which the alert inspector retrieved. Custom agents (criminal investigators) were notified and assumed custody of Henrypierre, the bag, the dope and the key. Georges was uncooperative and was lodged at the Federal holding facility in New York City. Much work was done to investigate the case by two senior, experienced investigators without results until there was a major heroin seizure from another Air France plane in Canada, and the arrest of the number of airport employees by the Royal Candian Mounted Police.
During this period, there was a “hot” route which was the subject of intense scrutiny by the authorities in Canada, the United States, and that route that was generally Paris, Montreal, New York, to Mexico City.
Having sat in jail for some time now awaiting trial in what was an airtight case against him, Georges Henrypierre was confronted by the agents with information that the latest seizure in Canada from an Air France flight could be attributed to him. After all, applying the logic that Air France steward Georges Henrypierre had been arrested several months before and within such short proximity of another seizure in a heretofore fail safe smuggling scheme on the same airline, it could be attributed to the fact that Georges “spilled the beans.”
In fact, Georges knew nothing of the means of hiding drugs in an aircraft and having it removed by ground crews, but he understood the innuendo that his arrest preceding the Canadian seizure could certainly give some people the impression that he was aware of the parallel smuggling operation and give it up to save his hide.
Georges, being vain and, as a homosexual, feared the stories had hear about prison life. He was almost certain to get a 15 year sentences. He weighed these concerns with the coincidence of the Canadian seizure, and decided to cooperate and reduce whatever punishment awaited him in the U.S. courts.
Georges advised that he had been making deliveries over a long period of time, and that when given the heroin by LaPortarie in Paris, he would also be told an address and be given a key. The deliveries would be rotated from one address to another and at no time did he come into contact with any person in the United States. The first address was located in Brooklyn, and the second was located in East Harlem.
Georges explained that after arriving in the United States, he did go to his hotel in the crew limousine, deposit his clothing, go to either address, open the door with the key, leave the bag of heroin in the apartment and leave the key on the table or the counter, and would close the door after him.
The key, which was retrieved from the ashtray by the alert customs inspector, was now taken by the agents, Georges giving them the address and telling them where he was to deliver the heroin, and it opened the door at the East Harlem location. The agents removed the lock, which together with the key, later proved to be convincing evidence in court. In the apartment, which was for all practical purposes empty, a prescription bottle had been overlooked. It was traced to a pharmacy where it was identified as a prescription for a person named Willie Wolfe. Checking on Wolfe by description and name, he was determined to be Willie Curcurata, with a previous record and known to be a bad guy on the fringes of organized crime. It was decided by the agents not to carry the matter further.
Georges had some difficulty recalling the address of the Brooklyn location, but he was taken out of jail and was able to direct the agents to an apartment house. When the agents approached the management of the apartment house, the manager was listed as a woman who, in fact, shared the management duties with her husband who was a police officer. They advised they had entered the apartment when the rent had not been paid for a few months, and that there was very little furniture which they had moved to a bin in the basement of the apartment house. While searching the furniture, the agents found a small plastic bag of heroin, approximately a few ounces, in the sofa. It appeared that whoever had rented the apartment, was picking up the heroin, and was skimming. This amount was not enough to be noticed when a kilo and a half was usually being delivered to a further party. There was still a cash security deposit for the apartment available at the real estate office which had never been collected. Other than the renter’s description, all of the documentation in the rental agreement did not lead to another person.
Several weeks later, the police officer, at the apartment house, advised the U.S. Customs office in New York that he had received a call to retrieve the security deposit. The agents established surveillance at the real estate office and observed a heavy set individual arriving to pick up the money. They followed him as he left and through MVA records, were able to identify him as Rosario Lupo. They eventually lost him in New York traffic. The MVA records did not allow for exact location of Lupo’s residence due to an obvious attempt to avoid identification. His criminal record was substantial and he had served most of a 15 year sentence and was considered to be a member of the mob.
At this point, I entered the case on July 1, 1965 and continued with Georges Henrypierre debriefings. He revealed that at times, more often later than earlier in his smugglings career, he would be given a phone number to call after he had dropped off the merchandise, and he would be met somewhere in Manhattan by a short, squat, swarthy individual, who would provide him a package to be reinserted into the false bottom of the bag and returned to LaPortarie in France. Georges said that in the privacy of his hotel room, on several occasions, he looked into the package before inserting it into the travelling bag, and it was cash in United States dollars. By calculating the number of trips that Georges had made over the years, through his recollection and passport data, together with immigration records and then calculating how much money would fit into the bottom of the bag, and how many times he took money back, it appeared that he had taken back to France three times the amount of money necessary to pay for the amount of heroin he was delivering. Therefore, I reached two conclusions: first, that there were other smugglers or means of smuggling involved, one of which could have been an operation similar to the Canadian operation, but we could establish no connection. The second was that Georges was a rare individual who could be trusted as a dual courier. It was just not the practice of the dope trade to allow the same person to carry both dope and money. It was always one or the other, money or dope.
The telephone which Georges would call prior to taking the delivery to Manhattan was located in New Jersey. On July 15th, about 4:30 a.m., in an old Volkswagen Van, a tech agent named Garcide, photographer Pachetto, and I, parked across the street and somewhat down the block from where the phone number was listed. About 9 a.m., the next morning the screen door opened and then the front door opened and a woman in her mid 50’s, looked out in each direction. The door closed and in a few seconds it opened again, and a short, stocky, squat man in a fedora and small cigar stepped out, got into a Cadillac, and drove away.
Again, the motor vehicle records were not much help, but everything had been captured on film. The pictures, when developed, were brought to Georges and he advised me that the man in the pictures was the man he would telephone and who would meet him in Manhattan. This man never took heroin or discussed heroin, or was ever seen at either of the two drops.
The case which had originated at Kennedy Airport was part of the Eastern District of New York and under Federal Court, in Brooklyn, specifically under Judge Rayfield, an older judge sitting in retirement. He asked if Georges Henrypierre was going to be our star witness and when we said, “Absolutely.” He said he wanted him taken out of jail as there were too many major heroin figures in the Federal detention facility on West Street in New York.
In January, we entered into a month-to-month lease on a small house in Oyster Bay, Long Island, one customs agent (criminal investigator,) and a Customs’ patrol officer were assigned 24 hours a day from the period of January through April (four and a half months,) while the investigation continued. From time to time, I took Geoges to my home, to the Lincoln Center, etc., for diversion when I detected he was getting depressed.
Returning to the period of the previous summer, continuous work was done on trying to locate Lupo and Curcurata, and trying to further the “turned up brim” Cadillac operator from the Jersey operation. Pictures of the unknown man were circulated throughout the local, Federal, and state law enforcement agencies in New York City. After some weeks, an ATF agent advised that the unknown man was John Nuccio, one of five brothers living on the lower East Side of Manhattan, all involved in illicit alcohol. There was no information by law enforcement that Nuccio had been involved with drugs. Efforts to identify Curcurata were the easiest of the three. Through a plain clothes officer whom I knew working in East Harlem, he was able to advise, after being provided with Curcurata’s picture, that Curcurata was in the area and within a day or two, he could be located. Lupo remained for all practical purposes unfixed as to location. I did not deem it necessary to alert any one of the three in the United States or any 2 of the 3 in the fear that the other one would flee. During the summer months, all of our materials, evidence, and documentation, had been forwarded to the French Surate.
Two patrol officers were assigned to me, and operated in a plain clothes car in the vicinity of the real estate office, and/or apartment, to locate a fixed point where Lupo could be arrested simultaneously with the other two. Weeks passed. Through a stroke of luck, while driving home on the Southern State Parkway, one of the two officers saw Lupo driving next to him. He fell in behind the vehicle and trailed the vehicle to a Baldwin , Long Island address.
Indictments were prepared and surveillance in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, determined that John Nuccio was staying with the widow of a former compatriot as often as he was staying with his wife. It was a matter of coordination at this time to determine when that would be. While on the same night in question, Lupo would be at the Baldwin address, and the plain clothes officer in East Harlem would advise me when Curcurata was seen. At this point, if Nuccio and Lupo were at the respective addresses, the plan was to have the police arrest Curcurata and we would immediately arrest Nuccio in Cliffside Park and Lupo in Baldwin. Within a few days, I was advised by my friend that Curcurata was available. We determined the other two were available because their vehicles were parked at their pads. Within a few minutes of Curcurata’s arrest, Nuccio and Lupo were arrested.
I was involved with the Nuccio arrest where we found a loaded gun and $5,000 in the refrigerator in Mrs. X’s house. We likewise arrested Mrs. X.
The next day, I appeared with one of the prisoners on the front page of the New York Daily News, the case having made serious headlines throughout the region. By June, the trial took place. As a potential witness on many issues, I was precluded from the trial, but all three were convicted. Nuccio and Lupo received 15 years each, Nuccio ha been determined to be a major organized crime figure. Curcurata received 12 years, and Georges was sentenced to one day in my custody. It had now been more than a year since he had been arrested. The following day, I escorted him to Kennedy Airport where I drove out on the tarmac. The jet way had been retracted andthe Air France jet taxied out to where I intercepted it. Steps were rolled out to the plane. I saw Georges for the last time as he went through the Air France door. He was deported. The Surate picked up LaPortarie and were waiting for Georges. He was required to testify in the French trial as he had here.
While out on bail, Nuccio fled. Once again, I began my circulation of his pictures throughout local, Federal and state law enforcement agencies. The preceding publicity of the trial and arrests had led to a broad awareness in the law enforcement community of the significance of the case and Nuccio’s importance. Many agencies and officers were interested in getting the collar of a fugitive of such stature.
I worked constantly on bringing people up to date and questioning the community activity. Finally, I received a call from the Kingston, New York, resident agent for the FBI. Upon arrival in Kingston, he explained to me that a particular informant, a middle aged hood from the area named Frank Falanga, had advised that he was hiding Nuccio. The circumstances were that Nuccio had Falanga rent a studio basement apartment and bring Falanga’s family (wife and young son) to live with him. Nuccio had a double barrel shotgun loaded at all times. Falanga was instructed to go out for brief periods to obtain food, make necessary communications, and was to return promptly. Falang knew that one shotgun barrel was for his wife and the other for his son if anything went wrong. Over the next several days, two or three meetings took place with Falanga when he went out the store for brief periods so as not to arouse suspicion. Since Nuccio had not seen the Volkswagen Van, I parked it in the parking lot of the condominium and established other outposts with other agents. It was about three days since we got the information. It was finally suggested by Falanga that Nuccio would have to get some air. At my instigation, Falanga would suggest to Nuccio to go out after dark for a walk. We had no communication inside the condo, just surveillance from outside. Late one night, Nuccio bit, and walked out past the Volkswagen Van. Nuccio’s criminal career ended, and the case was brought to conclusion. Falanga was likewise arrested, confined for several days, and in our prearranged plan, insufficient evidence was presented in court to sustain his arrest.
Georges Henrypierre obtained a lunch wagon, the type which travels to construction sites and factories to serve coffee and donuts, from money he received from Air France in lieu of the fact that he did not make it to his pension.
John Nuccio died in jail of natural causes while serving his 15 year sentence.
Rosario Lupo died in jail while serving is 15 year sentence(his second).
Willie Curcurata was Federally paroled after serving most of his 12 year sentence, and was back out on the street.
Henry LaPortarie was dealt with through the French Justice System and convicted.
Frank Falanga’s story held and he was not subject to retaliation by the mob.
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